Wednesday, December 28, 2016

7 Weeks In - 20 Project Updates

Wow. What a wild ride it's been. Somehow we've been in our house seven weeks now (6 if you discount the vacation time we were away).

There's been a ton of work, but it doesn't feel like much progress since there isn't much completely "done"!

1. Cable drama is resolved. We continue to hate Comcast with the fire of a thousand suns, but they gave us X? months of free TV service and a gift card for all of the trouble. It was a gesture at least.

2. Garage door opener installed. It's a feat of engineering, and will never fall down. Waiting on additional wire so Hubs can extend the button all the way to the door into the garage. The wire that came with the Chamberlain brand opener wasn't long enough to reach, mostly because the ceiling is so high.

3. We decided on blinds for the entire upstairs for now (plus the study/playroom). Curtains will come in a bit. All but one is installed, but they all still need their extra slats removed.

4. We have new sofas, coffee and end tables, morning room set, master bedroom set, and "big girl" furniture for Munchie. Still need to find accent chairs, a long console for the front hallway, formal living room furniture, a console/desks for the loft, etc. etc. Overwhelming.

5. Area rugs are done and DONE! Thanks to, we found lovely, affordable area rugs for the living room, dining room, morning room, family room, and a 2x22(!) runner for the front hallway.

6. Bathroom fixtures (towel bars, TP holders) have been switched out to match the faucets in each space. Towel rings have been added in all spaces as well.

7. "Fancy" floor vent covers that better blend in with the flooring have been swapped out for the original Ryan standard ones. (Huge difference!)

8. Ceiling fans have been selected and installed in family room, guest bedroom, Munchie's room, and nursery. Our bedroom now has a rough-in awaiting our fan.

9. Front door light fixture has been moved into study (playroom), and a "fancier" fixture has been ordered to replace it at the front door.

10. Morning room light fixture has been selected, but not yet ordered.

11. Pendant lights for over island have been selected and ordered.

12. Kitchen backsplash tile samples are being narrowed down.

13. A water jet system has been installed in the basement (ensures the sump pump never fails).

14. Many light switch plates have been replaced with nicer versions.

15. Night light outlets and USB port outlets have been swapped for standard outlets in many places.

16. Curtain rods for first floor have been selected, but not yet purchased.

17. Curtain selection continues in a painful fashion. I mean, seriously painful. I can't find what's in my head in any store.

18. Storage bins (baby gear, kids clothes, DVD's, CDs, etc.) are stacked and organized in the basement.

19. Moving boxes are 95% unpacked. Mostly random décor and pictures/wall hangings remain.

20. Housewarming party has been scheduled!

I realize that I'm posting this really late (like 18 weeks in)...I'll try to do better next time!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Week 2 of "Rome" Ownership

Week 2 of new home ownership was interesting. It definitely would have been an easier to have stayed in town and settled in, rather than heading out for vacation, but that vacation was desperately needed.

Projects started:
1. Purchased about half of the blinds for the second floor (following rejection of the Budget Blinds scary quote). Note - not installed yet. Sorry for any inadvertent shows neighbors!
We need to pick up the rest at another Lowes/HD that has more in stock.

2. Much stalking of, Lowes, HomeDepot,, etc. etc. websites to select ceiling fans, rugs, lights, etc. So far, we haven't pulled the trigger on any purchases. Repeated process for actual live store visits.

3. Selling of our old bedroom set. It won't fit in the guest bedroom, and we bumped up to a king, so it was off to the local yardsale site for our pretty cherry queen set. Hopefully being picked up tonight! We need to clear out the storage unit by tonight lest we be charged another month, so the dining room set will have to come home with us until it also sells.

4. Hung big TV over fireplace.

5. Majority of boxes are unpacked.  Maybe 75%?

6. Purchased sample knobs and pulls to try out

7. Dealing with the seventh circle of hell that is Comcast. This has overtaken my poor husband's life. 30 hours and counting to get our service turned on, and account corrected. The long story involves identity fraud, horrible employees (one of whom was reportedly fired), and a generally incompetent organization. So many hours were wasted on the phone instead of dealing with house projects, I can't even begin to express our (his) frustration.

