Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Update on Refrigerator Decision

Given a little more food for thought (big thanks to those who commented), we've decided that we are not going to upgrade with Ryan and buy our own.  Yes, we will pay a little more but we will have a larger selection - I will get the french door that I want, and there is an opportunity for a warranty.  Plus we will not be paying interest and closing costs on it.  Now I see why so many chose to get their own.

Now I'll get to shop for a fridge as well as a washer/dryer (and numerous other things needed when we move in).  Fun times :)

In my region, Ryan has to provide the standard black refrigerator.  I would like them to leave it in the garage because I guess I am going to try and sell it.  I really don't have any other use for it as we already have a chest freezer and I don't know anyone who needs one...  If I can't sell I will likely donate it, I believe there are places that will come pick these types of things up.

Has anyone tried to sell their new Ryan refrigerator? Was it successful?

On another note, I just got a flyer in the mail advertising a Home Expo being held at the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro this weekend. I've never been to one of these and of course I'm interested in seeing what it's about.  Bonus, admission is free.
As if I was not absorbed in this house thing enough, things like this pop up and further enable my preoccupation :)

Projects after settlement

There are a few projects that we want to do after settlement.  Unfortunately, although we are willing to learn, my husband and I have not had any luck with home improvement projects in our current house.  So this will cost us more as we will have to hire specialists to come assist us with our projects.  It would be easy if we knew some tradesmen with these skills or had recommendations from family/friends but we don't have those connections.  I may try to see if the tradesmen who work on our house will be willing to complete some things for cash after closing.

Here's what we would like to do, in no order.  How much of it is completed and when they are done is all dependent on budget...

-Wall bracket lights/sconces for study (we got extra outlets from Ryan but need help converting and putting on a switch)
-Install garage door opener
-Kitchen tile backsplash
-Change foyer light (need help due to the height), we will do dining room light ourselves
-Finish basement bath, the 3 piece rough in will be there
-Granite for master bath vanities
-Finish media room
-Pendant lights over kitchen island
-Frame-less glass shower door

Outside, we will have some big $$ projects - namely a fenced backyard and a patio.

Wow, typing it out like this looks like a lot.  Having a dream home is a lot of work :)

Are we SURE money does not really grown on trees, not even in the most remote, uninhabited place on Earth???  Just making sure.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Refrigerator Question- Through Ryan or On Our Own?

I've been thinking about the refrigerator.  Right now, we are ordering through Ryan.  The price is not bad and I'll be able to walk into a finished kitchen.   With the Ryan credit, both options would cost less than $1700.  My question is, do I take the standard refrigerator and try to get one on my own for less than $1800 or do I just take one of the options offered by Ryan? I did notice many Ryan bloggers buy their own refrigerators which is what made me rethink our original decision.

Ryan offeres two GE Profile options.  The first is the GE Profile 25.9 cu. ft.  It is very similar to what we have now, and we have a chest freezer for the basement so freezer space is not an issue.  This option is $2295 minus a credit of $750 given by Ryan.  Total $1545.  This is what is on our order right now.

The other option is the GE Profile 22 cu. ft french door.  I would prefer a french door style but this model is pretty small.  It's smaller than the above not only in interior space but outside dimensions (won't fill up the space as nicely).  This option is $2395 minus $750 credit.  Total $1645.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Finalization meeting

The finalization meeting today went well.  The only thing that I had to compromise on is the finishing of the basement bathroom.  To keep the cost under the "magic number", we had to do a 3 piece rough in instead of the bath finished.  I think I can get the basement bath finished for less than the $5600 Ryan charges (and we won't be paying taxes and closing fees on that money), but I can't help wishing we could just move right in and it be done.  We originally wanted them to finish the media room but removed that at the beginning to pay for other options.  So we will have to try and quickly get our savings built back up and get the media room and basement bath finished at the same time.

I think the only question that really remains is exactly how much my upgraded trim package is getting me.  One of the big reasons I wanted to pay to upgrade is because I fell in love with the wainscoting going up the stairs and in the upstairs hallway (as seen in the model nearby).   It really added so much to those areas.  But my SR has to find out if the wainscoting goes to these areas.  I'm really, really hoping that it does.  Otherwise I don't know if it is worth the extra $900 to upgrade if I'm only getting the wainscoting in the dining room and foyer.

