From the Field

Sim­ple but smart strate­gies to get the most bang for your log home buck.

Log Home Living - - CONTENTS -

Sim­ple but smart strate­gies to get the most bang for your log home buck.

I’m go­ing to jour­ney back in time a bit — to be­fore the eco­nomic down­turn — as to how things were and com­pare that to to­day’s buyer’s per­spec­tive.

Be­fore the fi­nan­cial cri­sis of the mid-2000s, money was easy to get, and peo­ple had this “life of grandeur” ideal, whether they were look­ing for a legacy log home or sim­ply a tro­phy house. It didn’t mat­ter whether it worked for them long term or not.

The dy­namic shift that I have seen over the past sev­eral years, how­ever, is a mantra of “down­size and sim­plify,” which man­i­fests it­self in three main com­po­nents: 1. De­sign­ing a smaller foot­print with fewer in­te­rior walls (aka, open con­cept);

2. De­vel­op­ing a floor plan with smarter space al­lo­ca­tion and po­si­tion­ing; and 3. Spend­ing money in ar­eas that will get the most use. Here, we’re go­ing to fo­cus on the third point.

As log home buy­ers rec­og­nize that what they re­ally want is value for their money, the way I ap­proach it with them is al­most akin to a spread­sheet: what’s the cost; what’s the ben­e­fit; and what will be the re­turn on the in­vest­ment (the ROI). Whether it’s a light fix­ture, hard­wood floor­ing, coun­ter­top ma­te­rial ... what­ever it may be; ev­ery sin­gle item that goes into a home should be care­fully con­sid­ered, as each one im­pacts the bud­get and has a pur­pose/re­turn on that in­vest­ment.

As an ex­am­ple, if you love to en­ter­tain and you plan to do a lot of cook­ing in your log home, then it makes sense to al­lo­cate a large por­tion of your bud­get to the kitchen. Make the de­sign suit your needs, and choose fin­ish­ing ma­te­ri­als that will be durable, long last­ing

and cre­ate the show­stop­per that will cap­ture its re­turn on your in­vest­ment. Be­cause you’re go­ing to use it ev­ery sin­gle day you can trans­late that into a spread­sheet and cal­cu­late it out to de­ter­mine the ROI. For in­stance, if you use your kitchen ev­ery day for the next five years, that’s 1,825 days. If your kitchen cost $70,000, that’s roughly $38 per day. Use it for 10 years and it breaks out to $19 per day. That’s a good ROI!

Con­versely, some­thing like a guest bed­room may only get used a hand­ful of times per year. So, if you over-de­sign a guest bed­room/bath, you can fall into a neg­a­tive ROI trap, equat­ing to hun­dreds of dol­lars per use. For that rate, you could put your friends and fam­ily up at the Ritz and in­vest your money in other, more uti­lized, ar­eas of your home. That’s a bet­ter way to bal­ance your log home bud­get.

So when I’m talk­ing to clients about how they per­ceive their “wants,” this is what it comes down to: It’s re­ally not just about what you want. More ac­cu­rately, it’s about how you’re go­ing to in your home, both now and in the fu­ture. Look­ing ahead is very im­por­tant. Here’s why:

Say in your re­tire­ment years, you want to take up paint­ing or wood­work­ing. You’re go­ing to need a space in the house suited to that hobby. You’ll need re­silient floor­ing and lots of light sources, par­tic­u­larly nat­u­ral light. You may want a sink so you can clean up eas­ily. A wood­shop likely will re­quire an abun­dance of elec­tri­cal out­lets to run equip­ment. Fea­tures like ex­tra win­dows or ad­di­tional plumb­ing and wiring are far less ex­pen­sive to in­stall at the on­set than to try to retro­fit later on. It could be tens of thou­sands of dol­lars to fix a de­sign/ build blun­der down the road.

On the flip side, there are a num­ber of fea­tures that peo­ple think they need but end up be­ing un­der­used in re­al­ity. For ex­am­ple, peo­ple have a ro­man­ti­cized idea about mas­ter baths — espe­cially tubs. They think they’re go­ing to light can­dles, sip wine and soak their day away ev­ery evening. Some peo­ple do. Most don’t. An over­sized whirlpool soak­ing tub is not an in­ex­pen­sive pur­chase. You have the tub it­self, plus plumb­ing, plus fix­tures, plus tile sur­round, plus la­bor … be­fore you know it, you have up­wards of $7,000 or more in­vested just in the tub. So folks spend all this money but get lit­tle to no ROI from it. If you use it twice a year for five years, you’re spend­ing $70 per use. That’s nearly double the cost of our ear­lier kitchen ROI sce­nario.

The key thing to keep in mind is that no amenity is a waste of money if it’s re­ally go­ing to get used. Your de­signer, your builder, your friends — they all may try to steer you in one di­rec­tion or an­other, but to have a log home that you love, you need to take an hon­est look at your life­style and your bud­get, then al­lo­cate ap­pro­pri­ately. Do that, and you won’t re­gret a sin­gle cent you spend.

Dan Mitchell is a builder, Log & Tim­ber Home Univer­sity pro­fes­sor and the 2018 Pres­i­dent of the Greater Knoxville HBA. He owns Ea­gle CDI in Ten­nessee.

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