he Internet has revolutionized not only how consumers buy and build log homes, but also how they maintain and decorate them.
Just ask log home builder Bobby Glenn. Last year, three of the 11 log homes he sold were to clients he never met until the day they showed up at his open house in Crittenden, Kentucky, to price specific floorplans.
“They were very well-informed and they knew exactly what they wanted,” recalls Bobby, owner of Tri-State Log Homes and a builder-dealer for Kuhns Bros. Log Homes in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. “I think people find it very appealing to research their questions from the comfort of their homes. One of them even found their land online.”
Back in the olden days, think 10 years ago, it might have taken you months or even years to cautiously compile all the facts you need to choose a log home. No more. The Internet has placed much of the log home industry at your fingertips.
Once you start surfing the Internet, however, you quickly discover that the challenge is not how to find information, but rather how to get what you need without spending the rest of your life online. For example, a search for “log homes” on www.yahoo.com, one of the better-known online search engines, turned up 1.13 million web sites in 0.06 seconds (on a cable modem). On www.google.com, another top search engine, it took just 0.09 seconds to turn up 1.12 million web sites.
Even conducting more advanced searches for a particular phrase doesn’t narrow the field significantly. For example, more than 101,000 web sites talk about “Swedish cope,” 478,000 sites pop up when you punch in the phrase “butt & pass,” and 736,000 sites are devoted to “log furniture,” according to Yahoo.
This glut of information shows the limitations of Internet searches. It also proves the enduring value of this Annual Buyers’ Guide and why you should keep it near your computer when conducting any online research.
To help you get even more from your time on the Internet, we’ve come up with the following 12 strategies. Just be aware that it’s cheap and easy to create a web site that makes a company appear legitimate. We encourage you to exercise due diligence before committing any money to a company. (More about that later.) Now to the strategies.
Decide on a look you love. There are more than 400 log home producers in North America and you can’t visit them all. To help narrow the field, use this magazine and the Internet to decide on the look (the profile, corner section and tree species) you find appealing. Many producers and builders have photo tours of homes on their web sites, so you can discover the kind of log system that’s right for you.
Visit with advertisers. Start by visiting web sites produced by the advertisers in this magazine, many of whom list their web site addresses in their ads. While we don’t endorse any particular companies, a consistent advertising campaign does indicate that a company is financially stable. You can access many of our advertisers through the Log Home Authority website (www.theloghomeauthority.com) as well as gain access to more in-depth information than presented in this Annual Buyer’s Guide.
Look for industry affiliations. Joining an association usually means a company is a good citizen within its industry. So check whether the companies you see on the web mention their affiliations. The Log Homes Council of the National Association of Home Builders (www.loghomes.org) is one of the key associations. Members subscribe to a log-grading program, adhere to a rigid code of ethics and must have a detailed construction manual to ensure their homes are built correctly. Another resource is the International Log Builders’ Association web site (www.logassociation.org), which is dedicated to furthering the craft of handcrafted log building.
Collect company literature. Use the Internet to obtain producers’ brochures, plansbooks, catalogs and videotapes (usually available online or through the Log Home Living bookstore). These materials will answer important questions about each company’s products, business philosophy and commitment to quality.
Choose a producer. After deciding what log style, profile and tree species you want, use our Products & Services section of this guide to find several companies that offer the look you want. Then view their web sites and contact them by e-mail to have them competitively bid on your project. One way to compare packages is to ask in your e-mail, “What is included and what is not included in your log home package?” This way you’ll be able to compare apples to apples.
Locate a builder-dealer. Most producers now offer maps or links on their web sites to help you locate log home dealers in your area. Peruse builder-dealers’ web sites to see if they sell home packages, construct the homes or both.
Exercise due diligence. Even though Bill and Martha Deuchler had an instant bond with a potential builder of their log home on Oregon’s Deschutes River, they called references and checked with the state contractor’s board and the state’s attorney general’s office to see if there were any liens or judgments against the builder. “In Oregon you can do that over the Internet,” says Martha. Many other states have similar capabilities. Before purchasing, do your homework and find out all you can about a company. Search engines can be useful, as can the hundreds of online companies that specialize in background searches.
Flip through floorplans. Since buyers are so fascinated with floorplans, many producers have created online libraries. Look for a link on a producer’s home page that says “models,” “plans” or “floorplans.” On some sites, you can search by square footage, price or design.
Find financing. Most local lenders will not be familiar with financing log homes, which can lead to problems developing comparable homes on which to base their financing estimates and creating an appraisal of your home. Instead, try companies that specialize in log home financing. Two such companies, M&T Mortgage Corporation (www.systembuilt.com) and Farm Credit Services (www.e-farmcredit.com), have web sites that offer mortgage calculators, online applications and explanations of your financial options.
Find land. You can use the Internet to locate land by viewing local real estate agents’ web sites or searching hundreds of online offerings, including Loopnet.com, USLots.com and LandandFarm.com. You can search these databases by state, county, price or size. Again, don’t overlook the advertisers in this magazine, some of whom list land in the Suppliers Marketplace.
Decorate in style. Many craftsmen of log home furniture and accessories also have web sites where consumers can design one-of-a-kind creations. “While we build to order, customers can get a good look at the kind of work we do through all the photography we have on our site,” says Freeman Mattson, owner of Rocky Mountain Log Furniture (www.rmlf.com) in Idaho Springs, Colorado. “About 65 percent of what we create for customers is shipped across the United States or all over the world. Shopping really is easier over the Internet. It really does work.”
Maintain your investment. When will you need to reapply stains or finishes to your log home? And what products should you use? Many of the manufacturers of stains, sealants, caulking and chinking have comprehensive web sites that tell you how to protect what is likely your largest investment. Check out Cabot (www.cabotstain.com), Perma-Chink Systems (www.permachink.com), Sashco (www.sashco.com), Schroeder Log Home Supply (www.loghelp.com) and Weatherall (www.weatherall.com) for solutions for keeping your log home looking new.
Don’t Just Dream It–Live It.