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Lincoln Logs files bankruptcy

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

Pretty much everybody have now heard about Lincoln Logs’ bankruptcy filing or Chapter 11 reorganization, as the politically correct term goes. Their attorney said intention is not to lay anyone off and to continue operations as usual while negotiating with creditors.

DOUBT
I don’t know about you guys, but if I would be in financial trouble and asked refinancing from my creditors without changing my consumption habits… well, I doubt there would be any reorganization. Personally I expect to see some jobs go or some asset sales.

SURPRISE
For me it was a surprise to see company as big as Lincoln Logs to hit the brick wall. I know that smaller log home companies have already switched from making log homes into renovations etc.

For the most part, I did expect that fervent log home lovers would have kept the industry going, at least for the big players with good brand names. Guess I was wrong, no matter how dedicated customers you have it all comes down to them also having money.

EFFECT
How would you feel if your supplier told that they are having slight difficulties with creditors? I bet that would make you feel insecure. Are you in the stage of making decision between two manufacturers and having very difficult time choosing one… If the other was Lincoln Logs, your life suddenly became lot easier.

No doubt they will loose orders because of this and if they have difficulties now, just wait few months and they really feel the bit of postponed orders or cancellations. Let’s hope they manage to pull through.

Southland and Donald A. Gardner Architects

Thursday, September 11th, 2008

Brilliant news from Southland Log Homes and DonGardner. Southland is going to start offering floor plans from Donald A. Gardner Architects. The beauty of this alliance comes from combining these two companies’ unique strengths.

Southland’s sales channel has massive reach and they have solid manufacturing, however they have never been the strongest player in custom floor plan log homes, but that’s just the trade-off company has to do with production volumes and time consuming custom floor plans.

Donald A. Gardner delivers floor plans and boy do they have plenty! Company has massive slate of different floor plans and even they might come out as somewhat corporative in their company culture, they sure compensate your trouble with abundant slate of floor plans and good pricing. They do have custom services, but those cost extra.

SOUTHLAND BENEFITS

  • Southland doesn’t have to invest heavily on architects, structural designers and floor plan designers.
  • Southland gets better slate of floor plans to attract customers from new niches and sales go up (word on the street is that they already have almost overly aggressive sales channel, so watch out when shopping around).
  • New floor plans are available almost instantly removing long development plans, making this a swift move over competition.
  • Corporate culture in these two companies is very similar and cooperation should be straight forward.

It will be interesting to follow how this affects Southland Log Homes market position. What do you think?

Home Show in Vaasa

Monday, July 21st, 2008

As you can see from yesterday’s “preview“, the striking specialty of this home show is that every year new REAL area is developed just for this show. Any city in Finland can apply to be the host city or a town for that matter. It is THE show revolving around homes and is very much sought-after marketing opportunity.

How does it work for city?
It’s a great chance to polish up that worn old image and attract new people (tax paying people!) to live and create new activity. Businesses also notice new improved profile and might be interested in relocating or expanding activities to that part of the country, which is so appealing that even the home show is being organized there. Applicant must provide decent lots for the show and take care of setting up utilities and other communal services. The smaller the applicant the bigger the job.

What’s in it for companies?
Exposure! Quotations? Sales? Yeah, that’s how it goes, but usually visibility will bring money at least under some time frame. Companies must invest heavily though, because building one showcase house normally costs 500 000 - 1 000 000 USD. There is no guarantees that company is able to sell it later on, so it is always quite a balancing act between latest innovative products and mass market solutions that are easy to sell to people. Unfortunately easy to sell usually means hard to make headlines and vice versa.

What about people then?
The biggest benefit one can get from home show is - you guessed it - money. In order to guarantee good participation and successful show, city and companies give special offers, discounts and subsidies, which make building much more appealing than it normally would be. Home show might be the only chance for someone to build that extraordinary home and not to loose it to the bank right after completion.

Coming days I’ll walk you through some houses, which are of special interest for log home lovers.

Forest owner accused

Sunday, February 25th, 2007

Here in Finland a landmark legal case is brewing about forest treatment. Single forest owner is being accused of mismanaging his forest.

According to the government dictated forestry regulations, one can only cut as much as sustainable development requires. What do you think that means in practise?

It means that if the owner wants to leave the forest into natural state, owner is allowed to do that. However, if the owner wants to cut trees, owner must follow the law about forest treatment. The law states very clearly, how many trees there must be left standing and how big they should be. After this comes whole slate of different treatment measures. This bureaucratic system leads into forest cultivation, is that sustainable development?

In this case, the enforcing forestry official says that the area, which was cut, should have been cut almost to the bare bones, then treat the soil and plant pine trees instead of firs that used to be dominant tree on the location.

Government now demands 10 000 euro from the forest owner, because he cut only the biggest trees and left everything else on natural state. Owner now wonders the rigid practise, because he has been managing his forests in the same traditional manner for over fifty years and they all grow just fine.

Any cumbersome laws limiting forest management on your area?

McCartney must smash his log cabin

Wednesday, December 6th, 2006

Old and tested trick doesn’t always work. I don’t know if you are familiar with this traditional trick. First you pick a nice spot, which is free of any structures, quite possibly because that particular spot can’t be built. When officials come asking after licenses and permits, it’s time to start applying them. Usually this process can be ironed out with little negotiations and under the table offers.

Sir McCartney hasn’t been able to convince authorities and he has been ordered to tear down the one million pounds log cabin that he constructed. Tough luck, so be prepared and get to know the people who sit in district councils that way you know beforehand if you can secure a retrospective planning permission. Can’t buy me permit…

Interviewing Kelly Hart

Monday, June 12th, 2006

I came across this wonderful site that is all about green home building. Green building – if traditional building methods are followed – can be very cheap way to build houses, so this site is of special interest for us back-to-the-nature log home builders, who might be discouraged by the high prices of modern log homes and log cabins.

