When commercial fisherman Andy Koberwitz faced a shortage of fish on the coast he observed there was no shortage of trees. Identifying an opportunity and calling upon his engineering education, Koberwitz decided to build log homes that could be shipped anywhere in the world. West Coast Log Homes (WCLH) started in 1999 with the display of its first home at the BC Log Home Show in Abbotsford. Koberwitz recalls, “My last penny was sunk and I had to sell that home at the show.” The log home was an instant success and sold before the show officially opened. Much to Koberwitz’s delight, more orders were taken during the show.
A key to West Coast Log Homes’ success was participation in the BCIT Venture Program where Koberwitz developed both a business plan and a mentor relationship with program director and Sunshine Coast resident, Peter Thomson. Koberwitz praises the program and from time to time still calls upon its expertise. Over the last eight years many typical business challenges have been overcome. He advises new businesses to take the business plan process seriously. Koberwitz explains, “Issues I didn’t anticipate arose quickly once the business started, such as the need for contingency funding, shareholder agreements and an employee handbook.” Koberwitz’s son Sven is a shareholder. Koberwitz proudly says, “West Coast Log Homes is a father-son business.”
To date WCLH has built over 150 homes that can be found in Canada, USA, South America, Europe and Japan. The farthest away is located in Punta Arenas at the southern tip of Chile.
Full Scribe, Post and Beam, and Fusion-style homes built by WCLH are sought primarily for second or third homes in rural areas for discerning customers with deep pockets. Prices range from $150 to $400 per square foot according to design features. The shipping bill alone came to $100,000 for a home recently delivered to Maine in nine truckloads. “There is a lot of trust developed between the client and us during the design and building stage,” says Koberwitz. “At one point we have both the home and the full payment.”
Koberwitz explains that a typical sales cycle from first contact with a client averages four to five months and includes receiving and completing their design in-house, hand selecting the logs, building, disassembling and shipping the home.
The majority of WCLH sales are generated from referrals and the internet. Koberwitz receives email inquiries every day from points around the world. WCLH’s website showcases the company’s team of 24 employees, unique production methods and environmental policies, and attracts attention from an affluent target market with photo galleries featuring the phases of creating handcrafted log homes as well as stunning exterior and interior shots of completed homes.
The company’s passion and pride is evident right from the start of a project. The plan is studied meticulously by the WCLH team and every production detail is anticipated and worked out on paper.
WCLH is partnering in Tumble Creek, a six-hundred-home resort community located east of Seattle, with post and beam “cabins” starting at $1.5 million. Tom Goett, project manager for the construction, was quoted in a recent press release: “Andy’s probably one of the most cool-headed people I’ve ever worked with, one of those rare people born to this industry. Andy just gets it.” WCLH solved technical, planning, architectural and engineering issues for the project.
WCLH’s commitment to quality is one of the reasons that Koberwitz is now capping growth to building about twenty homes a year. Koberwitz understands that WCLH’s niche of hand constructing log homes with uncompromising standards is not suitable for expanded production.
The business often sees Koberwitz on site seven days a week. As his vision and business goals are met, Koberwitz is eager to meet his next goal of spending more quality time with his wife.