Other than those two things, I'm pleased with how things worked out and I am really excited to see how the house looks finished.  I spent a lot (a whole lot) of time and effort, working in the constraints of my budget and options offered, to make this house as "me/us" as I could.

Next up is the preconstruction meeting, which is tentatively scheduled for February 4.  Our SR said that right now it looks like we could be starting construction last week of February or first week of March.  The sooner the better for two reasons.  The first being I just can't wait for my house :) and the second (and most important) being I really, really want to get a fantastic interest rate.  The sooner we get to a lock, the better because you never know what is going to go on with the economy.

I did get some unexpected good news today; our house will be built under new county code, which upgrades the mandatory insulation requirement.  Extra insulation is always a good thing for energy bills (I hope anyway).  So yea!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Flooring Selections

Last week, my mom and I visited CTI to pick carpets.  There was a lot of back and forth with this (like with everything else) and I actually had to run by again this afternoon.   Here's what I ended up selecting:

In the basement, we are going with the Level A carpet in the Baseline style, color is Thornwood.  The sample looked good and I've seen the Thornwood in other blogs and it looks nice in those homes.  I've even seen a pic of it in someone's basement.  Thanks fellow Ryan bloggers!

In the family room and study I picked the Level D :( (so not happy about going up that high) Easy Approve style in River Slate.  I think this looks ok with my cherry hardwood floors and preferred decor style but it is so hard to tell. I wish I had a better eye for these things.

Upstairs, my choice is the Easy Approve in Bare Mineral.

I upgraded to the 8 lb padding everywhere but the basement.  I probably should have upgraded the basement for additional comfort and warmth, but as we may be redoing the basement carpet when we finish the media room in the future, I really wanted to use the money on other upgrades (like my morning room side windows) :).

The Easy Approve is a very plush polyester (100% BCF Cleartouch PET Polyester) carpet, which is not supposed to hold up as well as nylon carpets.  And even though it is a D level (E is the highest in my area), it is still only rated for "mid" foot traffic. Little worried about that. We are pretty hard on our floors and I hope I'm not spending all this money on carpets that will mat and look terrible in a year. It is a little risky to go for something this plush I think, but it was the style with the color choices that suited me best.

Actually, the carpet I originally chose for the family room and study was a C level Simple Times in Feather.  I thought the color was nice and I liked the frieze style for a change.  When mom and I went back to the model this weekend to look at the cabinets, I saw they actually had a sample of this and I'm so glad they did.  The color was completely different than I thought it was, and I ended up seeing a lot of purple in the taupe-ish color.  Not what I was going for. I also found that sample clashed with the cherry hardwoods.  Not a good look.  That color must be one with a lot of variations.  Today at CTI, I didn't see another color in that style that I liked, and on top of that, my husband (who actually does not have an opinion on much of the decor) said he didn't like the frieze style AT ALL.  So funny.  So there was another couple hundred dollars in the upgrade from the C to D.

Here's the Easy Approve in River Slate and Bare Mineral.  Pic is from my phone camera and of course does not do the colors any justice.  They are very pretty in person.

River Slate, Bare Mineral

I also chose the resilient/vinyl flooring for the basement bath and laundry room at CTI.   The basement bath is the Armstrong Initiator 66175 (Bridgeton-Parchment) and the laundry room is the Initiator 66182 (Glenville-Mesa Tan).
Initiator 66175 - Basement Bath
Initiator 66182 - Laundry Room

The Foyer, LR, DR, first floor "halls", powder room, kitchen and morning room are being done in the Bruce 2 1/4 inch Manchester - Cherry.  Yes, bad pic.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Guardian #2 - Security System

For $250 Guardian will install nice “invisible” contacts in the 4 exit doors, one motion detector and one keypad.  Ok, this is a little skimpy but fine.  This locks you to a 3 or 5 year monitoring contract at $45, $49 or $55 depending on what level of service you want.  There is no fire or CO2 monitoring included but it is available for more $$.  I think we would have viewed this more favorably if fire and CO2 were included with the system, as that is very beneficial to have monitored.  Most other security companies do the same thing with the “discount” equipment and mandatory contracts, and at least Guardian’s are nicely wired into the house where you don’t see it.  I think the basic system is almost adequate, although I think first floor window sensors and an extra motion detector should have been included to make it a true security system.  Of course, anything above their basic is very, very expensive. 

