Building on dreams
Business View Magazine interviews representatives of Linwood Homes for our focus on the Ontario Home Building Industry
The phrase “Home Sweet Home” means many different things to different people. When building their own home with Linwood Homes, no matter what design or footprint people choose there is always an emphasis on ‘Sweet’!
For over 50 years, the homegrown Canadian company has been making homebuyers’ dreams come true. Alex Mascott, Head of Marketing and Innovation with Linwood Homes at its head office in Delta, BC, reports, “It started off in recreational cedar homes and then quickly evolved into offering a variety of different homes in different areas. We’ve shipped home packages to 26 different countries and our fun fact is that we’ve built homes as small as 224 sq. ft all the way up to 45,000 sq. ft for a conference centre in China.”
Although the idea of building a home can be intimidating, Linwood Homes aims to make the process of building significantly easier. “Linwood fills the role of the architect and the lumber yard for custom homes,” says Mascott. “We’ve got an integrated process which combines both custom design and all the materials you need. The materials get consolidated into a home kit and then shipped to site. It includes everything needed to build the structure of the home; that’s really where we started and what the brand has been built around.”
With growing demand for homes that reflect each homeowner’s dreams, personality, and lifestyle, Linwood Homes expanded its reach even further and opened Linwood Construction Services in Marmora, Ontario. Dean Mawer, GM of Linwood Construction Services, has seen dreams become reality throughout Ontario. “I would say that we’re pretty unique, particularly the way we service scattered, rural lots throughout the whole province,” reflects Mawer. “Primarily, waterfront, high-end custom homes and cottages.”
Linwood Homes also has offices in Peterborough and Barrie, which enables the company to retain a strong network of localized builders and suppliers. According to Mawer, “We have a network of trades across the province that we’ve worked with for some time. We’re able to schedule a lot of jobs and a lot of them work exclusively for us.” Every step of building a home with LCS is discussed and outlined along the way so buyers can be as involved as they want throughout the entire process. In fact, Mawer has devised a formula that provides homebuyers with fixed price contracts, which is virtually unheard of in the custom-home industry.
“Fixed price contracts give a lot of security to customers,” notes Mascott. “Part of making construction easier is actually breaking things down to a fixed and reliable price. That’s a major innovation across the industry.” The proprietary tool, which Mawer dubs “the pricing configurator,” has not only alleviated the stress of homebuilding for clients, but for suppliers and trade workers as well. He explains, “It auto-writes the contracts and auto-writes the specifications to generate a fixed price that we can present to the customer. But to do that we had to build up a really strong trade base. And the work in the background was to have price agreements with these guys, so when I give the trades contracts to work on our homes, the specifications for both the product and the scope of work are very well defined and their contracts are also a fixed price. It just runs really smooth the way it comes together.”
To ensure all sides benefit from the program, Mawer personally does much of the groundwork such as quoting, so tradespeople can focus on site-specific details. “They are out working in the field all day and the last thing they want to do is to go home and sit with the plans and try to figure out what to charge for their service,” says Mawer. “I do all of that for them, I put the contracts together for them; we pay a fair rate and they get paid on time. We also manage the clients, so the trades don’t have to. They can just go out and do their jobs.” By developing relationships with the trades, everyone knows exactly what is expected of them. Mascott adds, “That means that because the expectations are clear for them, they are expected to hold to a very high standard. The quality of the individual that works with LCS has to be high.”
Building a home in Ontario’s remote waterfront areas can be challenging, but not insurmountable. “Particularly in Ontario, we are trying to make building a custom home as easy as possible,” says Mascott. “The goal is to make it accessible and make it cost transparent to people so that they feel willing to invest the money and live their dream lifestyle. That’s really what motivates us and drives us.”
Linwood Homes has trademarked the term “Site-Specific Design” and used it for over 20 years due to the fact that it builds on remote sites so frequently. “Remote sites are certainly something that we have never shied away from doing. If anything, it has actually made us better as a company because we’ve seen such diversity in different sites and lot conditions,” says Mascott. A great example was a home that Linwood Homes completed in Alaska that was complete barge access, there were no roads on the island and the material package was helicoptered up from the barge to the build site. Site-Specific Design is all about understanding the lot, orientation of the home, and what foundation to use. This is an important part of the Linwood design process.
Determining how work crews will get to and from the site is up to the company, as well. It’s all part of the pre-construction planning and can be an interesting challenge, especially if the lake doesn’t have barge service. LCS also looks after all of the infrastructure services required. Mawer notes, “If it’s a virgin lot that hasn’t been built on before, we look after putting in the septic system, drilling wells, bringing hydro in. If hydro’s not available, we’ve done off-grid homes that rely on generators or solar power.”
Dream homes begin with just that – a dream. From there, building on that dream can take shape. “In Ontario, with the combination of Linwood Homes and LCS, we will actually sign on with someone, even before they purchase land,” says Mascott. “They come to us because they’re looking to build and they typically like a design in our collection. We can take people right from pre-lot purchase; actually determining if the lot is the right fit, what costs are going to be, what site development is going to be like, all the way to choosing all their interior finishing, and then locking the door and handing over the keys to them.”
COVID-19 has been more of a springboard for purchasers looking to build on their dreams, and demand is at an all-time high. “In fact, building permits right now seem to be difficult because of the volume going through the system,” exclaims Mawer. “Some products are also tough to source, an example being bath products like showers. We’re ordering now and not expecting delivery until next March, which is fairly unusual.”
With an eye to the future, Linwood Homes’ vision is to become the complete building solution for any home, anywhere. “Here in Ontario that means continuing to expand on our trade network and our reach,” says Mawer. “We’re looking at getting into different provinces and also expanding our levels of service, as well as our options and product that we are putting into these homes.”
Mascott believes the worldwide pandemic has made people pause and reflect on what really matters to them. “It’s really the sense of your home being your castle, and the lifestyles that people want to live don’t feature around the urban centers as much as it has in the past. The work from home movement is certainly here and my guess is it is likely to stay. I think more people are going to find that their work involves their home, so I guess in its own way COVID has been a bit of a reset for how people do things and how much they value their home and what their home offers them. By building, you can create the perfect lifestyle and the perfect home that centers your lifestyle in this uncertain world.”
AT A GLANCE
What: High-end custom home and cottage builder
Where: HQ in Delta, BC; Linwood Construction Services in Marmora, Ontario