Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Coleman Flooring

Finally - an appointment I was looking forward to! The hubs and I had not finalized any color selections at the house, and figured we would just do everything in one shot at our flooring appointment. We booked a babysitter, both took off a half-day from work, and drove off to the Coleman Flooring design center in Quakertown, PA on 1.15.16.
Our rep Heather was very nice, but maybe not 100% informed on all of the products. Couldn't answer questions on how the engineered floor was installed. Wasn't sure if we could paint certain cabinets. Didn't have the Ryan selection pricing sheet to give us numbers on anything (we brought our own). Didn't mention soap dishes/shelves, etc. I thought I had prepared well in advance by reading other Ryan build blogs, but was quickly overwhelmed with choices and lost sight of my plan.

I went to that appointment with the goal of keeping everything base level, knowing we would update later. Hubs had different ideas, and was willing to suck it up and do floors on the first floor IF we found something we loved. So, that started well.

With a little bit of help, I narrowed down the kitchen selections to two very different "looks".
#1 - Rushmore painted hazlenut glaze cabinets, Santa Cecelia granite, and Rural Living Deep Java floors
#2 - Rushmore white cabinets, don't remember greyish granite, and dark grey-washed floors.

I've been completely paranoid about choosing anything too trendy, for fear it will forever date the house as "built in 2016". So option #1 felt too themed/ French Country/ Shabby Chic. None of which is my jam. I wasn't sold on the glaze, but was OK with the cream cabinets. I LOVED the Santa Cecelia granite and the floors. Option #2 felt a bit too cold/modern and more trendy. Plus, because of the laminate covering, the white wasn't paintable in the future. Feeling completely pressured and unsure of myself, I selected option #1.

We moved on to carpets, and fairly quickly decided to keep the base carpet upstairs and in the basement, but to upgrade to the 8lb (upgrade 1) padding on the second floor. We upgraded to level C carpet in the family room and study, with the same 1 level upgraded pad. We tried to find a carpet color that was somewhere between tan and grey for decorating ease, and found Macaroon for the upgrade, and Warm Stone for the base carpet.
So.Not.Excited about carpet situation.

On to tile and bathroom mantra here was "pick the least offensive free option!" What fun.
For the hall and guest bathrooms, I picked (wait for it.....white square tiles) for the shower surround. No fancy listellos for us! The least offensive vinyl was another quick pick - Armstrong Initiator Glenville Creme. The hubs will tile these floors later, and paint and shower curtains will solve these problems. I wish we could have afforded the double sink vanity upgrades, but again, we can do that later. Cabinets will be inoffensive Fairfield Wheat.

We decided that since we were going all in for the soaking tub/shower with seat upgrade here, hubs suggested that we should just suck it up and do the master bath how we wanted it. I was on board with the plan, and honestly, the tile upgrades prices are really not that bad.
We selected a level C (3) upgrade - Parkway Floor and Polaris. A large vertical white rectangle shower surround tile, greige square floor tile, and blue/grey/green rectangular glass accent tiles. Pretty modern, but I was on board! Picked a level 1 cabinet upgrade Tahoe Cherry Bordeaux, and a cultured marble countertop called Carrara Gray.

We leave. I'm full of angst and spend the weekend texting pictures of our selections to everyone and their brother for advice. The most "intense" advice comes from an an architect friend who doesn't pull punches.

She called my beloved Santa Cecelia granite "vomit countertop". OMG. For the record, "vomit countertop" is industry slang for "tan/brown colored counters with chunks". Yikes. I could feel my love fading. She offered her advice after viewing my Pinterest kitchen love pins:
White/cream cabinets, light grey-er countertops, dark floors.
Back to the drawing board.

I call Coleman to schedule a round two appointment for Monday, 1.18.16. Hubs is working on the MLK holiday, so I invite a friend to join me.

A cabinet surprise of epic proportions awaited us!

Apparently THAT DAY, Ryan started offering different colored islands for the same price as the level 3 cabinet upgrade. Well....that sure changes things!

We pretty quickly chose to keep the creme cabinets for the walls, after again ruling out the whites. For the island, a complimentary Rushmore espresso. I keep the Deep Java floors I love, and change out the vomit counters for New Caledonia. We have a winner, and I feel GOOD!

While I was angsting all weekend, the hubs had decided he didn't love the white shower tiles we had initially picked, was afraid of white grout turning grungy looking, and preferred a more natural stone "spa" look. Loud sigh. So we looked at that next. There really aren't that many tile options available, so this process is quick. A "hate" pile grows quickly, the "ehh" pile is medium, and the "love" pile is very slim, and generally very expensive. No real surprise there.

