Tuesday, June 28, 2011


We took a quick last-minute trip up to the house today, and I was surprised to see the foundation with the molds off, ready for the next step!


Foundation from the surprise basement window
At least, that's what I think it is
View of egress window

What not to wear while you are walking around a construction site
after it rained all morning

While we were there, a young door to door salesman walked by and called out to us.  "You thinking about putting a deck on that house?"

Um, yeah, a deck and like, walls!  I took his card, and told him we'd call for an estimate when we had an actual house.  But I lied.  I can get recycled plastic decking at or near cost from a family member - and I have a handyman who built my last deck and did a really nice job.

We are headed to the mountains for a few days, so are going to miss the rest of the week.  I think they just slap up the waterproofing stuff, and then I believe there is another inspection before next week.  Then the fun really starts!

The Ryan Granite Secret

Last week, during our period of agonizing over what kind of countertops to get in our awesome new kitchen, BF and I swung by the showroom of the local granite place.  Its the same granite place that Ryan contracts with around here for granite and Corian installation.

We weren't there for more than 5 minutes before the sales rep told us the secret: You are getting totally hosed if you upgrade to granite countertops with Ryan.

The sales rep estimated a total cost of about $2800 if we ordered granite directly from them after our home was built.  Ryan charges around $4,000 for all of the counters in the Ravenna, including gourmet island.
He shared with us that granite prices have dropped dramatically, and that most granites are now cheaper than Corian, which is not reflected on the upgrade sheet.  And prices may continue to come down.

So, by putting in granite counters after we close on the house, we will be saving ourselves around $1200.  And could use the laminate countertops for something else, like garage or basement workspaces.  Too bad we don't want granite - we want the more costly (and less pain in the ass) quartz countertops!  Those would cost us around $5,000 and while its nice to think about, I can't ever imagine myself spending that kind of cash on a counter.  Trip to Greece?  Yes.  Place to throw my junk when I walk into the house?  Uh, no.

There are, of course, good reasons to buy granite from Ryan, particularly if you want to have it and don't have the cash in hand.  Rolling up that cost into your mortgage and dividing it over 360 payments makes the cost per month almost invisible.  But, if you have the flexibility to do it later, definitely talk to your local granite place and see what kind of deal you can get so you can make an informed choice.

So, our informed choice is that we are going with laminate countertops (in Brazilian Brown - anyone have that color?) but upgraded the sink and faucet.  We got an extra deep, one bowl sink ($150) and a nicer Moen Faucet ($275).  If we upgrade, we will have to ditch the sink, but could keep the faucet.  But, since we won't upgrade for a while (if ever) we wanted to have a deep sink and workable faucet from day one.

I hope this is helpful for anyone else out there agonizing over countertops.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Progress & Pouring

Things are starting to move pretty quickly, and its been tough to post pictures on a daily basis, so today, I'm catching up.

They started digging the foundation on June 23, and today (only 4 days later) they have the molds in place and are pouring the foundation walls.

At the end of last week, they delivered the excavator, and then started digging on Thursday.  They were done in one day.

Excavation begins, June 22

Our big hole!

Another view of big hole

And another

 Why does it look so small?!

We arrived today to see new big equipment!
I don't know what this one is called.  I call it "concrete pourer thing"

So, I think these are the cookie molds that the concrete
gets poured into.  Plus a lot of lunch coolers.
No trash though, LaLady!

Another view.  Look at my neighbors awesome grass and flower bed.
Boy, are they going to hate us....

View from the big dirt mound.  I thought I would be able to see more.
But mostly what ended up happening was that I fed some ticks
in need of human blood.

You might notice that the footings only have rebar in the font of the house - no rebar in the back of the house.  I immediately noticed this and questioned it in my mind, but didn't bother saying anything because I know there is a footer inspection, and of course, they all know what they are doing.  Then I posed that picture on Facebook, and an architect friend asked the same question.  Then I panicked.

We actually sent an email to our PM, which he answered.  On a Sunday.  He explained that the back wall gets a different type of support.  The difference is because the front wall has a more uninterrupted length of load bearing wall than the back.  I feel a little silly sending an email, but you can't be too careful.  This is the house that I will be living inside of - if something looks weird to me about how its being built, I'm going to ask the question!  I really appreciate his answer, and I hope he remains patient with us.  We are going to send a lot more stupid emails.

So, anyway, if everything is still on schedule, we will get our wood (haha) early next week!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Inspecting with your own Inspector

There have been some questions swirling about the blogging community about hiring your own inspector, and we discussed this at our pre-construction meeting this week so I thought I would share while I was thinking about it.

