How to Shop for a Cedar or Log Home

Our experience in selling cedar homes for more than 25 years has taught us that clients are often confused about the various types of products, pricing and services that are available. They have a tendency to ask for the “price per square foot” – but then neglect to ask what that price includes. The idea of purchasing a “kit home” is so new to them, they don’t know what questions to ask. This article lists helpful information for “kit home buyers.” It stands to reason that buyers will make better choices if they know what questions to ask and how to interpret the answers. 

How much does a cedar or log home cost?

“What is the Price Per Square Foot?” Be sure to ask for two prices. Ask for the “kit price” (for the unassembled materials package) and for an average “turn key price” (for the completed home including labor). Be sure to ask for a general specification sheet of what is included in the kit price. The only way to compare prices from various companies is to see what each company is providing in their package. At this point, it also doesn’t hurt to ask ask what (if any) services are included in the kit price. Be aware that some companies are happy to sell you wall material (i.e. just the logs or timbers) – whereas other kits will include everything from the subfloor to the finished roofing.

How Do I Get the Best Deal?

The lowest priced home package is not necessarily the best deal – especially if you have to pay for the rest of the necessary components. The only way to really understand the value of a kit home package is to compare specification sheets side-by-side. Don’t forget to compare services as well. Some providers offer a materials only package and others include site visits, permitting assistance, design consultation, project management programs, etc.

With regard to turn key costs – be aware that this figure will vary depending on: 1) if it is a contractor built home or an owner/builder home, 2) the time of year (contractors charge more money during peak building season), 3) the quality and quantity of amenities you include in your home.

How Much Does a Contractor Charge?

It is not unusual for a contractor to charge 15-20% of the total cost of the home. A large percentage of this can be saved if the homeowner wants to project manage the home – or build it themselves.

Another variable in estimating turn key costs depends on your tastes in floor coverings, countertops, cabinets, fixtures, etc. Obviously, if you choose to have several fireplaces, in-floor radiant heat and granite countertops – your turn key costs will be greater than someone building an “average” home.

How Do I Manage My Costs?

The good news is that you CAN estimate your costs (both package costs and turn key costs) by using a set of preliminary blueprints. Preliminary blueprints allow you to get estimates from the contractor or subcontractors and help you to stay within your building budget. Our motto has always been “no surprises” and blueprints are a means to anticipate finished costs – and make modifications accordingly.

What About References?

There would be fewer “surprises” along the way (be they financial, emotional or otherwise), if people would spend some of their time talking with previous cedar / log home buyers.

1) First and foremost – be sure to ask for a list of references. (You’d be surprised at how many people never do this.)
2) After you’ve received a list of names — ask for a second list of references. It stands to reason that the company is going to offer up their best and most satisfied homeowners first. It makes good sense to dig a little deeper.
3) Prepare a list of questions – but be respectful that not all homeowners will have time to spend hours on the phone.
4) Include questions like: A) Did you have any problems with your home? If so, how were they resolved? B) What would you do differently?

It has been our experience that every cedar or log home will have some kind of “glitch.” After all, they’re designed, manufactured and built by humans. We make mistakes. It may mean that a beam is cut too short or a window was broken during shipment. The real issue here is – how are problems resolved? Did the homeowner receive prompt attention and were they satisfied? Or, were concerns ignored and downplayed?

Be sure to take advantage of Open House opportunities. This allows future homeowners to talk face-to-face with previous buyers. It’s also a great opportunity to get free design ideas for things like: interior finishes, trims / moldings, lighting issues, room dimensions, etc.

Lastly, it never hurts to check with the Better Business Bureau, Dunn & Bradstreet or the Attorney General’s office – to confirm the financial stability of the company you may want to work with. After all, it’s your money and your home we’re talking about!