Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Another Courtland Gate in the neighborhood

We're not original anymore!  Okay we stopped being an original about 2 weeks after we signed the original purchase agreement.   AND they chose the lot right across the street from us!  To be fair, their are not that many lots left that can handle the square footage of the Courtland Gate if you want to add the morning room.  No morning room?  You can pretty much pick any lot that you want.  But who doesn't want a morning room?

Thank RH rules about not choosing the same elevation and siding color works tremendously in our favor.  We have elevation C with a flat porch,  which gives us a 1 foot bump out in the foyer and a 2 foot bump out in the study and bedroom 4.  As mentioned before we will have a mix of siding and stone for our elevation.  What makes this elevation cool is that it was one of the incentives for the month so this was FREE for us!  I love free.

A little birdie told me that they picked the 2nd elevation, I like the porch but I truly hate those darn folded gables.  The other point to make is that I do not have a side entry garage, so instead of those nice flat windows you see on the right, we have actually have a 2 car garage.

Sunday, October 26, 2014


Two things:  I changed the title of the blog.  My husband did not like the original title and I must admit it was a bit unoriginal.  I might leave the url the same.

AND- I am desperately trying to find an example of our exterior color choices.  I mean I FOUND an example of our exterior color choices and even showed my husband.  And it was so easy, the first time.  For the life of me I cannot, I mean CAN NOT find that image again.  I know it was a still from a video so I have been scanning all the Ryan home vids and I have yet to find anything.
I would have been happy and tossed my desperate search to the side had I been allowed to snap a photo of our color scheme from the book, but my husband wouldn't let me.  The kids and I tend to linger when ever we go to the model home and he wanted to be home in time for the Eagles game (after we took the kids trick or treating of course.  Yes on a Sunday)

Thus I am a maniac trying to find THE image again.  I think they even had our stone!  (Totally different community. So far we seem to be only one who have picked the Spanish olive siding).

SO- if anyone in blog land can find the color scheme from Ryan Homes with Spanish Olive siding, fiery red shutters and French Roast exterior colors  PLEASE POST A LINK!!!!!

Please and thank you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Shopping Spree!

I am on a shopping spree!  Well a shopping spree in my head.  My taste have changed vastly since  purchasing my current home.  My tastes as well as my income and I am ready to upgrade EVERYTHING!  Best yet- my husband is on board!  There is so much I want to do with the new house that  I am feeling a little overwhelmed.  So I made the decision to list the items I want to purchase in order of importance and the list of places I want to consider.

1. We need food and a place to store it.  We didn't finance a refrigerator through Ryan Homes- we wanted to purchase one  and pay it off right away.   This is the one I have got my eye on

2.  In the city- there are plenty of laundromats.  This is how I am surviving until the move- my dryer broke 2 months ago.  I need a new washer and dryer. I checked Consumer Reports for the best washer and dryer that met these criteria:  quiet, energy efficient, and large capacity.   This top load washer and dryer from LG with its 5.2 capacity fits the bill.

3   The bedrooms- we need new bedroom furniture.  I will focus on the beds for now.  The current plan is to give the bunk beds to my youngest son, purchase a full size bed for my oldest son. purchase a king size bed for us and give the queen mattress over to the guest room.  Whew.  Now I have purchased at some big name furniture company- twice.  Particle board and plywood is they offered.  I decided to go Amish.  This book has been my bible.  True Amish furniture is still made the way THEY use to make Grandmom's furniture .  The pieces that get passed from generation to generation is what I am after. 

4.  Let's eat- getting a table for my hard earned morning room is also a must.  I am looking for an "antique" type dining set for this area.  This will be one of the most used spaces in my home.  I want something that already looks like it been through a little something- so that if my boys add a few more knicks it will just add to its character.  I will also get this from the Amish- did I neglect to mention that buying from the Amish means that my furniture will be custom and handmade.  This is similar to the look that I am after

5. My last course of action before slowing down my spending spree is to purchase window treatments.  Of course I have a found a place that will do free design and make my treatments for me.  I can't wait to shop here!  

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Another model, Another builder

Yesterday we took a little trip down to Maryland to see the layout of the Courtland Gate that matched our own.  The Beechtree community in unique in that there are several builders in this area allowing for great competition.  All the builders constructed their model homes on the same street so you literally can walk from house to house looking at different builders.  After looking at our Courtland Gate we decided to be nosy and look at the builder next door, Mid Atlantic Builders.  Their Amherst model is opulent to say the least.  It's a good thing they don't build up here otherwise we might have a serious case of buyer's regret.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Ryan Homes The Courtland Gate

Tips and Tidbits

I have read a ton of reviews and blogs about home building.  You know the good, the bad and the ugly.  My SR even told me not to read those things- I think she was scared of the information we would gather.  By the way- I highly suggest you read all the blogs for every home builder (I read quite a few about the Toll Brothers process).  There is so much to learn and so much  you will learn you have no clue about.  So here are a few tricks and tips that I feel has helped us through this exciting time in our lives thus far:

1.  Visit every model home you can: this helps with decorating ideas, the feel of the space and what to look out for in the building of your own home.  

