Many times at log home shows, visitors to our booth express confusion over Katahdin Dealers, their relationship to Katahdin and the contractors who ultimately build their home. Katahdin Dealers work based on their assigned territory, or as Log Home Planning Specialists from the corporate headquarters in Oakfield, Maine, if there is not a Dealer in the area.
Many—but not all—Katahdin Dealers are contractors, with their own building businesses. Katahdin Dealers are trained to guide customers through the design process, help to maximize the building budget, and ensure that the log home package is delivered in a timely manner to meet the customers’ expectations.
When a Dealer can also provide construction services, it can provide a seamless transition from planning and design to building. Another thing to note is that, sometimes a Dealer will not be available to meet the customers’ construction schedule. For this reason, many Katahdin Dealer/Contractors work with several crews and/or with other experienced contractors.
It is important to emphasize that Katahdin recommends that customers conduct due diligence with all contractors bidding to build their home.
Hiring Your Contractor
Dealers who only market Katahdin Log Homes and do not build normally will have a number of contractors with whom they have worked and built log homes. Many customers also have a contractor with whom they would like to work. While our customers work with our Katahdin Dealers to purchase and design the log home package they desire, it is the contractor who is hired to build your log home.
Katahdin Dealer/Contractors welcome this due diligence, in part because it allows them to introduce past customers, provide tours to recent completed construction, and further educate the customer about their experience and quality.
We spoke to three Katahdin Dealers/Contractors to understand just how this very important relationship works in the field.
Due Diligence is Key
As with many important purchases in life, it is important to conduct your own due diligence on many levels. As a normal practice, Katahdin Cedar Log Homes recommends contacting our bank to get real data on the strength of our company and financial position. Interviewing the company who manufactures your log home is just as important a component as the design and price. Your Katahdin Dealer will have contact information for Katahdin’s bank references.
Questions at the Start
Katahdin Dealer Bill Ryan, owner of North Point Contracting in Arundel, Maine, recommends that customers ask lots of questions early on in the relationship. “Asking who will build the log home is an important question,” Ryan explained. “Customers should always ask for references and more importantly, follow up on them.” He takes potential clients to homes he has built with pleasure. It’s a positive sign that a builder can complete a $500,000 home and still have a great relationship with the homeowner.
Ryan notes that much of the his builder-customer relationship is built on trust that forms “right out of the gate.” Part of that trust is being able to deliver both the good news and the bad news in a timely manner, Ryan explains: “It’s an essential part of good communication. With the technology now available, it’s easy for contractors to stay in touch with customers, and provide immediate progress updates.”
Katahdin Dealers Aaron and Meredith Dunn own Big Twig Homes, in Poland, Maine. Aaron explained that he encourages his customers to check out each contractor they interview to build their homes. Customers should also ask for references and look at recent homes completed. As a matter of practice, Dunn shows his customers recent, similar-sized homes he has built so they can see the quality construction that he is proud to share, “because it has my name on it.” He is also proud to count his customers among his friends. Even when he sells a kit to be built by another contractor, he stays attached to the deal to follow through on the construction process and ensure things move smoothly.
Part of Dunn’s relationship with his customers is explaining that building a home is so much more that the bottom-line price. “The difference in quality of work determines whether the end result is a home or a camp.” Even though some people approach the negotiations like any other big purchase, a custom built log home is not the same as a buying new car. Even a precut package like Katahdin’s still requires skilled construction techniques to complete the rest of the home, he said.
Follow Up on References
Dealer/Contractor Steve Howard, owner of Howard Construction in Berwick, Maine, emphasizes that the contractor needs to have experience with building log homes, because of the specific techniques required. Howard also recommends getting construction estimates from three to four contractors. “Inevitably, the estimates will come back as one 25-30% high, one 20-30% low and two in the middle, within a few points of each other,” he explained. “I would be very skeptical of the experience and quality of a very low estimate, “ he said. It is in comparing the estimates that contractor references are key to the decision making process, he adds.
Howard also recommends asking for a list of lumber supply companies where the contractor buys materials for his jobs. If a contractor is late or behind on materials payments, it could be an indication of deeper problems. “There’s nothing worse than not being able to complete a final closing because of materials liens,” Howard said.
Howard also recommends discussing the process of change orders on a job before construction begins. Change orders maintain a record of the work that is different from the original specifications. Even when there is no cost for a change order, he gets a sign-off on the changes to refer to later should questions arise.
Overall, these Dealer/Contractors agree that paying attention to the contractor’s references, developing a feeling of trust and making sure good communication exists are keys to a positive construction project and a beautiful Katahdin Cedar Log Home.