“What is NOT a secret is that TF/SIP homes are inherently traditional, durable, extremely energy efficient, low maintenance and beautiful; and especially important in these times, TF/SIP homes have increased market value the day they’re completed and at eventual resale. Compared to conventional homes of similar square footage on the same building lot, your TF/SIP home will be worth more the day you move in and return higher equity value when you decide (reluctantly) to sell.” ~Jack Costantino, Pres., TFU~
I must admit to being continuously perplexed by the reality that what we build is little known in the mainstream marketplace. The traceable history of timber framing’s traditional joinery goes back thousands of years. As such, you would think more prospective home buyers and builders who hear the term “timber frame”, would not instinctively respond by mistaking it for LOG homes. Many of you, who are already our clients, and living in your own TF/SIP home, met us at a Home Show. It’s also true that a number of you attended the show with a primary interest in log homes.
I love log homes/cabins. As a youngster, my family spent many summers in one in Copake Falls, NY. I always felt like we had returned to nature and were revisiting our pioneer roots. What’s not to like about that? The LOG home industry has done a great job over the past 60+ years exposing their homes to the secondary market for vacation and weekend get-a-ways. In more recent times, they have entered the primary-residence marketplace. We consider the fabricators, crafters and suppliers of these homes as friends and colleagues; and enjoy seeing them at our combined Home Show events.
Like timber framers, they are dedicated to their traditional craft, and love the hands-on, historic nature of their building style. They are personally connected and, as with timber framers, it will be hard to meet a practitioner you will not like and respect. Compared to LOG’s popularity, Timber Frame seems like a best kept secret.
What is NOT a secret is that TF/SIP homes are inherently traditional, durable, extremely energy efficient, low maintenance and beautiful; and especially important in these times, TF/SIP homes have increased market value the day they’re completed and at eventual resale. Compared to conventional homes of similar square footage on the same building lot, your TF/SIP home will be worth more the day you move in and return higher equity value when you decide (reluctantly) to sell.
Yet, our homes are little known in the mainstream home buying, home building consciousness. Statistically, along with LOG, TF/SIP homes are included in the alternative housing category which represents only 1% of annual new home sales in the domestic market place. WHY?
The answer may be that unlike our LOG colleagues and conventional home builders, timber framers are less likely to reach out to the larger marketplace with traditional advertising. For example, have you ever seen a highway billboard for TF/SIP homes? How often will you find a display ad in a non-TF focused publication? Have we ever utilized TV or radio? Other than a rare exposure on special programming, i.e., This Old House and the DYI network, do we have a presence on major media outlets?
Other than home shows, we often rely on direct referrals from existing clients, or for those of us with websites, rely on hits from a random generic search. Although this may keep some of us busy enough, the fact is, because of the shrinking economy, in the past two years our industry has experienced an unsettling contraction. Our national organizations have lost membership beyond normal attrition, and it appears those who have not renewed, regardless of recent incentives, do not feel motivated to return.
Even more disturbing is the loss of crafters within established companies through layoffs, and in some cases, the closing of shops with respected and long-term colleagues and friends unable to maintain fixed overhead. Losing a trained timber framer is no small event. Unlike conventional carpentry, a timber frame craftsperson has often trained for decades and accumulated highly specialized skills. Once lost to other pursuits, they will not be easy to replace when needed.
I believe as the cost of traditional energy increases, along with awareness for the environment (will the gulf ever be the same?) and as mortgage interest rates decline past 60 year lows, our craft has an unparalleled opportunity to step-up and into the awareness and consciousness of the mainstream marketplace. I also believe there is more at stake than merely sustaining our own companies and the viability of our craft and industry.
TF/SIP homes require less maintenance, consume 35-50% less energy and utilize materials from sustainable resources. Our timber industry may represent the one time we got it right. With the introduction of managed forestry and organizations committed to protecting that process, we can be confident that by cultivating more new growth than we harvest, we are achieving the core definition of sustainability. Our homes are friendlier to the environment the day they’re finished and as long as they stand. We already know that their durability is measured in centuries…not decades.
To facilitate the objective of expanding our outreach…our national organizations, the good will of our present homeowners, and our own willingness to stretch beyond our comfort zone and current strategies will play a part.
If their membership expresses this interest, our national organizations, operating within their non-profit status, can pursue strategies to stimulate public education and market awareness. Our current homeowners routinely provide living testimonials to the assets and benefits of the TF/SIP homes they love to live in. Stretching our thinking to include non-traditional venues and investment for our compressed advertising dollars will produce an awareness dividend and expand our marketplace over time. Admittedly we are currently a niche’ market. What i suggest is…grow the niche…anonymity is not a business plan.
To our TF colleagues…renew your membership now in the TFBC and TFG, and add your voice to help re-form our future. To our TF homeowner’s…thank you again for sharing your homes and eco-passion with our future clients. It’s up to us to take the actions which will serve our long-term business objectives, while addressing the needs of our environmental economy. I can’t think of any reasons why we wouldn’t want to do both.