Can You Build A Log Home For $150/SF?… Apparently In Middle Tennessee You Can’t!

by Lynnette

builders and GCs, Dale Hollow Lake Property, Honest Abe Log Homes, money matters, Tennessee land

Jim and I have come to the conclusion that we were completely disillusioned about the cost to build a log home… at least here in Middle Tennessee anyway!

So far, we’ve spoken to 6 general contractors now (4 of whom have many many years of experience building log homes). Each of them told us that we could build a log home for somewhere between $125 – $150 per square foot.


First We Got A Price For The Logs…

After working closely with a log home package provider (Honest Abe Log Homes), we went through 2 different blueprint revisions and then got what we felt was a fair quote for the log package itself. It was about $63/SF.

(For the record, they usually say that the cost to complete your house will be double the cost to dry it in. In this case, that would be about $125/SF.)

Honest Abe‘s price includes the logs themselves, doors, windows, railings, and the act of “drying in” the house up to the point where a G.C. (or the homeowner) actually takes over and completes all the finishing work, plumbing, electricity, etc. (The act of laying the foundation is also completed by the G.C. — even though it’s done before the dry-in process begins.)

Then, We Tried To Get A Price For The Rest…

Next, we asked three of the four log home G.C’s mentioned above to provide a quote for building a 2,300 SF log home (plus basement, unfinished).

Our log home floor plan is very similar to this log home floorplan.

It’s not a particularly complex floorplan — not a log of unique nooks & crannies, odd shapes, or irregularities. In fact, one of the GC’s told us more than once that this is a log home floorplan that he’s very familiar with… and he’s actually built plenty just like ours… and there would be nothing unusual or expensive about building this home.

Still, not only could we not get anyone to commit in writing — on paper — to actual line-item costs for building this log home, we also had a very hard time just getting anyone to call us back!

We spent months calling, leaving messages, re-calling, and then being caught off-guard on the few occasions that one of them would actually call us back (…usually several weeks later).

Often, so much time had passed between when we initially asked them our questions and/or requested that they fax us some figures and when their phone calls actually arrived that the phone conversations kept turning into more of “How are you doing? What have you been up to lately? Yep, I’ll be happy to get you some figures. Blah, blah, blah.” It was like starting from Square One each time!

Even though each of these G.C.’s had been provided with an actual set of our blueprints, none seemed willing to put anything in writing for us.

General Contractors Are A Nice Bunch

I have to say this…We genuinely LIKED (and still like) each and every one of these G.C.’s!

No doubt about it, they are among the nicest, sweetest, kindest, most knowledgeable, busiest, and most qualified individuals who build log homes in this area. The worst part: They’re also about the only ones qualified to build log homes in the area we are building.

Our first thought was: “Well, they’re obviously just too busy for our little log home.”

Our second thought was, “I wonder if since we’re building on a lake (in a development that has ‘resort’ in the title) that these G.C.’s think we’ve got tons of money and would likely pay more for a log home than someone else.”

The Frustration Takes Its Toll

After months and months of going in circles, the closest we ever got to seeing figures on paper was one of the G.C.’s who put together a summarized list of the things that he generally includes in his price, followed by one big grand total (that was about $165/SF).

There were no price ranges, no guesstimations, no high-quality vs low-quality countertop prices, no ballpark ranges for stonework vs brick (such as for retaining walls, fireplace, etc.),

NOTE: For the point of clarification, this particular G.C.’s “total price” also didn’t include things like excavation, septic and landscaping — but these are always huge unknowns and are determined on-site, as they occur.

A few of the things that we felt were obviously missing from this G.C.’s quote were: a fireplace, any tile work (floors, bathroom shower, etc.), a driveway, exterior siding (for the basement), and retaining walls, to name just a few. All of these things would’ve had to be obtained/managed by us and paid for on top of his price to do everything else.

What about the other G.C.’s???
We had met personally and talked to each of them on the phone several times. Still, they simply kept dodging the actual bottom line question for some reason.

Trust me folks, the bank needs to know dollar-for-dollar the breakdown for what your log home is going to cost!

A Quick Word About Banks & Financing Log Homes…

Our time spent trying to find a bank to finance this log home was just about as frustrating as finding a G.C!

It seems there are a lot of hoops that the banks require log home owners to jump through. But the bottom line is: few banks around here are comfortable with financing log homes. Period.

Even M&T — a national company known in the industry as “experts” in log home lending — took 3 weeks to call us back after we met them at a Log Home Show.

And then, when the guy said he “had to check on one thing & would get back to us”… we never heard from him again. What the #@*!?!