2.  Go to the community events.  Meet your potential neighbors and ask questions about how the process was for them.  You may even make new friends- you have at least one thing in common, you built with Ryan Homes)
3.  Read the blogs- all of them.  Even if its not about the model you are building.  They tend to have other information you could really use (like pre construction questions or sealing granite or asking the door in the laundry room to swing out)

4.  Write your thoughts down- a notebook, a smart phone, a tablet doesn't matter.  This will help keep information organize and help you to keep track of everything that's going on and there is a lot going on.

5.  Research ALL your mortgage options- run numbers frequently, complete your own debt to income ratio (DTI), and monitor your credit.  I can't count how many times the SR at our community has said the financing fell through for a potential buyer at the community.  I truly feel that because we did all this leg work before signing the purchase agreement it put us in a really good position to buy this home with as few hiccups as possible.

6.  Hire your own inspector.  Ryan Homes does hire an inspector to come to the home to inspect before you move in.  But based on all the blogs and reviews (complaints) I suggest you hire your own inspector for these time frames: Pre Drywall, Pre Settlement and 1 year review.  There is no way you can catch everything on your own and unless you are a contractor yourself it may be difficult to know when something is really out of line.  A little money up front can save you a ton of headache later.

7.  Set a budget and stick to it.  Easier said than done.  With Ryan Homes we could have added ALL their possible options and still be within our budget- but with that comes a larger down payment, increased closing costs and increased taxes. 

8.  Write your own blog!  This blog was to help record our home but to also help someone else.  There aren't too many Courtland Gate blogs and I thought I would toss my hat into the ring.  It is always good to get a different perspective to help with building your home.  

This list may be extended as we get further into the building of our home, so stay tuned. 

Final Selections

It was finally time for our final selections- IE the exterior of the home.  We easily agreed on the Spanish Olive for the siding but the shutters and doors was another matter. I really wanted a red door.  Red doors are supposed to let in happiness and I really want my home to be a happy place.  Alas the red door selections were few and then didn't look well with the shutters.  The SR mentioned that most people just pick black shutters- we shut that down immediately.

In the end we picked one of their suggested color schemes:  Spanish  Olive siding, Fiery Red Shutters and a French Roast Door

For the stone we chose the option as it seem to capture all the colors of the exterior.

Other selections we made was to add two more outlets for the prewires and that was it.  I try to convince them that they wanted to throw in the gourmet island for free but to no avail.

We considered adding the wet bar but decided that it would probably be cheaper using an outside source, in addition this would probably be the person helping to finish out the media room.

This a shot of the media room in the model.  It's HUGE! 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Our Guardian Appt

I offered to let my husband to write this post and he flat out refused.  No excuse given other than "No".  I guess when he asked about writing a blog he meant me, solely by myself.  That means I can be as biased as I want to be.  From here on out I will be the heroine and he will be the  tortured soul, let's say a Jekyll and Hyde type character.

Our next appointment was our Guardian appointment.  This company originally started off as an alarm company but now handles the technology installs for most major builders.  Now I read quite a few blogs that report that the Guardian appointment was horrendous, unnecessary, up sale central, blah blah blah.  So we were approaching this meeting with our guards up.

My husband set up the appointment and then emailed me the confirmation.  I had no idea that the meeting was going to be at the model home (about 30 minutes away from where we live now) and not at the home office (40 minutes away in the OPPOSITE direction of the model) and he let me drive.  He questioned the idea of going to the home office, but again my email made no mention of meeting at the model home, just gave the company address.  Now let's add to the drama of a rainy day and a tire that decided to lose air pressure.   Little tidbit about me- I once had a blowout and so I am terrified of low air pressure in my tires.

We made it to our appointment  about 1 hour late.  Our rep was nice enough to wait for us.  Score one for the new home owners.   From the onset our Guardian rep said he wasn't going to try to up sale us.  Hmph, I've heard that one before.  Ryan offers a standard 4 service outlets (telephone, internet, cable) in any combination that you choose.  Now we haven't had a home phone since 2007 and really didn't find it necessary to add one to our new home.
We ended up adding data links to two bedrooms, doing a hard wire internet connection in the finished basement, 2 prewires for the flat screens and upgrading all our cables to cat 6.  The bedrooms will get wireless extender to help make the WiFi in our home seamless.  Mind you this was dialogue between my husband and the sales rep.