Initially we were set against the Guardian security system, but sitting there it didn’t sound that bad and we decided to go for it.  On the way home, having more time to digest the information, we began to second guess the decision (shocking I knowJ).  Yes, an alarm is important but I can get a wireless system and there are cheaper monitoring companies out there that provide the same level service Guardian does (most in this area run $25-$35 per month).  The wireless boxes are not aesthetically pleasing but I can overlook that to save money each month.  

In the end, we decided that locking ourselves into a $45/month monitoring agreement was not something we are comfortable with so we are opting not to go with Guardian for security.  We are going to install a system on our own.  

Info:  I did find out that their pricing automically includes a $5/month repair service charge which covers parts and labor if something needs to be fixed.  They can take that off if you ask.  They will also offer three months of free monitoring if you bring it up.

I can’t wait until all the decisions are over and I can’t worry about them anymore.  That, and I want them to start building my house already!!  Saturday is our finalization meeting with our SR and I'm hoping to have more information about the next steps at that time.

Guardian #1 – Cable and Data

**Disclaimer:  this is excessive ranting, I'm sorry - feel free to skip to the pricing at the end if interested.  I guess I'm upset because I truly feel like we are being taken advantage of on this portion - their pricing on some of the simple stuff is outrageous.

We went last night for our Guardian selection appointment.  The positive is that we had a very good sales representative-no pressure at all. Although he didn’t explain anything about the wiring options/outlet/package options available, but it could have been my fault that I didn't ask.  Now I knew going into this that Guardian was costly and I also knew we really didn’t have much play in our budget, so I was prepared for the fact that we would not get our desired setup.  I was not dreaming big, was not even considering surround sound for the “good” TV or surround pre wire, but I was hoping to have flat panel pre-wires for most of the rooms, to prevent the ugly hanging cables.  I know hiding cables is easy for many to do themselves but that's just not in our skill set.

In my area, Ryan includes 2 phone jacks and 2 cable outlets.  I asked to have one of the phone jacks converted to a cable outlet and although the rep stated Ryan didn’t like to do that (in the event I didn’t close on the house, they would have difficulty with the resale because the house wasn’t wired with standard offerings), he agreed to put the order in for just a single telephone jack.

In the end, this is what we ended up with:
Basement – Cable, Ethernet, Flat Panel Pre Wire (same stud)
Family Room – Cable, Ethernet, Flat Panel Pre Wire (adjoining wall, tv is over fireplace and we didn't didn’t want the AV equipment on the fireplace/window wall)
Study – Ethernet
Master – Cable, Ethernet in the “main” room and a Flat Panel Pre Wire in the sitting area.
The way we set up the master is that the FPPW in the sitting area is connected to the setup in the “main” area.  I didn’t want to pay Verizon $10 each month for an additional box, when we will only be using one TV at a time in the master. So I’ll put a switch on the AV equipment and will be able to use equipment in the main TV or in the sitting area.  Yes, the switch is an extra step but  is totally worth not paying for the extra box. 
3 Bedrooms – one Cable in each

My husband’s one request was that the data cable be upgraded to CAT6, so we did pick that upgrade. 

Except for the flat panel pre wires, I find our picks to be pretty standard/basic for new homes.  So why did this cost us $2525????  Aargh!  They should go for much, much less.  The work required to run a few cable and data lines is pretty simple in new construction compared to having to fish through walls and basements/attics for existing homes.  I just don't get it, but maybe it’s just me.

So I got home and realized that a detailed cost sheet for our options was not included in the paperwork the representative gave us.  Why is it not standard to provide customers with a breakdown of what they are paying for?  No big, the representative emailed me one this morning after I requested it but next time I know to check for one before I leave.  

Here's what $2525 got us:

11 total cable/data/phone
4 provided by Ryan                       $    0
6 Guardian “package”                    $765
1 additional                                    $150

5 CAT6 upgrades at $35/each        $175  (the phone is a CAT6 too)

Flat Panel Pre-Wire
1 same stud, HIGH speed HDMI     $330 
1 same wall, HIGH speed                $440
1 standard/remote, HIGH HDMI     $665
All I can say is for these flat panel pre-wire prices we SHOULD be getting the BEST HDMI cable available and not the "economy" stuff I know they are going to lob off on us.  Even then, 35 feet of excellent HDMI cable runs less than $50.  So taking out the super special HDMI cables that can cook dinner and wash clothes, what justifies the cost of running a cable a few feet in the same room and putting wall plates on each end?