Kelly Hart has a long history in the field of construction and publishes information on green home building in cooperation with many experts of this field. Mr. Hart was happy to answer few questions, so here they are:

Q: Post and beam log building is mentioned here and there on your site, but always as a mere structural framework. Why Greenhomebuilding doesn’t include log homes as an independent segment?

    A: This was a conscious decision on my part to not promote the use of logs for homes for several reasons. Primarily, I am concerned with the continued depletion of our forests, as expressed on my page about saving our forests. There are circumstances where logs for homes can be harvested sustainably, and I encourage this, but in general this is not the case. Another reason I don’t promote the use of logs is that they really don’t provide very good insulation as a shell for a home, and this is a very important factor in any climate with temperature extremes.

Q: You introduce several methods for greener building. Apart from earthbag building, which are your personal favorites?

    A: Interestingly, one of my favorites is also wood, in the form of cordwood construction. I like this method of building because it uses very small pieces of wood (more or less firewood size) that can be arranged in such a way as to provide a very well-insulated wall. This means that a considerable portion of the tree can be used, and that very small diameter trees that result from thinning a forest can be used. When the cordwood is stacked with masonry or earthen mortar and an interior void for insulation, you end up with a wall that has wonderful thermal properties because the interior masonry acts as thermal mass. An added benefit is that once you build the wall there is no more finish work necessary, either inside or outside, and it is a very durable, low-maintenance system. Building cordwood walls is a technique that is easily learned, requiring little skill.

Q: It is often so that pioneers create future trends by working very hard on their dreams. Do you think that at some point these green home building methods that you introduce on your website, will become popular among commercial constructors and home buyers?

    A: This is already happening, especially with strawbale construction, and to a lesser extent with rammed earth and adobe building. This movement gained momentum in the Southwestern United States and is now finding popularity in other regions of the world.

Q: Many readers of Log Homes Cabin are planning to buy a log home kit as their starting point for owner/builder home. How would you increase the greenness of such a home?

    A: First of all, make sure that the logs for that kit have been harvested sustainably; check with the Forest Stewardship Council about this. Then select a kit that is as compact as it reasonably can be to house your needs…extra space costs more, both economically and ecologically. Choose a design that will heat itself with passive solar, especially if you live where you have cold winters. And get one with the best insulation package possible, especially for the ceiling and roof where most of the heat loss is.

Mr. Hart, thank you for your time. I wish all the best and continue to follow your website for updates.

Finally small is beautiful?

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

Seems like the American dream about grandeur and riches could be changing a bit with the younger generation. Just go and check this article. Statistically speaking, Americans still want largest possible home, but as empty-nesters of baby-boom generation increase, there is lot of unused space and younger generation starts to see the related increases in maintaining costs like utilities and renovations.

View and opposing view

Friday, June 2nd, 2006

The National Association of Home Builders has applauded U.S. Senate for passing the comprehensive immigration reform. Reform enables illegal immigrants to obtain legal status in the States. U.S. will have almost one million job openings in construction industry and NAHB expects legalized immigrant workers to largely fill this void.

All good so far, but applying process is very costly. Illegal immigrants who have lived in the country for two to five years, must be able to prove that they have paid all federal and state taxes also much paperwork is included. If illegal immigrant has to pay taxes, they must demand higher pay to achieve earlier income level. This is a path to increased costs. In my opinion, Fortune magazine had much more realistic take on this matter.

Fortune magazine says that up to 40% of home building is done by undocumented aliens (referring those terrestrial ones). While big builders don’t employ illegal immigrants their subcontractors do. There have been court rulings, which have ruled against original big contractor for using subcontractors that employed illegal immigrants. If this hard line continues construction costs will go up.

Looks like there is another cloud hanging over real estate market. What do you think?

Warren Buffet on real estate

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Please hurry and read this article series about Berkshire and its leaders while its still online. In this Motley Fool article series, Mr. Buffet has been commenting various matters, but his comments on real estate are especially enlightening. Some ideas:

    Real estate values can swing enormously.

    Right now they are seeing their residential brokerage business in slowdown all over, most dramatically in the hottest markets.

    If people are buying housing for use, market is not swinging much, but when people are buying real estate as an investment, then valuations tend to swing.

    High-end residential real estate has bigger valuation bubble than low-end residential real estate.

    2004 fewer than 9000 condos were for sale and there were around 2900 transactions per month. Now, there are 30000 condos for sale and less than 2000 transactions per month.

Has anyone ever heard of the theory of supply and demand? When Mr. Buffet is having this kind of thoughts market situation is getting really serious. Maybe it is time for Cinderella move and leaving the real estate dance floor with grace.

Mobile log home trailer

Sunday, May 28th, 2006

It is from year 1972 and under the log siding beats a metallic heart of doublewide trailer. Owner of the trailer is a retired metal worker Gale Spicer. The whole process of converting the trailer into a mobile log home took about four weeks. Mr. Spicer screwed log sidings directly to the metal walls of the trailer. Unexpected benefits include better sound and heat insulation so the mobile log home trailer has better living quality. Mr. Spicer says, “I’ve had people come here taking pictures. Others are going to do it to their trailer. I think we’ve stirred up something.” Article was originally written by Sylvia Anderson and it is called - Rustic way to remake doublewide.

You might remember Luoman Log Homes, a Finnish log home company, which introduced a mobile log home called MobileHome. I suppose Mr. Spicer could have something important to contribute for this Finnish company, after all he does have hands on experience.

  • Log home photos

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