We currently have an alarm system that we never use- mostly because the city wanted us to pay a permit to use the darn thing- something that the alarm company never disclosed to us.  Needless to say we was a little gun shy when the sales rep broached the subject about an alarm system.
"Nope we don't need it"  I immediately said.   I explained that I knew the system was free but there was a $250 fee to start it and that monthly fee would be anywhere between $30- 50.  We would just go wireless thank very much.   He said actually- there would be no fee because we spent over $500 in other equipment and we would get 2 extra motion sensors for free.  Because we declined to add a phone jack, our device would be cellular allowing us to lock our,home remotely and set up pass codes for the kids so we know who got home when and whole lot of other features that was pretty cool.  And it would all be hardwired behind the wall.  Do we have to pay the township a permit fee?  No. What is our monthly cost?  $35 flat.  Anything else?  An extra motion sensor would cost another $80 and you have 5 days to tell us to go to hell.  Sweet.

We added the alarm system.

What did we skip? - A sound system for the house and the built in Dirt Devil (waste of time in my opinion) not to mention the security cameras..  While it would have been nice to have an intercom system we decided it would be nice to burn a few calories and actually get up to go talk to the person.

All in all we came out relatively still in tact and spent about a grand total of $1245.   Unfortunately this could not  be included in that awesome sale.

Flooring Meeting`

Now that the specter of not having a morning room, we moved on to an appointment I actually was looking forward too:  FLOORING!

We had already picked out our cabinet so this would be a piece of cake right?  Yes and no.  I had a wonderful rep from Advance Flooring and Design who picked up on my sense of style (at least when it comes to homes) and begun suggesting items that I almost immediately loved.  The no part is the realization that "Resilient Flooring" is Ryan Homes fancy term for vinyl.  I could see this was going to cost us more money.  The other no was that my wonderful iPhone picked exactly this day to act up so I don't have many pics from our choices.

My husband had a prior engagement downtown, so I started the appointment without him.  We picked out the hardwoods that would be throughout the first floor of the home.  Now this was a major compromise.  During the home search, I told my husband I wanted hardwood everywhere.  He proclaimed that he liked the feel of carpet under his feet.  So we split the difference that each of us got a some of what we wanted.  Of course this was before we decided to partially finish the basement, but things like flooring can easily be changed later.

My style tends to be more traditional with lighter and neutral colors.  I picked the  Rushmore Square Maple Glaze Hazelnut cabinet because I really liked the antique/ distressed look.

Next came the granite counter tops.  We had originally shelled out the funds for upgrade 2, but decided that upgrade one was fine.  Santa cecilia is very popular

Now my original choice for floors was actually named traditional
But that changed to this at my husband's preference

The back splash in kitchen was a combination of the upgrade 2 we have chosen and a nonstandard request for a listello inlay

In the secondary bathroom we kept the standard white marble vanity and upgraded the surround and the floor to white marble as well

We decided to keep the standard carpet as well the standard vinyl in the laundry.  The laundry will have the same granite counter tops

The master bath is where we did the serious (okay semi serious) upgrade.  We up grade to level C, kept the standard white marble vanity and also included the espresso cabinets

I hope this will look as beautiful as I imagine in my head.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Structural Addendum Dilemma

"I've been thinking" is the phrase I have come to dread hearing from my husband during this whole process.  It normally means its something that I will not like.   And this time when he said it, I was totally in dismay.  Until this time all he wanted to do was add windows and a garage service door.
This time he gave a whole list of changes that HE wanted:  keep the windows, get the brick veneer with full porch, get a standard owner's bathroom, add a sitting room, move the house back to lot 41 and REMOVE the morning room.  Excuse me? 

I tried to remain calm, I tried to be reasonable.  His reasoning for removing the morning room:  we don't need it.  Okay this isn't a house about needs, this is a dream home and we put what we WANT in it.  I want that morning room.  We can afford it so let's get it. 

I avoided the conversation again until we had to submit our requests to the SR.  "What do you want me to tell the SR"  His response:"Well you know what I want but you won't listen to me"  Wife translation:  Do what you want.
So I submitted the changes for the additional window and the service door. 

Fast forward to Family Day at the community and we went to sign the paperwork for the changes and to meet a few of our new neighbors.  We walk into the sales office at the model, the addendum was placed before us, he reads it, shakes his head, and says "I'm not signing it."  My head was reeling, he really wanted to take away the morning room from me.