Here’s the Guardian pricing  in my area:
Multimedia Outlet $350                single wall plate: Ethernet, cable & phone
6 outlet “package” $765               any combination of Ethernet, cable or phone
Single outlet $150                         Ethernet, cable or phone
Connectivity Package $1225*
        one multi-port outlet, one network/router switch, 5 combined Ethernet and cable outlets           
CAT6 Ethernet Upgrade $35/ea                
42” Wiring Enclosure Upgrade $235          ??? no clue what this is

*Guardian rep did not explain this Connectivity Package or the network/router switch to me at all so I’m not sure what they are.  I would have liked to know about this.  Hopefully I’m not missing out on something that I would have wanted.  Not feeling good about that.

Wall-mount Flat Panel Pre-wire Only
Same Stud          Standard HDMI $330      High Speed HDMI  $390

Same Wall           Standard HDMI $440       High Speed HDMI $500

These pre-wires are truly what blows my mind; I mean a few feet of HDMI and two wall boxes.  Again, this is same room, preconstruction, not fishing through walls.  $330 to $500. Wow, just wow… 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Kitchen finalization (...i think)

I saw a sample of the Impala Black granite today and it was mostly gray with black specks rather than the much prettier black with minimal gray that is in the Clinton Avalon model.  So the possibility I may get gray granite (which does NOT go with the Maple Cognac cabinets) combined with the fact that the cognac/impala black combo would cost me $1850 more than my other option, led me to the best decision out of the available options.  I will be going with the Espresso cabinets and Luna Pearl granite.  Finally, a decision made. :)

Now I can't second guess myself; I must not worry about the cabinets being too dark or hard to keep clean, or the luna pearl being dated.  My kitchen is going to look fantastic and I am going to be very content with it

I just emailed our changes to our SR.  She responded immediately and asked if I still wanted the price on the maple cognac/maple espresso non-standard request I had put in.  I had to go back and tell her that I decided not to go that route.  She has been so great to work with; I really hope I didn't annoy her with the two cancelled non-standard kitchen requests.  Especially because I am going to ask for window location changes in the living room and daughter's bedroom and a change to the walkout in the basement :)

I'm Going To Be Thankful For....#2

CLOSETS and STORAGE! My new home is going to have lots and lots of wonderful closets.  Separate closets in the master, great closets for the kids, the pantry, kitchen cabinets, closet in the extra bedroom and a whole storage area in the basement. This will be more than enough room to make organization easy to establish and maintain. I'm really looking forward to the master closets.  I don't have an excessively large wardrobe but I have a hard time keeping things neat and organized when there's not enough space so I give up and everything ends up in piles.  A good sized master closet (and extra closet) will help tremendously.  I also can't wait to have that storage in the basement so the garage actually fits a car..

Friday, January 18, 2013

k.i.t.c.h.e.n is now a bad word

So 12 days after signing the purchase agreement, I am STILL losing sleep over the kitchen colors. Literally losing sleep.  Yes, it is that important and no, none of the options really work for me.  I think I am thrilled with all my other choices but the kitchen.....

I started with a special request for the Timberlake Capistrano style cabinets (I love you full-overlay style), I never know if that would have got approved but I figured they would charge even more than their most expensive standard option, the Rushmore Butterscotch.  At this point, I really can't spend that much on cabinets.

Last weekend, I decided the Scottsdale Maple Cognac with the Espresso island and Tan Brown granite might work so I changed my special request.   I figured it would save me money, even though I continued to have doubts.  Especially about the Tan Brown granite - its just not my type of look.

Then, I decided the Scottsdale Maple Espresso and Santa Cecilia granite would be ok (with the hope that the kitchen wouldn't be too dark).  However when I went to CTI and M&R, I saw examples of the Santa Cecilia granite that I just can not risk getting.  Both places confirmed the Santa Cecilia they've been seeing lately is this yellow-gold-mustard blend and not the prettier more tan/brown-based background with crisp dark veining.  If I could guarantee I could pick my slab (and guarantee they had a good slab to choose) then I would love that combo.  But now I know there are versions of Santa Cecilia that just aren't what I want and with my luck I'd get one of those.  The representative at CTI pointed out the New Caledonia granite and for awhile I was going to be ok with that, even though it would be kind of a cold, dark kitchen.