So it was fairly quick work to select the "Florentine Floor & Wall" bathroom package level E/5. A gorgeous striated greige square floor tile and rectangular shower tile with large square accent tiles. Upgrade level 2 Scottsdale espresso cabinets, a cream travertine shower corner shelf, and Crema-Marfil countertops completed the look. I was happy again, despite the ever-increasing budget.

Also noted - a white or almond shower pan is standard. Our rep mentioned in passing that we could upgrade to a tile shower floor for a shockingly high amount (don't remember price, just that it was way too high to consider in the blown budget). But it's definitely something to think about, because you can't upgrade that yourself later! This was not on Ryan's upgrade selection sheet, so make a note to ask about it if it's something you want to consider!

All was well....for 3 days.

I get a text from the flooring rep on Thursday. The master bath tile is for NV Homes only, I can have the floor and wall tiles, but the accent tile would be an additional $1045 upgrade.


I'm working on booking my third visit. Our sales rep also neglected to show us/tell us about selecting a stain for the handrails, so we'll need to do that as well.

1.26.16 - Third visit was the charm.
After another review of the somewhat limited selections, I ended up with the same "Florentine Nociolla Floor & Wall" without the listello. At second view, I decided I didn't really love that detail anyway, and that the tiles alone had a higher end look without it. Very hotel/spa/glam.

Also learned that they will automatically match your banister stain to your floor (color: Mocha), and our tile selections come with a pre-selected grout (color: Urban Putty)  to match. I liked both, so that was finally something easy!

2.5.16 update - I've learned from reading more Ryan blogs, that many of you were able to mix and match your tiles with additional listello options. We were told we could only choose tile sets from the same board, and that there were not "additional" listello options anywhere. I guess I could have asked if we could swap listellos among the approved boards at the same upgrade level, but I didn't think of it at the (3) times. I can't think about it anymore, because I start feeling my heart squeeze, so I'm letting it go.

Alternate #1 master bath tile (not selected) 

Alternate #3 master bath tile (not selected)

Base level carpet selection specs

Kitchen Choice - round 1 (ultimately kept the cabinets & floor)
Carpet upgrade level C specs (study)

Visit my "Design Selections" page for photos and details on the FINAL selections!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Elevation Pics

I've searched far and wide to no avail. I can't find a picture anywhere of a Rome elevation C with cottage (window) garage door, no porch, siding + 1/2 stone.

What I have for your viewing pleasure, are the closest pics I COULD find. Many thanks to the bloggers who posted them!

This is REALLY close - Our siding color, our elevation, our garage doors; but this one is reversed plan + no stone + different shutters, and of course, no custom porch roof extension.

from Moving on up: Home in a Rome
Ours should look very similar, just with 1/2 wall of stone on the front and a custom covered front stoop (garage roof extension).
We'll have these garage doors

from Home Sweet Rome

from Ryan Homes Take 2
Reverse plan (we have standard)

If you are looking for a good comparison of all Rome elevations - here's the blog page for you!

Sometimes Buying a House Hurts...

Well, it happened. To free up more green for the house, something had to give. I said a said goodbye to my beautiful, unique, sparkly 2015 Ford Explorer Sport. The car people would stop me in parking lots to talk about all.the.time. *Sniffle*
In its place, a 2016 Subaru Outback. Somehow, I think no one is going to stop me to ask about it.

No pain, no gain, right? The upside is that we cut our car payment in HALF!

Join me in wishing my beauty a happy future life...

Floor Plans

Forgive me for my tech illiteracy. Here are my lame marked up floor plans.
Highlight = have that feature
X = don't have
Crappy drawn arrows = something we're moving/changing.
Don't laugh at my lack of skills!
If you want to get really fancy, take the virtual tour!

Found a floor plan with the extra bath - but it's reverse plan and elevation A.
Thanks for the pic!

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Structural Selections

I'm struck by the fact that structural options aren't really differentiated in the options list. That would have been helpful up front in the decision-making process. What did help a ton was asking for straight-talk from our sales rep. We asked which options made the most sense to do up front, for the most reasonable prices. That really helped to drive our decisions.
I've included all the prices for anything we considered upgrading from my Master Selection Sheet, whether we selected them or not. Figured that might be helpful for someone else!