I walked outside and he followed me trying to argue his point, but I kept walking and I wouldn't turn around.  I kept walking right off the community site and right into the surrounding neighborhood. I discovered the park that is situated behind our new house and I sat in one of the swings.  I cried.  My heart was so heavy that I couldn't breath.  Now a few of you may say I am bit dramatic but I knew if I didn't get this morning room there would be no way to get it later.  I just had to convey that to him and I needed time to think without getting super emotional in front of him.  I needed to think, so I sat and swung for the next 45 minutes or so.  

I started a slow walk back, dreading the next conversation.  That's when he texted me to come back so we could sign the paperwork.  What?!   YIPPEE!   I later discovered that my neighbors talked him into it after they discovered I disappeared  in disagreement.  I love my new neighbors.   

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Structural changes and NVR Meeting

We set our meeting with NVR 4 days later.  In the meantime our SR was trying to pressure us to have any structural changes ready by Wednesday.  Don't let them do this to you!  You have a full week and after much back and forth between me and the husband we finally requested that we be given our full 7 days.  See we purchased on our Courtland Gate based on the floor plan alone (insert gulp here).  The nearest model was about 1 hour away and we hadn't seen it yet.  More on that later

The NVR meeting was set to happen at the model in our community.  We came prepared.  Both I and my husband had been doing our homework.  Something I suggest you do if you are planning to purchase a home, new construct or resale.  This doesn't just mean saving for a down payment (which is actually the least of your worries) but checking your credit and fixing any problems, pay down debt and begin gathering documentation.  In our case, I knew our debt to income ratio.  And I knew that our buying a home would not be contingent on selling our current home, because our DTI was very low.  Check this link to help figure out your DTI:  I suggest that you calculate your DTI before hand, this information will be used later to fill out any mortgage paperwork.  

Now don't get me wrong- our credit is not "stellar".  I have a ton student loans, but all my bills were paid on time giving me a close to excellent  FICO score.  My husband also has his share of snafus, but he had been working on showing a good payment history and removing any erroneous reports on his credit report.   To this end, I suggest you actually purchase the service of credit monitoring service.  Can't afford it then try this:  It is free, just have to deal with upsale attempts but nothing too intrusive.  

Our meeting went very smoothly and we spent most of the time just randomly talking.  

Now back to viewing the model- we rushed to Delaware on a Tuesday after I got out of work.  What a nightmare!  We had to rush to get my youngest from pre school- who decided to have an "accident" that had to be cleaned up before we could get on the road.  Then of course, there was traffic.  Ever traveled 95 south after work?  Unless you have time to kill I wouldn't suggest you do it.  We got there with 5 minutes to spare and did a quick walk through.  My thoughts:  my home is going to be beautiful!  My husband's thoughts:  our house is way too big, we need to downsize.

Uh oh. 

Lot 41 turns into Lot 14

We sat down with our SR to price out our home and we were told we could have the Courtland Gate.   Yay!  We were going to be an original in the community (more on that later).

So we upgraded our Courtland Gate, and we upgraded.   And after all that upgrading we discovered that our design would not fit on our preferred lot. What are we going to do now?  Our SR gave us a list of available lots that would fit our chosen layout.  Call me selfish, but  I wanted a lot where we didn't share a backyard with our neighbors.

Dutifully we checked out the other sites, in the end we chose lot 14 at double the price of our original lot.

What made this new lot just right?  It was situated right at the beginning to the proposed walking trail (this trail will lead right to the park that was behind the community) which meant we would pretty much get upgraded landscaping for free, at least along that edge of the property. Now I will miss the ability to have a walkout basement but having a daylight basement is cool as well.  And if we are so inclined we can shell out a few thousand dollars and make our daylight basement a walkUP basement.

Pssstttt- I will be posting a list of our options and upgrades soon.  We got a really good deal! (or at least I hope so)

Take It From The Top Cont'

So where did we leave off?

We kept our scheduled meeting with the SR to price out our Verona but was having trouble falling in love with the plan. The owner's walk in closet was IN the bathroom. Definitely not a layout that we favored. So we started talking customization- adding the bonus room, putting a door in between that room and the master bedroom and removing the closet all together from the bathroom. That would work right? In the mean time our SR told us about the wonderful fall sales event that would allow us to have huge discounts on all of our upgrades. We even walked a lot that was graded for a walk out basement. I still wasn't sold.

The SR kept urging us to put a hold on our preferred lot before someone else snatched it up. No thank you. My husband has a thing against pressure tactics and the answer will always be a big fat no when you do that. Thanks for the information but we are keeping our meeting with Toll Brothers. In the mean time my husband kept eyeing the Courtland Gate with its 2 story foyer that would help give that open feel that his wife loved so much. Was that an absolute no on the CG? SR responds- if that was a deal breaker, she can ask to get us the CG. Good, do that, but we are going to Toll Brothers.

