Thursday, January 11, 2018

Where does time go? 1 Year anniversary

I begun this journey of buying a new home. Sorry, correction Building a new home, over 1 year and a half ago. We started off looking at pre-existing homes of course, but we couldn't really find what we were looking for. At least not within our price range and locale.

What were we looking for? Nothing exotic. Like, a bathroom with a golden toilet seat or anything. Although, I've got a post on something related I installed for about $25 off amazon and it's waaaaay better then sitting on solid gold. But that's another topic. We wanted a first floor bedroom with it's own bathroom, and we still wanted a separate hallway/guest bathroom. Sounds reasonable right? Basically, my Mom didn't want to have to share her bathroom with guests and we didn't want to have to send guests upstairs/downstairs to use the facilities.

In comes Ryan Homes and the Avalon. And the rest is history! Part of what made the daunting task of building a home so scary was that we didn't know anyone with firsthand experience, as we'd both only ever bought pre-existing houses. And when we begun looking into some of the online reviews regarding Ryan Homes, they didn't have the best reputation.

As I've mentioned, part of what helped us take the plunge and also avoid some of the pitfalls of new home building was the wealth of online blogs and resources. Thus, it felt only right to sort of give back and document our own experiences along the way. So here we are. 1 year later. And I've fallen off like a 90's boy band!

But it's on my 2018 goals list to rectify that mistake. One bad post at a time. So keep an eye out and feel free to ask questions or make comments!

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Starter Lawn: Spring to Now

Time has been flying. It's actually pretty amazing how quickly it passes. I've probably got tons of updates, but looking back at photos, I'll try progress in some sort of chronological order. Starting with some of the grass woes and concerns and progress. We gave Ryan Homes all 10's...except for landscaping.

My gripes were that:

  1. I didn't like their communication (they were slow on responding). 
  2. I didn't like the actual builders package (which in all honesty, I didn't expect premium grass seed, so this was a minor factor). 
  3. Of all things, what should be #1, is that I didn't like the way Ryan Homes played a lot of the the landscaping woes off on the developer. In particular, there was a portion of our grass that was within the lines of disturbance (LOD) which Ryan Homes says they are responsible for. And this portion contained an inordinate amount of rocks and stones.
We wound up going to Home Depot and buying several bags of grass seed and lime and a spreader, and hoses and sprinklers, etc., And we added seed and such to help fill our lawn out a little better. 

Editors Note: I just realized that I apparently don't have any "After" pics, only before ones. I'll take some tomorrow and add them.

Other things to note from this are the tire tracks and dead grass on the side of our yard. That's where Ryan Homes contractors and the developer, stored equipment or drove through, and just sort of decided "Hey, we aren't responsible for this". Which I guess is probably true...frustrating, but true!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Ryan Homes Service Calls, Lawn mowing, and Takeout

We've placed our first service call (or two?) at the house. Nothing exciting, which I suppose is a good thing. Basically, we noticed (or Ashley did) on walk through that the microwave door was ever so slightly damaged (sorry, no pics). Also, we've had them come out to repair suspect hardwood boards, as in, larger then usual gaps, chips, etc., In both cases, Ryan homes was prompt and helpful.

On another note of things that have been going through my mind regarding the house is grass, landscaping, and namely, what we're going to do with this yard. I'll warn anyone bothering to read this now, this is not or will not be the most well articulated post ever!
Disclaimers aside, with about 3 acres to maintain, and no lawn mower in our possession, and no budget for one, I'm resigned to chalking up the $$$ for weekly (bi-weekly?) lawn care. I'll admit that ideally, I don't mind mowing the lawn. I was actually looking forward to it. But then I looked at lawn mower prices ($2600+) and the time it might take to mow my lawn (not very rocky or hilly, but I estimate about 3 hours for an amateur like myself). And I've basically resigned myself to the fact that it ain't meant to be this summer.

I know the feeling...