When we asked about bringing in our own inspector, our PM was quick to point out that the county and their inspectors are really strict, much more so than in neighboring counties.  I don't disagree, but if someone is having a bad day, or hates their boss, things can still get missed, you know?  However, he said we are welcome to hire our own inspector for our own peace of mind.  We said we were interested in bringing someone in for the pre-drywall, and then right before closing.  PM said that was fine, but asked that a separate time be arranged for a visit with the inspector, to not interfere with our pre-drywall and final inspections with him.  I guess that's fair - he wants to deal with the buyer one on one.  We can then deal with the inspector.  He also hinted at some of the things that I've seen others of you say - basically, that if a code issue is found, they would fix it and everything else would be discretionary. 

So, while they WILL allow us to have our own inspector, he didn't promise that anything the inspector found would be fixed.  I'm sure they would prefer to not deal with it, but, too bad.  For a few hundred dollars, I can buy total (well almost) peace of mind, and I'm going to do it.  I just hope that they won't find anything of consequence.

We'll be going out to the house hole later today and I'll have some more pictures to share!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Pre-Construction Meeting

We've got backhoe  Excavator!

(lucky for me, I have friends in the construction industry, who were horrified that I mis-identified this excavator.  Apparently, on a back hoe, the hoe is on the back.  Who knew?)

We had our pre-construction meeting today and met our PM.  He seems like a pretty competent kind of guy, but young!  Seems as if he has worked for Ryan for several years and knows his way in and out of the county code book though.  He let us know that the backhoe would start digging tomorrow (!).  And that it would finish digging tomorrow too.  Apparently, it only takes about 4 hours to dig out the foundation.   We are looking at a closing sometime in September, and he expects that our pre-drywall meeting will be in 5 weeks.

Other than that, the pre-construction meeting was pretty bland and boring.  We went over our choices, and through this giant list of specs.  The sales rep yawned.  Several times.  She must have been bored out of her gourd - she must sit through hundreds of these.  We found out where the alternative location for the microwave is (next to the fridge) and learned about some minor changes in the house design that have happened, mostly due to code changes or Energy Star certification changes.  I would have never noticed any of them, except maybe one.

The air returns will now be over each door upstairs, instead of in the ceiling.  Apparently, the cold air return is now centralized in the hallway, and because of this they have to change the locations of the returns in each bedroom.  BF and I are having a debate about this - I thought this meant there would be a vent that you could see through (and hear through!) above the door.  BF thinks it will be open only on one side and connected to duct work.  Anyone have any intel on this?  I'd really rather not have open space above the door that you could hear/see through.  What if I want to go upstairs, shut the door and scream obscenities?  If there is a hole in the door, that's not going to be such a private moment...

But regardless, I'm starting to get excited!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Nothing Happening...

Its been so long since I've had anything to report.  Since we finalized our selections, nothing has been happening.  NOTHING.  Yawn.  Ho Hum.  

We were told that Ryan might break ground last week, but clearly, that didn't happen.  I guess it might be this week.  Our pre-construction meeting is scheduled for Wednesday.

In the meantime, the Ravenna down the street has gone from a big hole in the ground to an actual house in less than 2 weeks.  Its unreal how fast it went up.  And, we got to go in it!

As we were stalking our lot to see if there was any hole started, the neighbors were at theirs, taking pictures and inspecting the work.  Their friends, who bought a lot down the street, were also there.  So, we met 2 sets of neighbors and got to wander around a Ravenna.  J, the neighbor, said his family is in the construction business and that the framing and exterior work was solid.  This made me happy.  The neighbors are very nice - one with young kids, one with no kids yet.  They seem like a social bunch, which is great.  Block parties, here we come.

Hopefully, I will have some good news and some pictures by mid-week.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mortgage Rate Question

Here's a question for those of you who already locked your mortgage interest rate with NVR.
How did you track the rates during the time you deciding when to lock the rate?  Did you call or email your NVR broker every day to see what the rate was? Did they send it to you? Is there somewhere we can go to find out what the rate is each day?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Final Selections & Neighbors too

We had our final selection meeting with our sales rep yesterday afternoon, and I was in agony the entire time.

BF and I sat in the choices room for a good 30 minutes with the floor sample, the cabinets and the countertops, going round and round in circles about colors and laminate v. Corian.

And around, and around and around.

What we finally decided was to upgrade the cabinet from Maple Cognac to Wyoming Cherry Spice.  Neither of us was really thrilled with the way the Maple looked with the cherry floors.  Or any of the floors, actually.  It was an 800 dollar upgrade, which, in the long run I think will be worth it because it will reduce my anxiety that I might not like how it looks.

In the end, we also decided not to upgrade the countertops.  I'd really, really, really like a solid surface countertop, but just can't see spending over $3000 to do it.  3 grand will buy us almost of of the materials we need to build a deck - or a tiny countertops.  I guess its a no-brainer, but...