The to-do list is overwhelming. Some high priorities:

1. Install garage door opener
2. Anchor all "tippable" furniture to the walls, so as to not crush children
3. Install blinds in most critical places (LOL)
4. Seal grout
5. Purchase Munchie her big girl mattress and bed.
6. Hang rest of wall-mounted TV's
7. Finish drawer knob/pull selection, purchase, and install in kitchen and baths (for future reference, it's a pain to open kitchen cabinets using a spatula).
8. Grow some damn grass. In case you were planning to pick up a sprinkler this fall, good luck. Those are sold out at every Lowes and HD in the Philadelphia region. We are currently rotating the one hose and sprinkler we own in a pitiful 1-2 spots per evening cycle. At this rate, we'll have snow before grass.

Living in the house has also frustrated the hell out of my perfectionist Hubs. You see a lot more when you're crawling/climbing around to unpack and work on it! Not much of the finishing work is up to his standards. Paint splotches, drips, globby crap on trim work, squeaky fireplace hearth, shoddy drywall spots, etc. etc. etc. This is all after we went over everything at walk-through and thought we had caught everything!
It's all making him (me) completely crazy.

Our PM remains awesome, and has been on top of our ongoing issues. Most pressing is the swampy mess to the right of our house. The drainage swail between our house and the neighbors was never graded properly. Both of our sump pumps drain into the swamp, and the water is just pooling. Yay for Zika laden mosquitos!  We saw the surveyors there on closing day, and stakes are in, but nothing has happened yet. Only benefit I see is that we don't need to water that side of the house! (So much sarcasm).

This post has been a bit snarky, and I don't intend it to be. We really are thrilled to be in the house. It's just starting to feel a little more like "ours", and I feel blessed to be in such a lovely (big!)space.
The projects in front of us are daunting (and expensive, hellloooooo), but exciting too. This really is an amazing time in our family's history, and I go to sleep exhausted and happy thanks to this house.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Week 16: Closing & The Big Move!

Week 16: August 29 - September 4

It finally happened, and it still feels surreal! In true Fab fashion, it was not without drama. (sigh).

Our good friends had offered to take Munchie off our hands so we could close and move in peace. So I met them to hand her over Monday morning. Thank the Lord for friends. All of this madness would have been a lot harder with her underfoot!

Closing Day
Hubs, our realtor, and I met at the Ryan title company office on Monday, August 29 at 11 a.m. in Blue Bell, PA with our cashier's check, extra blank checks, and ID's in hand. We've been through two other closings and several re-finances and expected it to take an hour or so, max. Maybe shorter since Ryan, NVR/ Homeside, and the title company are ALL THE SAME DAMN COMPANY.
I was wrong.

Delay #1
We got through signing about half of our paperwork before we realized that the county was listed incorrectly (Berks, we're in Montgomery). Title company woman had to stop us and re-run that paperwork, then have us re-sign everything.

Delay #2
She explains a tax form that gives us the total of the additional tax bill we should expect in 8-12 weeks. Totaling almost $7,000. First we've heard of it. Hubs understandably flips out. I ask the woman to give us five minutes. She steps out. Realtor calls mortgage guy. Mortgage guy points to builder/ sales rep. Title company points to mortgage guy. We can't get ahold of our sales rep to see who she points to, but realize that it's just a waste of time. We completely understand and agree with owing the tax, but strenuously disagree with not being told until the middle of closing. In the end, we understand the reason why our estimated cash to close mysteriously dropped by $5,000 the week before closing....those were tax funds that for some fluke reason of tax schedule, we're paying in a few weeks instead. DEEP SIGH.

Title woman returns, signing continues. At this point, my hunger-induced pregnancy nausea is really kicking in. I ask how much longer we might be here. Woman laughs at me and offers to find me some crackers from someone's desk (I grudgingly decline).

Delays #3-5
We finish the neverending signing, but are immediately faced with more delays. Title woman explains that 1. We need "approval" from Homeside that they have everything they need. 2. She needs to run us our copies of the documents, and 3. Homeside (NVR) has not wired the money yet. We had an 11a.m. closing. Not 9 a.m. At this point, we've been in the office for over 2 hours. So throwing out the notion that the bank could have wired the funds the night before....they have had 4 hours during which to do so that morning, but did not. I don't know about you, but if I was 4+ hours late doing a key part of my job, I wouldn't last long.

I am barely holding it together. You just cannot mess with a miserable pregnant woman like this. Hubs and our realtor, being smart men, realize this and are desperately trying to hurry things along. We continue waiting for another half hour or so before the wire transfer is confirmed. Realtor busts out the sparkling apple juice, we chug, and we run the heck out of there. Entire process clocked in at 3 hours.