To whom it may concern, in our corner of the woods in MD, we've been quoted $80-$100 per lawn trim. With the low end $80 coming from 2 kids walking around handing out flyers with a picture of a riding lawnmower on it and the $100 coming from the traditional full service lawn care companies. I'd lean towards the kids fyi, not only because they are the most inexpensive, but i kinda liked their approach as two teenagers who want to earn $$ and don't mind undercutting the big companies. But we'll see...

Finally, Ashley and I were down in our morning room the other day, and we saw the darndest thing. We saw a fox, walking through our backyard, and we he turned around, he had a chicken in his mouth!!!😱  We could not get our phones out fast enough. So here's a picture of like, another fox who got his chicken to go (sorry, had to do it). Just so that you can maybe see what we saw smh...

Humans aren't the only ones who enjoy chicken...

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

More ceiling fan installation

Wow time flies! I haven't posted anything in over a month, and the first thing I post is about yet another: ceiling fan installation. Let's recap:

  1. I've done the master bedroom
  2. Keenans room
  3. Karmen's room
  4. And now my Mom's first floor bedroom
  5. Still to be done: The living room, which I converted into my office
  6. The guest day
At this point, this was my 4th ceiling fan installation. It should have been quicker right? Wrong! In all fairness, this one took a little bit longer because my Mom bought a different brand then the previous ones I had installed. Also, hers came with a remote kit that had to be installed.

Lessons leaned or things I've noted from this process include:
  • The wires they fans come with are tooooooo long! As in, stuffing them into the ceiling fan casing while trying to not allow the wires to become disconnected is just a nuisance
  • Make sure you have electrical tape on hand so you can wrap the wires together before you put the caps on. That was the mistake I made with my first installation in Keenan's room (not having electrical tape). 
In any event, mission was a success, and my Mom now has a working ceiling fan and light!

Note those pesky wires...

It's working!

Monday, January 30, 2017

And then let there be more light!

Having a black asphalt driveway can be (not) surprisingly difficult to navigate at night, especially when reversing down it as some (ok, just me) have a tendency to do. Also, for some reason or another, we didn't initially have our external lamp post installed at time of moving in. And while the lights around the garage and the garage floodlights do an awesome job of illuminating the parking pad portion of our driveway, I felt as if some runway lighting wouldn't hurt.

After a quick look on Amazon, I found some easy to install and inexpensive solution in terms of solar LED lights. While I was weary of the lights effectiveness, I took a flyer and ordered a set, in part do to mostly positive reviews and the quite reasonable price tag. Night time pictures aren't the strength of my phone's camera, but I'll let you be the judge of their effectiveness. Oddly enough, our PM stopped by our house for our 30 day move in meeting, or maybe it was a pre-30 day meeting? I can't remember. In any event, he put a rush order in to have our lamp post installed and he also noticed the lights I was preparing to install and remarked that he didn't think they'd do much (which in part, I think is what prompted him to put the rush order in, given how sad he thought the lights would be).

Overall, I have found them to be excellent. However, I think in part that's because each of the solar powered LED lights come equipped with a  factory pre-charged NiCAD battery. Thus for the first few nights, they shone bright. But I did notice the other night, that the nights were noticeably dimmer in some cases. I think that's because the batteries have now expended their initial charges, and have been relying on the partly cloudy winter day's to refuel themselves finally. And the results are so so. I'd still recommend them, but I can't give a true assessment until we get some sunny weather.

Friday, January 27, 2017

Ceiling Fan Installation: Let there be light

One of the things you may or may not consider when building a new home is: How am I going to illuminate this room? In our case, we decided on ceiling fans with light kits, and purchased ceiling fan rough-ins (at $250 a pop I believe) for every bedroom and the family room. To be clear, it's money well spent. As it gives you the option of not being forced to use lamps or have invasive drywall surgery done later in order to add the necessary components.

Here we are, vigorously patting ourselves on the back
While we were pleased that we got the necessary framework, we then realized that we actually needed to do work--or at least I did. So here was my first home project. Low hanging fruit right? Mind you, I'm an electrical engineer by trade, so I felt as if my efforts in this were definitely minimized by my fiance and father (also an electrical engineer). But I was proud of myself, so that's all that matters right??