So, the laminate color we choose was Brazilian Brown.  It was between that and the Jamoca (?) color, which I know a lot of you have picked out.  Anyone have Brazilian Brown?  It looked slightly lighter, and less busy.  But again, how can you tell from a 3" sample?

And finally, <drum roll> we picked the vinyl color.  If we had any stone or brick on the house, this would have been WAY less of an issue for me.  But, the look of the entire house rests on (again) a tiny little piece of vinyl sample.  We choose Delray Sand, with dark green shutters.  The Delray sand looked really yellow in fluorescent light, and more tan in the natural light (obscured by thunderclouds).  I'm still unsure.  In the past couple days, I have been really liking white houses with black shutters.  Boring, traditional and safe.  I think I like it because it looks like my grandma's house.  But BF thinks that the white will get dingy.  And I would like a little color.  I don't know, we'll see.  I don't have any pictures - it was pointless because it looked so different in different lights!

If you are interested, the colors available rom the new vinyl company is here:  http://www.variform.com/VariformCommon.nsf/ColorSiding?OpenForm&Refer=HO.  I think the ones that are available to us are in the Vortex Collection (not all of those colors were in the samples I got at the model house).

And, finally, I met our neighbor at Lot 5 while agonizing over the countertops at the model home.  He is also building a Ravenna, and was showing it off to one of his friends.  Definitely a nice social guy, but much younger than us.   He is getting granite countertops, and a finished basement.  Grrrr.  I had house envy for the first time - even though I don't even WANT those things!

Looking forward to seeing everyone's choices with the new vinyl selections...

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Meeting with Guardian

Continuing my theme of a busy week...

We met with Guardian yesterday.  The guy was very nice, and very helpful.  I wasn't expecting that, particularly since he had called earlier in the day, desperate to change the appointment because of some crises that was happening.  I had already taken time off from work and re-arranged my schedule, so it just wasn't an option to change.

BF and I spent some time earlier in the week agonizing over the stereo system.  We don't want to wall mount the tv, and we already have a really nice stereo, and really nice speakers.  But I don't want to see the speakers hanging off the wall.  I also really don't want to look at speakers in the wall.  Its a home, not a Best Buy.  It seems that we limit the set-up of the room by putting speakers in the wall now.  I don't know where things are eventually going to go, and would like to have the flexibility to move things around at will, without worrying about whether the rear speakers are actually pumping out sound to my left.

Besides, I actually really don't like surround sound.  When I'm watching a movie, and I hear a loud bang or thunder coming from behind me, it usually scares me.  And then when I hear voices from behind me, I always think its the neighbors being loud and obnoxious.  Then realize its the tiny little speaker behind my ear.  (can you tell I'm really not a movie person?)

So, we decided we didn't want any in-wall speakers or set up.  We will find a way to make the existing sound system work.  The Guardian rep was actually very helpful with this and told us that because we don't have a finished basement, wiring the family room would be very easy.  True.  He made that decision very easy.

We also don't want an alarm system.  I've never had one, and never want to be that untrusting of my fellow humans.  And, I don't want the hassle of turning it on and off, and dealing with false alarms.  And I don't want any extra monthly expenses.  Even if it was free, I think I would skip it.

So that left us with just the cable jacks.  And unlike what a lot of people have done, we are not going to pay for the 6-pack of data outlets.  The house comes with a certain number of phone/cable jacks.  We deleted the land-line, so we won't be wired for a real phone, which I haven't used in 4 years.  And we used the rest for cable jacks in 3 bedrooms and the family room.  Verizon Fios is available, so we will get everything we need out of the cable jacks.

Total additional cost for wire upgrades = $0.

I really appreciate the Guardian reps information, patience and problem solving.  He clearly realized that we wanted to reduce costs, and helped us find a way to do it, instead of pushing electronics on us that we didn't want or need.  I was quite pleased.

Now maybe I can use some of the money we were once thinking about using for in-wall speaker pre-wire for a countertop upgrade... Did anyone choose Corian instead of granite?

Silt Fence, Floors and cabinets, oh my!

Its been another busy week.  I'm picking up on a trend here.  I think EVERY week is going to be a busy week until we are in our new home.  And then every week after that too, at least until we have it furnished, and painted, and landscaped, and cleaned...

Lots happened this week, and as you all found out, the cabinet choices changed and the vinyl chooses changed and I'm totally confused about what we can get, what we can't get and when we can see the samples.  Hopefully, this will be cleared up when we meet with our sales rep and our PM tomorrow.  We've not met the PM yet, though sales rep Jen promises that we will like him.  Its like a first date.  No, scratch that.  Its like an arranged marriage.  I don't think we have much choice - we have to take him and make it work.  So, that should be interesting.