NOW, however - I'm having second third fourth thoughts.  I've been looking at pictures of the New Caledonia and I think it's going to go too dark and blue-based. Then I started considering the Luna Pearl to go lighter but I was reading that this is a very "dated" granite color, definitely not the look I was going for but still may very well be my best only choice.

As of right now, here are my options:

Option 1 - Scottsdale Maple Cognac with level 2 Impala Black granite
Pros:  least expensive cabinet option, wouldn't be dark, nice neutral color, pretty granite, combo looks good in the model, I have a good choice of backsplash with this granite
Cons:  expensive granite (big $ upgrade)
Concerns:  Will these cabinets go too orange (they can get very orange in pictures)?  Will they clash with my Cherry floors?

Here's a pic of the Avalon model (LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this big, functional kitchen :)) with the Maple Cognac/Impala Black.  The unknown is still my cherry floors:

Option 2 - Scottsdale Maple Espresso with Luna Pearl granite
Pros:  cabinets look good with the cherry hardwood floors, no upgrade cost on the granite
Cons:  maybe a cold kitchen, I've never seen Luna Pearl in real life (big con)
Concerns:  is the Luna Pearl dated?  Is it going to look good?

Here's a pic from of the Espresso/Luna Pearl/dark hardwoods (they also selected the Bare Mineral carpet that I picked for upstairs)

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Bath Tile Picks

For the master bath, I chose the Brancacci BC02 Windrift Beige tiles with Stone Radiance SA54 Wisteria Tortiose Blend listello.  The camera does not do it justice - this is a BEAUTIFUL tile.  The cabinets are Maple Espresso and the counter tops are going to be white marble for now.  I don't like any of the granite choices, and for the $995 or $1295 that Ryan charges, I can find something I love and have installed...


For the kids (jack/jill) bath, I picked the Saldalo SW90 Serene White tile with Nautilus 1x2 Brick Conch listello.  Daughter loves the glass look listello, and so do I!  The cabinets and counters are the Maple Espresso with white marble.  I'm just hoping when the listello is installed it does not look as pink as it shows up in these pictures (it does look a little less so in real life).

Bath 2 (the private bath in the extra bedroom) will have the level B 6x6 white wall w/ivy listello and Brixton Bone BX01 floor.

The tile appointment went great.  I am super happy with my choices and was even able to do a little change (the original tile pared with the Brick Conch listello was darker and a lot more yellow - the rep at M&R had no problem with changing it to the Serene White).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Upcoming trip and more musings on the kitchen...

Only one more day until my trip to CTI and M&R.  I can't wait!  I really hope I can take my time in both places and leave with decisions I am comfortable with.

As if I didn't have enough of an attention deficit sometimes, this new house has me daydreaming constantly.  I only wish I had enough money to furnish and decorate that massive house the way I want :)  Oh well, one day... For now I have prioritized my first expenditures as a washer/dryer, desk for my husband's office and family room furniture.  I would also love to get a table set for the morning room so my dining room isn't empty.

Also, the great kitchen indecision continues.  I'm sure my family is tired of hearing about it already (sorry guys, I really am)  I just can't make any of the cabinet and granite choices work for me.  I've got to pick something though so I've spent the better part of the last week scouring the internet for pictures of Ryan Homes kitchens.  This includes viewing kitchen pictures of every model on the Ryan site.  Obsessive?  Yes, definitely (and slightly embarrassing).  But I need to find something I like and get my decision made soon.

I'm getting kind of concerned I haven't received my approved purchase agreement in the mail (I signed it Jan 6th and it was supposed to come back to me signed by the main office).  I also have a list of five thousand questions, many of things I think needs to be addressed before my finalization meeting. I'm going to call my SR on Friday to check in and keep us on the radar!

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Why the blog?

I decided to do this blog as a record for myself.  Who knows if I will ever be able to build a new home again in the future so I wanted to document this. I think it also may turn into an outlet for my thoughts, as while I'm thrilled and confident this is the right thing, I get so nervous and stress about every little decision.  The ongoing kitchen counter (in)decision is a prime example :).   I really want this house to turn out the best I can get it to be!