"Free" Promotions for signing in December
  1. Finished basement with recessed lighting 
  2. Morning room 
  3. Gourmet kitchen (gourmet island, level 1 granite, stainless appliances)
  4. Hardwoods in entry & powder room
Neighborhood "Free" Standards
  1. Elevation B
  2. Half stone front
  3. Cottage style garage door upgrade (with windows)
  4. Black shingle roofs
  5. White trim
  6. Sump pump included 
  7. Master bath double vanity
  8. White balusters
  9. Ceramic tile surround in hall bath
  10. Recessed lights in kitchen
NOT offered as standard our neighborhood, but found as standards on other blogs around the U.S.

1. Tankless or up-sized water heater
2. Water softener
3. Dehumidifier or humidifier
4. Paint options
5. Overhead light rough ins (only offered ceiling fan rough-ins/complete installs)
6. Garage door opener
7. Cabinet hardware
8. Double sinks in hall bathroom
9. Sprinklers
10. Outdoor sprinkler systems
11. Neighborhood Centers - gym/movie/pools/playgrounds, etc. (SO jealous!)


  • Finished basement with morning room bump out (included - $12,995)
  • 3 piece plumbing rough-in ($1395)

  • Included cottage style door upgrade (with windows) - standard in neighborhood (no price listed)
  • No 2" extension or access door (something had to give in the budget! - $2,495/ $995)
  • No side entry (still crying over this one - $7,995)
  • No garage door opener ($495)

"Mudroom" Closet
  • Added 2 outlets and wiring through Guardian to move TV components (cable box, dvd player, etc.) into this closet

  • Trim package 3

Living Room
  • 2nd front window added with elevation upgrade (n/a)
  • Not  later selected - optional living room side window ($495) 
  • Trim package 3
Dining Room
  • No upgrades 
  • Trim package 3
  • Standard gourmet kitchen upgrade included in our sales promotion
    • level 1 granite counter tops  ($4,495)
    • gourmet (version 5) extended island ($3,195)
    • stainless steel appliances ($2695 - received credit for stove) 
  • Double wall ovens ($3995)
  • Gas cook-top hookup ($295)
  • Cabinet crown molding ($595)
  • Custom request to move double wall ovens + additional surrounding cabinets to empty powder room wall ($1895)

Morning Room
  • Morning room included in our sales promotion ($16,995)
  • Double patio door (included - $995) 
  • Ceiling fan rough-in ($225)
  • Side windows ($990)
Family Room
  • Gas fireplace with standard slate surround ($3,495)
  • Not selected - window(s) family room side ($495)
  • Ceiling fan rough-in ($225)
  • 4 recessed lights
  • No upgrades later added ceiling fan rough-in ($225) 

Hall Bathroom
  • No upgrades
Laundry Room
  • Requested that doors be hung to open into hall (no cost?) Requesting to leave door off so we can install barn door - will not pass inspection, so we will remove later.
  • Gas dryer hookup ($295) Somehow this was missed, but later learned that selecting this would require a swap to a louvered, rather than solid door to meet code. 
Master Bedroom
  • No tray ceiling
  • Loss of sitting room (gain bigger closet) to make way for extra bathroom in bedroom 
  • Flipped bathroom door to open into bedroom

Master Bathroom
  • Shower with seat and soaking tub ($4,995)

Bedroom #4
  • "Bathroom #2 standard tub" ($5995) -This will likely be our guest "suite", but may become our daughter's room when she's older...

  • Storage option no longer available ($1,495)

Thursday, January 21, 2016

NVR Mortgage Meeting

Again with the money stress?

We met with Jonathan, our NVR Mortgage rep at our development's model on 1.7.16. He was very down to earth, honest, and reasonable in our discussions. I felt an unexpected level of trust with him, and the hubs stated the same to me after the meeting. Impressive!

He reviewed everything, ran our credit and confirmed that he would be recommending us for conditional approval at 4.25% (ugh. Damn Fed.) Hubs' credit score needed to bump up a tiny bit. so he indicated that we should focus on that. We were thrilled to not have to be considered contingent. Our sales rep had already warned us that people were ready to take our lot, which would be possible if we had to be a contingent sale. Of course, we NEED to sell our house before closing on the new one to feel remotely comfortable. Who can afford two mortgages? Not us!

We also talked through how much we'll put down, expected closing costs, etc. We talked through using a 401k loan. He offered the option to finance the closing costs; which we'll save as a last resort if things get hairy with money at the end. *fingers crossed*

He also explained that NVR will re-run our credit prior to close to make sure all is well. Told us not to open ANY new accounts, which things to pay off for biggest impact on score improvements, etc. All stuff we knew, but nice to get his confirmation of our plan.

Still waiting for a final/approved letter. Not sure when we should expect that.

