A major change is shaking the quietly growing log-home industry. After years of catering to do-it-yourselfers and closet hippies obsessed with energy efficiency, yuppies are now buying the homes because of the way they look.
An independent poll of 486 people among thousands attending log-home seminars across the country showed that half were under 40, with a college degree and a yearly income of $30,000 to $50,000.
Sales of the homes are expected to be above the current 25,000 a year--7.6% of the custom-built home market.
The high-tech descendants of old-time log cabins are better insulated and the energy efficiency claims have been proven in government tests.
The industry dominated by small companies rarely topping more than 50 homes a year is becoming better understood by bankers. As John Kupferer of the North American Log Home Information Center in Herndon, Va., explained, most log companies want payment in full when they drop off the logs, but banks dole out construction loans in drafts.
Yuppies are not the only people buying log homes. People trained in technical or blue-collar trades made up 15% of the crowd and most were interested in the sweat-equity aspects of building their own homes.
Energy efficiency ranked sixth in interest according to the seminar poll--preconstruction leg work topped the list--but it still draws thousands of potential buyers.
Thicker, more massive logs have a greater thermal capacity, but eventually the increased cost of giant logs outstrips energy savings. Another big cost factor is whether the logs are hand-hewn, hacked with an ax and trimmed with draw-knives, or machine milled. Some companies offer nothing but logs; others supply windows, doors, shingles, sub-floors and the like.
Plan to Contract
The research also found that 31% of respondents plan to be their own general contractors and 38% have a complete floor plan figured out by the time they decide to buy a home. Two-thirds of the time it is bigger than 1,500 square feet; 28% exceed 2,000.
Depending on how much work log-home owners do themselves, the cost remains comparable to conventional homes--$45 to $55 a square foot.
When looking at prices in catalogues, the rule of thumb is the final cost will be twice the kit price. That's because of costs for such items as grading and excavation, basements and foundations.
The poll also showed that 62% of all potential log-home buyers already own a home.