In November of 2007 we started our disappointing adventure with Lindal Cedar Homes by visiting the model home in Seattle and received a quote of $185 per sf on a standard plan. With modifications we planned to be on target to meet our budget. Unfortunately, we trusted this local business, but that trust was misplaced. If we had done our homework we would have discovered how Lindal really operates and could have avoided this very costly experience.
We purchased our lot in early 2008 and our Seattle Cedar Homes sales rep did a site visit. After determining that the plan worked on our property, we rearranged bedrooms, removed most of the decking, detached and raised the garage and added a studio above it. Overall we stayed within the footprint of the original plan except for the addition of a 2 ft extension bay window.
What’s so important to emphasize here is that from day one Seattle Cedar Homes refused to give us individual written costs on the materials and purposefully kept everything vague and confusing on the modifications, so we never knew where we stood. This situation left us totally vulnerable to pricing games and set us up to have our deposit unfairly confiscated later, even though we received no materials.
In April 2008 we received the first rough draft of our changes and were given a materials cost of $197, 559. We decided to go with non-Lindal windows/doors and were given a credit of $12, 051. We also deleted the post and beam garage - changing it to “standard construction” - and removed cedar liner in some areas. Later in the month we asked for new totals. The new calculation for materials was now more than $40, 000 higher than the original cost. With all of the reductions how can the materials cost more? We’re told that it still doesn’t account for ALL of the changes and that we’ll have time to recalculate later.
On May 4 we hand over our $33, 600 deposit. The materials list still includes the original windows and doors that we thought had been deleted in April. We’re promised that this isn’t by any means final and we will get the grand total after the pricing department has calculated everything for us. Later we try to reduce costs further but because Lindal hasn’t given us an updated materials total, we have no idea if we’re within our budget. We still lack any written documentation on the changes and the rep distracts us by saying, “our house will probably make one of the new Lindal books!” Although we have stated all along that there will be no financing, he suggests getting a loan for the 3rd time to cover their cost overruns. We’re not impressed!
In June the preliminary drawings are ready but we are now four months into this project and still don’t know what the total cost of the materials for our new home will be! In September we apply for the permit and finally get the change order of -$15.850 for the deleted windows. After all this time we still do not have the final total for our modifications and it becomes apparent that Lindal does not want us to know!
On November 3 our building permit is approved. We contact our salesman who still doesn’t have our materials cost down on paper. After some wrangling we get a verbal “approximate” cost from him. With the latest contractor’s bid the total cost is now $270, 000 over what we had budgeted. Our $185.00 per sq ft price had risen to $266.00 per sq.ft.!!
The following weekend Steve goes to SCH to see if it’s possible to take $270, 000 out of the project. We discover that we’re not the only ones with budget problems since during his visit a couple stops by to get help modifying their plans due to their high cost overruns! Later via email we suggest several more reductions but the salesman admits that he can’t tell us what a stick of wood costs because Lindal’s prices are “bundled”! So, we’re finally getting to the crux of the whole pricing problem. It’s becoming apparent that he can’t help us because he doesn’t know!
In mid November we call our salesman for a new total. He seems paralyzed and confused about how to handle the situation and suggests that we get financing to cover the difference, for the 4th time! Things get heated and we decide that we’re going to have to build only the garage or walk away from the entire project. He tells us that we can’t use our plans and that Lindal will be keeping our $33, 600 deposit!
Talk about unfair and deceptive business practices! Lindal hides all the figures until the point of no return, then they spring the final amount on you when it’s contractually too late to back out, and you have to either continue with the huge unjustified price increases or forfeit your money!
As a last resort, Lindal had us meet with another dealer/builder to try to “save” our deal. This exercise was more of the same, as the builder purposely lowballed the cost, and omitted several items plus sales tax. We were surprised to find out when checking his references that previous homeowners complained of the same pricing problems and other critical job issues.
By late November we made our decision to end this nightmare and hired an architect and engineer. On the bright side, the cost to build our newly designed dream home is $188.00 per sq. ft. for an enormous savings of more than $300, 000 over Lindal’s inflated price. It’s been a huge relief to know the true cost to design and build our project, something that Lindal makes sure you don't know until after you've signed on the dotted line! Our message to those who are just starting: Keep your peace of mind and your money and do it yourself.