We brought all the requested documents to the meeting:

Income Documentation:
1.      One month of the most recent pay stubs reflecting 30-days year-to-date pay. Bi-weekly pay must include 3 consecutive stubs to complete 30 days.
2.      2013 & 2014 W2’s
3.      Please provide a copy of your offer letter with your new job.
4.      Please provide a copy of the most recent teaching contract for your district.
5.      2013 & 2014 1099s for Social Security/ Pension (if applicable)
6.      2014 Monthly/ Yearly benefits statements for Pension and/ or Social Security Income. (Award letter received at the beginning of each year.
7.      2013 & 2014 Complete tax returns (all schedules) ***If you are self-employed and file business returns, please provide both personal and all business returns.
Asset Documentation:
1.      3 months Checking/ Savings account statements for all accounts. Please provide ALL pages. If the statement says 1 of 6, we will need all pages even if they are blank. Printouts from internet sites are not acceptable if they do not include the bank name, account holders name and account #.
2.      Documentation for any non-payroll deposits over $1,000 (copies of checks that were deposited)
3.      Most recent 2 months or quarterly investment/ IRA / 401K / Stocks / Bonds, etc. statements. Please provide all pages as stated above. DO NOT send balance pages only.
4.      Terms and conditions under which Retirements funds can be withdrawn - even if not using these funds for settlement.
Miscellaneous Documentation:
1.      Copies of all borrowers driver’s license and/ or passports. For FHA or VA loans also provide a copy of each borrower’s Social Security Card.
2.      Please provide a copy of your certificate of eligibility for VA financing and/or DD214.
3.      Please provide a copy of your valid VISA and/or paperwork evidencing renewal, if applicable.
4.      Please provide a copy of your divorce decree and property settlement agreement.
5.      Please provide a copy of your most recent tax bills as well as your home owner’s insurance declaration page and any home owner’s association dues paid.
6.      Please provide the documentation evidencing the Home Owner’s Association dues associated with your current property.
7.      Most recent Mortgage Statement for all properties owned. Please include any 2nd trust mortgage or home equity lines or loans.
8.      Please provide a copy of your bankruptcy discharge.
9.      Please provide a copy of the paperwork showing the satisfaction of the outstanding judgment(s).
10.   Name, address, and phone numbers for landlord (if renting)
11.   Letter of explanation for any recent credit problems, if applicable, i.e. Late Payments, collections, judgments.

12.   A check for appraisal and credit report fees. Your loan officer will inform you of the amount based on the program you are applying for.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Post Closing Wish List

A running list of everything we plan to upgrade/ add to the house once we're in....this list is more than a little financially terrifying! Luckily, the hubs in handy, and has other handy friends.

Whole house - paint (after 1-year repairs), wood plantation shutter style blinds, curtains, ceiling fans, wainscoting & crown molding, security system, more high hat lights

Yard -  patio with fire pit, retractable awning, patio furniture, sprinkler system, full back yard fence, play-set, shed, house front spotlights, rear flood lights, raised garden beds with protective fencing, some colorful perennials, a couple of pretty trees.

Garage - Garage door opener, insulated garage door, epoxy garage floor paint, wall paint, mud room/ locker organization set up, paint door - inside & out

Basement -  Swap solid door at top of stairs to glass-paned, Build storage shelves for tote storage, finish small storage room, powder room (we added the rough-in), storage shelves, bar, Extra fridge/freezer, swap to tankless water heater (?), Add jet-pump system.

Staircases  - switch carpet to wood treads, and wood to iron newel posts & spindles

Powder Room - tile feature wall, replace sink and mirror

Family room - ceiling fan, custom trim work over fireplace, area rug, new furniture & decor, maybe(?) built-in bookcases on fireplace wall.

Study - ceiling fan, toy shelving in the inset space

Living room - area rug, new furniture & decor

Dining room - area rug, new table & breakfront, cove ceiling, new chandelier

Pantry - install better shelving system - or at least reinforce theirs, add outlet + Dyson stick storage/charging mount.

Kitchen - new french door fridge, backsplash, soft close drawer hinges, cabinet pulls, pendant lights over island, stools for island, stools for breakfast bar, swap solid doors over microwave for glass pane. Consider moving microwave elsewhere

Master bedroom - new furniture (moving our current set to the guest room), closet organizer system in both walk-in closets, replace carpets, ceiling fan

Master bath - medicine cabinet between studs to right or left of mirror. Cabinet/shelves over toilet. Replace wall mirror with 2 separate decorative mirrors, add backsplash

Munchie's bedroom - new "big girl" bedroom set, closet organizer, ceiling fan

Theoretical baby Fab's nursery - closet organizers, ceiling fan

Laundry room -  Sliding barn door, washer/ dryer, tile floor, cabinets over washer/dryer, some sort of organization/folding/ironing storage system on left wall. Pull down stairs to attic

Hall Bathroom - tile floor, cabinet over toilet, install double vanity (we'll move the single down to the basement for the future powder room project - and probably stain it).