I also think blogging this process has been another way to enjoy it.  I'm not the most patient person and by writing about things that are happening it gives me something to do and will hopefully make the waiting a little less painful.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Trim options - still deciding

I'm trying to decide between just the first level trim upgrade, which includes crown molding in the DR and LR along with chair rail in the DR and study and the next level which adds (beautiful) wainscoting in the DR, foyer, stairs, upstairs hall and study (husband does not like in the study but I think it is so classy and upscale).  I was just fine with the first trim package but after viewing the model today, it is hard to turn down that wainscoting.  So perfect. Haven't made up my mind, but I really want the upgrade....

Besides, I'm already spending a ridiculous amount to get metal balusters, so why not?  I got the metal balusters 1) because I like the look and 2) to update the very traditional style of the banister (especially the curved bottoms).

foyer, stairs with wainscoting

study with wainscoting
***UPDATE:  Much of the trim in the model (including the study wainscoting) is custom for the model and not available in one of the trim packages.  I could never get an answer about exactly what trim work came in each of the trim packages so I ended up going with the 2nd to the highest trim package and will try and work with the trim contractor to pay cash on the side for the extra trim where I want it.  I would love to go with the highest level trim package (as I do know the crown molding and baseboards are wider) but that is an extra $900.  I wonder if the nice wide door casings in the model are standard or part of the high upgrade package.  I know, I've spent too much effort thinking about trim =) ***

Some Finalized Selections

Mom, daughter and I went today and spent a lot of time at the Avalon model in a nearby city.  The sales rep recognized us from last time we went.  I felt a little strange spending time planning my home in the model, but then I got over it - we are spending a lot of money for this house and it is much easier to imagine things standing in the model we're buying :)

We then went to the model in our future neighborhood to finalize the outside color choices. Immediately, mom and daughter pointed out the Berkshire brick as they one they liked (without knowing what I picked).  There was no other brick choice (or siding and shutters) that would work for us so I ended up with the original color scheme my husband and I picked the first time:  Berkshire brick, black shutters and Sandy Tan siding.  The almond was the only trim color allowed with this combination and surprisingly I'm ok with it - looking at other homes the neighborhood the almond does make sense.

Boral Berkshire brick, Sandy Tan siding, black shutters (the camera flash really washes out the brick)

Then we looked at the cabinet choices.  While I'm still not convinced I shouldn't try for the full-face modern cabinets I wanted (had in a non-standard request to get the Timberlake Capistrano); I convinced myself that choosing one of the standard offerings would be better (for the cost savings).  The Rushmore Butterscotch Maple Glaze is full-overlay and looks good in others' kitchens but I'm concerned that they will go too yellow/orange for me, plus they are a $6695 upgrade. If I could get a non-standard request for the Hazelnut Glaze that would be better but would be even more $$.  The Scottsdale Espresso Maple is nice but may look really dark and heavy in that kitchen.  Mom said the Cherry Bordeaux colors were too red for my cherry hardwood floor choice (and they probably are).  So in the end I picked the Scottsdale Maple Cognac.  I did put in a non-standard request to have the island done in the Scottsdale Espresso Maple as an accent.  I like two-tone cabinets but usually they are done with a white/dark combo not a mid-color and dark.  My SR said that they would probably charge me what the full kitchen Espresso Maple cost - NOT NECESSARY!  The difference between the Cognac and Espresso is $900  (same style cabinet, and veneer at that).  I would pay an extra $200 or so but NOT the full kitchen price difference.  I've seen on another Ryan blog where someone mixed the Rushmore Butterscotch with an Espresso island (pretty combo) so I know it can be done.  I'll just see what they come back with.

I love the Impala Black granite with the Maple Cognac that is shown in the Clinton Avalon model, but that is a Level 2 and a lot more $.  The best option with the Cognac in the Level 1 was the Tan Brown.

Here's my probable kitchen combo (for now):

A closer look of what the Maple Cognac and Tan Brown looks like installed:

The granite it busier than I prefer, but it really is the best Level 1 option.  A lighter granite, Golden Garnet is shown here:

Here's the Avalon model nearby with the Maple Cognac and Impala Black granite.  Didn't get a better close-up of the granite but it's pretty:

My flooring choice:  Bruce  2 1/4 inch Manchester Strip-Red Oak in Cherry

Finally, the Bucks County Ledgestone to be used for the Family Room fireplace:

Friday, January 11, 2013


Like most who purchase a home, we were asked to make many option decisions the day we signed the purchase agreement.  Note to Ryan: not too many homeowners are going to make their best decisions about brick and siding when they are trying to work on negotiation and are processing what they are getting themselves into.