The weekend arrives and it is now time for our scheduled meeting at the latest Toll Brother site. First things first, I despised the drive to get there. No life, no nearby markets, nothing. But it was Toll Brothers so we were going. We pulled up to the trailer and noticed that clearing of the land hadn't even begun! This could be a problem. The goal was to attempt to get my youngest in the school district by the time he was ready for kindergarten.

We were greeted with a half hearted hello and it got worse from there. Since we had been thru thus so many times before we got right down to business. We asked about incentives. There are no incentives.
Excuse me? You JUST opened up about 2 weeks ago and there are no home buying incentives? You offer that to the first buyers to get people to come in. Well according to your interactive map, you have sold a grand total of 3 with a sketchy 4 home sites. Okay thank you for your time.

We were in total disbelief, I was totally disgusted. He wanted to look at one more home site, which turned out to be another Toll Brothers place we had already seen. Then he wanted to go back to another builder, the one with the power lines in the back yard. No sir, I will not have my children playing any where near those things. Let's just do Ryan Homes. The price is right, the incentives are great and about a 30 minute drive for me to any office, better than the 40 min drive I currently do at least twice a week.

We placed a hold on a lot that day.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Take it from the top

I guess I need to give a little background on how we arrived at the decision to build a home vs purchasing a resale.

Earlier this year while we were in the just looking stage- my husband gave explicit instructions to look for homes that are 20 years old or less.  Not a hard thing to do- except it really made no sense until we were ready to purchase because any home that we really liked would have been sold before we were ready to buy.  

The game plan was to create superior credit by paying down debt in a massive way- this we started in February and had made huge strides  and cleared quite a few credits cards and even payed off a car note.  Well sometime in May- after coming from a swim class for my oldest son, S, I came across a Toll Brothers sign advertising new construction.  My curiosity got the better of me and I drove over to the site and really liked what I saw.  I immediately told me husband who told me no, we couldn't afford it.  I let it go but that must have got him interested in the idea of new construction.  A week later we toured the Toll Brothers model home and was wowed.  So much so, we spent the rest of the day traveling Toll Brother sites looking at model homes.

Thus started our interest in new construction.  My husband began researching other sites and I was pretty much resistant to all of them, I wanted the first one and had even chosen my preferred model, the Columbia.  I made him go to community events, prefilled out paper work that he refused to sign, I cried and and yelled and was just plain in a bad mood for about 2 weeks.  But then I decided, just to follow his game plan and point out what I LIKED about a site first before I shot it down.  But he always got me back- he would get my hopes about a home, then decide we had to look at one more place. 

Honestly- most of these places were pretty decent but had some fatal flaws- one place the lot size was JUST big enough to fit the house- no backyard or rather NO yard at all for the kids.  Another had power lines right in the back yard-no thank you!  One offered nearly 1 acre lots and pretty much promised to customize the home anyway we wanted.   I just wasn't interested in having a septic system for sewage, yuck!  And Toll Brothers?  Lovely homes- they just all pushed the top of our budget AT base price.  And when I visited someone else's home who opted not to do a lot of the upgrades I was sorely disappointed on what was considered standard.   

But I persisted and it was on a visit to yet another Toll Brothers site (there are like 8-10 of them within  a 30- 40 min drive of my home in Philadelphia) that we decided to visit another builder.  We had seen the sign for this community several times but had totally ignored it but now something seemed to call us to it.  It was a Ryan Homes community and we walked in about 30 minutes before closing .  The sales rep (SR) decided to walk us around the home (the first time ANY of the reps except for the one with the septic tank had performed that task for us).  We discussed the features of the model home, the Ravenna and for me, after seeing the grandness of the other homes, the model felt "tight"  She went to her wonder wall (touch screen with the models being offered at the community) and told us about the Verona and its open floor plan.  She briefly mentioned the Courtland Gate but said she believed she will not be able to offer it any more- she hadn't sold any since the site opened up a year ago.

Did I mention that I was stubborn?  I took the information but refused to make a commitment because we had another meeting next week at a brand new Toll Brothers site.  

My First Blog Post!

Let me be the first to admit- I am horrible at blogging.  I have 2 previous blogs that are currently languishing as we speak because I do not have the energy or the interest to post something that will catch attention.  But this time will be different.  This is not a blog to catch interest- This is a blog to help record one of the most exciting events in the lives of the members of my family (okay more so me and my husband).  We are building a new home!  That's right- from the ground up!

Stay tuned!