Guest Bathroom - tile floor

Attic - install pull-down access stairs & lay plywood floor. Move all storage from basement up to attic. Whole house fan(?)

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Ryan Says, "Give Us ALL the Money"

Is anyone else finding the most stressful part of this process to be the money? I may have to start biting my nails. Lord knows the stress-eating isn't going to help anyone, and I can't afford it now anyways!

We initially thought we would have access to take a loan from my 401k to help make this magic happen. All was well until I got myself to my plan's website and learned that a loan or straight withdrawal would not be an option. *Insert inappropriate cursing*

So, we had our "come to Jesus" meetings with the NVR mortgage guy and our saleswoman. Mortgage approved, non-contingent (ha ha, yeah right). Ryan willing to work with us with reduced deposit, extended delivery date, a deposit schedule of our choosing, and should we get desperate, financing of the closing costs.

In the meanwhile, we need to do the following:

  1. Hit the $2billion Powerball (which would require a move to oceanfront property in Hawaii, but whatever.)
  2. Ready our house for sale, praying that a sale would net even or maybe even a squeak of profit.
  3. Get out of my expensive car payment into something more affordable
  4. Improve the hubs' credit score a bit by paying down a couple of credit cards and disputing some wonky stuff on his report.
  5. Pay back rest current 401k loan to open up another loan for more $.  
  6. Investigate cheap temp housing options including friends' basements.
  7. Eat only ramen noodles. If we're feeling like high-rollers, maybe also some generic mac & cheese.
  8. Repeat the mantra, "base level carpet will be great!"

Wish us luck. Or, invite us over for a home cooked meal. Please.

In the Beginning...

Hi! Welcome to yet another Ryan Homes blog! I'm pretty mystified by the blog-thing, but figured I would give it the "old college try" since I've found everyone else's blogs so helpful.

Hubs - The hubs is the manager of a service station/car wash/auto repair joint that's open 24x7x365. He works 7 crazy days a week there, and has been there 20+ years. His commute is 40 miles each way from the new there's that level of nuts.
Munchie - Our daughter just turned 3, and is the light of our lives. Seriously. She's awesome, and hysterical. And obviously smarter than both of us.
Me - I'm sort-of a corporate trainer for an energy company. The long description would leave you snoring, so I'll just leave it at that. My commute is 11 miles, but on a bad day it can take 45+ minutes.

Current situation - we own a 3-story, 1600 sq. ft. townhouse/condo in Philly's western suburbs, and have lived there for 12+ years. It was all well and good until Munchie came along and space was at a premium. We're thinking of adding another baby Fab soon, so it was time.

How/why the Rome?
Good friends of ours who were house-hunting reported back that they had found their dream home locally, and were ready to sign a contract. We we not quite financially ready to pull the trigger on our own house-hunt, but were excited for them and decided to go take a look. The friends came back with further reconnaissance: the December promotion included a finished basement, morning room, AND gourmet kitchen upgrade for free. We were of course, further intrigued. Dammit!

How did this madness begin?
We wandered like happy clueless puppies, into the model home in the development, and (spoiler alert), fell in love. Sonofa...

Signed the contract same day - 12.26.15. Proceeded freaking out about how we would come up with all the benjamins to make this happen. More freaking. More freaking. Then freaking about location choice. We had planned to help both of our commutes out with our move - and this house helps no one. More freaking. Dislike the immediate vicinity of the neighborhood and the view of the local nuclear power plant towers. More freaking. Ultimately decided that we would go for it with these reasons:

1. LOVE the house. Best thing I've seen in my 5+ years of online/in-person stalking.
2. Love the neighborhood itself. 38 homes in a loop off a quiet road.
3. Good school district
4. We already have friends, stores, daycare, etc. etc. in town
5. We've both done the commute for 12+ years already and survived, so why not keep up the fun?
6. Good price for what we're getting (this is BEFORE the selection appointments, lol).
7. The good friends were also moving in!

I hope my ramblings about our journey to build our Rome is at least mildly entertaining, and marginally helpful to you! Thanks for joining me here.