I certainly did not feel I could make my best decision that day and now have to go back to verify our choices.  It isn't too bad, because we are local and it is no hardship to go back, but I can't imagine those who can not or do not go again when they are better able to concentrate on those decisions.

The brick selections are new, our SA said they just started selling them.  They don't have the clean, rich color (kind of burgundy-merlot) we were looking for and there are only a couple of siding choices we can pair with the brick.  The brick we initially picked, the Boral Berkshire, is the darkest in the choices we had and it appears to have random bricks of a deeper color.  The finished look could be beautiful or turn out very blotchy.  Who knows?  Being a new selection, there's no home I can see it on.   With nothing to be found on the internet, we are going with a blind pick-only viewing a 2x3 sample on a wall in the model basement.  For someone with a taste for designer but no designer eye at all, this is tough.  Mom and I are going tomorrow to concentrate on the outside colors and if there's time I want to pick some cabinet and granite combinations in case my nonstandard request does not come through.  I'm very glad to have my mom in this; she is the one who will have fun with me and doesn't show her annoyance too much when I get indecisive and stressed about my decisions (I love you, mom).

Meeting with NVR Mortgage

Today was not the fun part of our home buying journey.  I'm frustrated now and want to go back to daydream by picking "dream" furniture and decor :)  We had our meeting with NVR Mortgage this afternoon.  Everything went ok and the loan officer said we should have our determination in about 4 weeks.  4 weeks, really??  She said they are pretty behind on getting things processed because they are busy and in the middle of an office move.  I REALLY hope that they stay on top of things and get our application processed.  I don't want delays because the mortgage company didn't do their part.  She said we look pretty good but she could not be sure because the mortgage insurance companies have stricter underwriting guidelines.

The first meeting was just turning in the required documentation and signing preliminary paperwork; the loan officer really didn't provide specific information about types of loans (which is what I was hoping for).  It sounded like you don't get loan details until it is close to closing time.  That's kind of weird - we are obligating ourselves to spend a lot of money and aren't even sure what kind of mortgage rate or programs we are looking at.  I understand about the rates because the change so quick, but I really wish NVR would give more loan details at the beginning of the process.  I even asked about things like the origination fee and mortgage insurance and my questions were really brushed off.  I just hope that we get to have detailed discussions and they just don't put you into whatever loan they want to - I need to know everything that is available so I can decide, not them.

The worst paper to sign was the acknowledgement that basically stated that NVR Mortgage "may not be the best deal".  I HATED signing that, it was like giving money away.  I like to have choices and pick what works best for me, not be locked into a company where I may be paying more.  

Because we don't have a full 20% down, we have to go into a program with lender paid PMI.  We are going to pay a higher interest rate but not pay monthly mortgage insurance premiums.  This is OK, if there is nothing else we can do (I made a ton of calls to other mortgage companies to make sure), but they still charge upfront the upfront mortgage insurance premium.  Part of this is credited back to me at closing, but not 100%.  Then there is the 1% origination fee.  I questioned her about options to get out of that and she tried to convince me that some of the credit they give for the upfront mortgage insurance premium could go towards the origination.  That makes no sense - if the credit does not cover all the upfront MIP, how could it also cover part of the origination? 

I've found two other lenders that do the LPMI program with no origination fee. UGH.  Guess there's nothing I can do about it, it's just throwing money away when I need it for moving expenses, furniture and most importantly keeping in savings.

Well, need to be positive.  Here's hoping for a quick approval and getting loan terms I won't always have heartburn about :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

I'm going to be thankful for...

I'm already learning that in the home building process it is very easy to get caught up in thoughts of  "I wish I could do that" or "I really want this".   I think a part of that is that while you can pick some of your options and upgrades, you are very limited by the selections offered and the prices they charge for upgrades.  When I get too many of those thoughts, I remind myself of the 1,001 reasons that I'm going to LOVE my new house!

So, here's a random "I'm going to be thankful for" thought:  THE PANTRY!