We actually purchased ceiling fans a few days before we even closed, so that we could install them ASAP after moving in. And indeed, I decided to tackle installing my first one the day after we moved in. I won't bother you with all the details on how an estimated "1 hr" project turned into a 3hr project, filled with quiet curses, a frightened puppy based off random things falling (screws, tools, etc.,) and a sore back from standing and hunching on a step ladder. But overall, the initial ceiling fan installation, which was in Keenan's room, was 50% successful!

Editors note: Why just 50%? Well, let's just say that someone, namely the editor himself, didn't have any electrical tape on hand. And so while the light portion of the ceiling fan works, the ceiling fan motor wire most have come undone, because the caps that keep the wires in place likely fell off when I was installing it. No big deal overall, as it's winter and the ceiling fan portion definitely isn't needed and I can easily take it down, tape up the wires, and proceed from there. I just don't feel like doing it and will probably hold off til Spring at least.

So it begins
Not as fun as it looks

Ok, this isn't so bad!
Melo is unimpressed

That much closer. Also, notice all of that excess wire...stuffing that in was actually problematic

Success!!! Except, the motor wires apparently came off

Next up: Karmen's room. This went WAY smoother, after the lessons learned from Keenan's room. However, the challenge for this one was that I worked in the complete dark. Seriously, I had flashlights taped to the ceiling and all kinds of craziness. Yet, it worked!! Lights and fan.

Look at those fan blades spin

And the light works

Today, if all goes as planned, I'll tackle the master bedroom fan. Wish me luck.

Editors note: Master bedroom done!!

Monday, January 23, 2017

Belated Post: We Closed!!!!

I don't know where to begin, and I don't have time to really recount everything, however, we are now the proud homeowners of a brand new Avalon! Thank you Ryan Homes and some thanks to NVR Mortgage. We actually closed on time, 1/11/2017. And we began the literal, back breaking work of moving the following day. We've been in scramble mode ever since.

These are not the droids you're looking for
These are not the droids you're looking for

I began this blog with providing some sort of usual information to others who may be considering building a new home, and so I've tried to inexpertly include useful information when possible. Sort of a lessons learned, as we've went along. Now that we're all done, I hope to soon compile the key lessons learned so far into a useful page in and of itself. However, one that does come to mind that we experienced in the process was the loan process, and in particular, NVR Mortgage sort of hand-waived us through the "second mortgage" process.

Again, I plan to refine this post one day, hopefully, but the bottom line is that our first loan and HUD1 estimate was pretty much on point and accurate through NVR Mortgage. But the estimate they provided us on the second loan was always, brushed over and written off by them as an "inconsequential" and something not to worry about. As it turns out, the amount that NVR estimated the second loan (which is not through them) was about $150ish? higher per month then the original estimates. Maybe even $200. It's hard to say because we did not pay enough attention in the process to consider that amount, nor did we shop around for that loan.

One more last minute tidbit was that NVR Mortgage does an excellent job of making your loan process relatively painless. While parts of it can be frustrating, with all the documentation required, having bought 2 homes before, I'll admit this wasn't as bad or as intrusive as some might have you believe. However, part of NVR Mortgage working so closely with 3rd parties such as your title insurance and mortgage insurance, is that they will take the liberty to contact them on your behest to "work with your #s". In this case, in order to qualify for the loan amount and monthly payment that we stated we would not pay a nickel over--NVR contacted our insurance provider and asked them to re-work out policy in order to get our monthly payments lower.

One the one hand, nice! That meant that come closing time, there were no headaches or worries and we were able to close easily enough. On the other meant we received lower home insurance coverage then we were originally expecting, AND, I feel as if NVR mortgage should have lowered there fees or something themselves, rather than accomplishing the same thing by lowering our insurance coverage. Either way, we're happy to be home, and unfortunately for whomever reads or stumbles across this blog, I'll be updating it and posting to it for years to come!

We're happy!

The puppy is happy!