We went to Creative Floors again on Thursday to review our choices.  And ended up not changing a thing.  D'oh!  First, a tip for everyone - do NOT schedule your appointment for the last appointment of the day.  We met at 6, and the flooring guy had another appointment after us.  He was like a different person, and not rushed at all.  We sat down at a table, had an in-depth discussion about the pros and cons of the wider plank, looked at colors, he talked about Ryan Homes.  He is of the opinion that they are the best builder in the area, particularly for taking care of problems after customers move in.  He interacts with a lot of new home buyers from a lot of different builders, so that was really nice to hear.

We thought we might change the color of the floor, and move to a wider plank.  He told us about the cupping that might happen if conditions weren't just perfect.  We decided that spending $1600 to upgrade to a nicer plank, but one that might have more problems over time just didn't make sense.  Then we moved to the color.  The flooring place had the new cabinet samples and based on a new cherry color that was added, we stayed with the cherry floors and decided to change the cabinets.

But the model doesn't have the new cabinet samples!  Arugh.

On our way home from the flooring appointment, we swung by the lot to see progress on the first home they started.  Lot number 5 broke ground a couple weeks ago, and we were surprised to see that framing had already begun.  We were more surprised to see this!

We have silt fence!  And what a nice job they did on installation too.  I'm in the environmental field, and know the value of a good silt fence and have had battles in my current neighborhood about poor sediment reduction practices.  I was pleased to see a nice job - but, it could also be that the county is much more stringent than my current town and take water quality seriously...  Rocks aren't in the entrance to the lot yet, but I expect they will be added soon.

Wonder whether they still plan to break ground next week?

(If anyone wants a long explanation about what silt fence does, and why they put stones on, let me know.  Apparently, normal people don't know what silt fence is, since when I told my mom and others about it, all I got was "a what?  What's a silt fence?")

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Good News on Rates!

We got our mortgage approval today.  Besides the few mistakes the broker made on the initial application paperwork, the process was easy.  He hasn't come back for any other information (yet).  I think we did a pretty good job of documenting our accounts, our credit is good and we've got enough liquid assets in the bank to cover the down payments - I'm sure all of these things helped the process along.  It wasn't quite so easy the first time I got a mortgage; though, come to think about it, maybe it was.  I only had one bank account then, no investments and no retirement account.  When you've got nothing, documenting it usually ain't that difficult.  :)

But, I digress.

The REAL reason for this post is that the broker told us the NVR rate is now 4.5%!

Yup.  4.5%!


Its no 4.25% like Noey got to lock in, but its definitely headed in the right direction.

With the economy still in the crapper, unemployment rates soaring and the debt ceiling debate in DC, I expect the rate to remain at that level or lower at least through the summer.  With any luck, we'll get to lock in before it goes up.  And you all too!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Flooring Question for my Blogging friends

We've been debating dark floor vs. lighter floor.  We chose the Manchester cherry at the first flooring appointment - since then, we've heard some negative reviews about dark floors in general.  Like, they show every spec of dirt, dust and cat hair.  I have tan bamboo floors now, and I think they show everything, but apparently I haven't seen anything yet.  I was hoping that in a bigger house, the dirt would have more room to spread out, so it would be less noticeable.  That might just be wishful thinking!

Anyone have any advice or experience with dark wood floors?

Busy week

"They might break ground next week."

Excuse me, WHAT?!   I nearly lost my lunch.

Our sales rep was trying to schedule our pre-construction meeting for next week, but we ran into issues with her schedule, my schedule and the PM's vacation schedule.  So, she wanted to move it up to this week, BEFORE we had completed all of our selections.  I was very confused about all of this, because I thought the point of the pre-construction meeting was to review all of the selections, make sure they were correct and get ready to go.

Then she wants to meet BEFORE the final selections are made, and potentially AFTER they break ground.  My head was spinning.  What?

I put the brakes on.  We are meeting with Guardian on Friday, and the flooring place again on Thursday.  We still haven't picked countertop colors, or siding colors and are still working out some minor things (like can we put the utility sink in the garage?).  I don't feel ready for our final pre-construction meeting.  So we've moved it to two weeks from now.

But, they still could break ground next week.  Holy shit!!  I swear, the deposit check just cleared!

The sales rep told us that if they do break ground next week, the PM will give us a call to review some basic stuff to make sure they have the structural things right (yes, put the front porch on.  Yes, put the morning room on.  No, no bonus room.  Etc).

It seems to be moving really fast, and really pushing my comfort level (it doesn't take much).  I hope I can keep my wits about me later this week for the second floor appointment!