The pantry in the Avalon is huge.  It has a ton of shelves for the organization and storage of food and small appliances.  As a bonus, is big enough for a trashcan (a plus for me for two reasons, first is the fact that I can hide it behind a door and the second is that I'll save $ by not "needing" to buy an expensive stainless steel can). 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Thoughts on Kitchen Cabinets

Maybe it's just me, but WHY does the Ryan cabinet selection include cabinets that look too similar?  I reviewed the Timberlake website, and see a few really nice styles so I wish Ryan would vary their offerings a little more.

Cabinets are important because while they charge you a lot to upgrade, this is something I won't be able to afford to replace for a long time so I want to do them as nice as I can now.  I was looking forward to having a more transitional style, with a full overlay and minimal detailing (like the Timberlake Capistrano or Yellowstone), but they really don't have anything like that.  I did put in a request to see if I could get the Capistrano style so fingers crossed....

When writing the contract, my SR had me pick a backup in case my alternative style request didn't come through.  I picked one of the Wyoming cherry colors (can't remember which one now) but I really didn't have time to think about it - husband was getting a little impatient with the long process at this point.  I came home and really don't think that's the way I want to go (they are not even full overlay) and I'm not sure the color will go with any wood floor I plan on putting down.  Don't want to go ceramic in the kitchen in order to avoid too many flooring transitions (carpet in the family room/study and hardwood everywhere else).  I liked the espresso color, even though they are expensive for a veneer, but I have read that the dark cabinets are difficult to keep looking clean.  That, and I think the dark might close in that big, beautiful kitchen too much.

For the granite, I picked St. Cecilia to start with because I felt it was the most universal but I would really, really want a slab that wasn't yellow.

I may splurge on the Scottsdale Espresso in the master bath but I will wait until my M&R appointment to make the tile selection before finalizing the cabinets and granite.  The wheat granite is the initial choice for the master bath vanity.

My other kitchen alternative is to go with what was used in the Avalon model closest to me; it is the Scottsdale Maple Cognac with Impala Black (upgrade) granite.  Overall it is a nice look, but the level 2 granite is an extra $2750!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

We've signed a contract! Preliminary Setup

After going back and forth about lot selection, we finally went with the one that made the most financial sense.  While we are not 100% thrilled with the lot (ok, really not happy), it was the builder lot special and the house worked out slightly cheaper by going with this lot - always a positive.  Our biggest issues were that we would have loved at least a thin tree line in the back, a little larger backyard and no big ugly power transformer, cable post, Verizon flat box and round "manhole" cover right in front of the house.  Overall, I have to tell myself that the house will make up for the lot and it will all work out fine. 

We've made preliminary option selections, but I'm sure I'll change my mind a few (okay, many) times in the next 30 days.  So far, I'm having the most trouble with the kitchen cabinet and granite selections, nothing is really what I want (especially because I'm paying so much for the upgrades), but I'll find the right thing with a little time.  I've found two cabinet styles I like on the Timberlake Cabinetry website and today I put in a special request for one of the styles, the Capistrano.  I love full overlay, clean look cabinets. I got the idea to do this from another Ryan Homes blog as they were able to pick something not offered in the standard lineup, so again I'm thankful that others chose to share their experiences! I can't imagine myself at CTI and M&R Floors for carpet and tile.  I'm on a very tight budget for carpet upgrades and it is unfortunate as I think nice carpet would be a big benefit for comfort and style purposes.  Hopefully they will have a pretty good selection for me to choose from.

I've posted our selections/options on another tab and will keep it updated through all the changes.  

Who knew there were set color schemes for the exterior?  We chose a brick color that is a new option for our community, the Boral Berkshire, and had to go with the Sandy Tan siding, red door and almond trim as they were the only options allowed with black shutters....  Looking at it again, I wish we could see the brick on more than a small sample but this is a color they just started selling.  The internet does not have pictures that help either =(  This means one more trip to the model for review of my selection.

Because of the close proximity of another Avalon, we had to go with elevation C.  I wanted elevation B (primarily for the cost savings, hip roof, the really beautiful LR/DR round top windows and the fact most of the windows are separate and not the "doubles"), but that was already taken by our neighbor.  The only plus to the elevation is a little extra sq. ft. in the DR and bedroom 2, but this will hit us at tax time.