We have only appliance deliveries scheduled for the afternoon, and figure we have lots of time to get to the house, so we stop for a pizza lunch. I put the first delicious bite into my mouth, and Hub's cell rings. The Best Buy delivery truck is running 2 hours ahead of schedule, and is now sitting in front of the house. We are currently 45 minutes away, and still need to run back to our temp living house (15 minutes in the opposite direction) to grab my car. We tell them we'll be there as soon as we can, throw the slices in a to-go box and run out the door.

We finally get to the house and find Ryan installers replacing the kitchen appliances with the upgraded ones. There's obviously no where to sit, so I plop my nauseous self on the stairs. At that moment, my tush is glad we hadn't upgraded to the hard-woods! Best Buy comes with the washer and dryer and for a while it's like an appliance store exploded in the house. Of course, the fridge was on a DIFFERENT Best Buy delivery truck that we would now be waiting for.

Hubs runs out to do I have no-idea what errands, and in the meanwhile, I unload the Bed Bath & Beyond goodies (new bathroom décor, towels, etc.), the hand soap and TP into the house. Which is about all there is to do except wait.

When he gets back, we decide to run to our new post office to change our address and get the key to our community mailbox. We get within 1 minute of the post office when Best Buy driver confirms he will be at the house in 5 minutes; and so we turn around and fly back to the house to take fridge delivery.

As fridge delivery guy leaves, our friends arrive bearing hoagies, tomato pie (it's a Philly thing), and drinks. The husband is a pastor, so he walks us through the house offering a prayer and blessing for every room, and leaves us with a beautiful cross to hang over the front door. It was lovely.

As we're finishing up with them, the Budget Blinds woman arrives to show me samples, and give us a quote for whole house faux wood, cordless blinds. Once we choke down the number, she leaves, and we follow.

I know we did some other errands on the way back to our temp living, but I can't remember what they were for the life of me. We passed out unconscious and set alarms early to meet the movers.

Moving Day

Hubs awakens before dawn to pick up his boss's pickup truck, then meet the movers at the storage place at 7 a.m. I go directly to the house to await the Comcast installation guy by 8 a.m. By 9 or so, I get word that the movers are on their way to the house. Their crew boss is waiting for the truck in my living room and gets a call to tell him that they have been pulled off the road by state troopers for a Department of Transportation spot check. I think it's a joke for a while, and when I realize that it's truly happening, I text my state trooper friend to "please call off her friends and let my furniture go!"

They are delayed for about 45 minutes, but finally arrive and quickly begin unloading. I stand at the front door directing them where to bring everything. Hubs is off running mystery errands again.
My lovely and wonderful friend arrived around 11 to help in whatever way she could, and I kept her busy with small tasks as the movers finished up.

Once they left, she and I went to work, and mostly focused on the kitchen, as most of the boxes were destined for that room! We had been too nervous to let the movers place all the boxes on the hardwoods, so we were forced to make trips into the garage for everything. Burning calories(?) My friend took on the designated shelf-liner cutter role and became an expert quickly.
Another wonderful friend stopped by around 1 with Wendy's for us. Have I mentioned how awesome all of our friends are?
Our work continued until an afternoon Raymour and Flannigan furniture delivery.  Our master bedroom mattress, dresser, and nightstands all arrived in good condition. Munchie arrived with the friends who had kept her, and we gave her a tour of the house and her newly arranged playroom! She was thrilled, but didn't stay long. Hubs took her back to our temp living house to sleep; and my friend and I resumed work and didn't stop until after 10 p.m. I tossed and turned on the new mattress all night. The next morning I took my first shower at the house, and despite only having a sample packet of conditioner and bottle of hand-soap to work with, it felt amazing!

Wednesday, crazy Hubs went to work, Munchie stayed with our niece, and my friend and I continued our mission; unpacking and organizing, and managing a second furniture delivery. Mealey's delivered two new family room sofas, a morning room table, chairs, and sideboard, and new "big girl" furniture for Munchie's room. The garage door replacement panel arrived and was quickly replaced, and a random local window guy came to take measurements of the glass in our front door for potential switch out. We made major kitchen progress, and welcomed a visit from another friend bearing dinner for us in the afternoon. Hubs picked up Munchie on his way home from work, which meant the whole family would finally sleep in our new house!

My amazing friend left early Thursday morning, and while Hubs installed our new FrontPoint security system, I threw clothes and swimsuits in bags and packed the car for our Labor Day vacation to LBI. We finally left the house around 2 p.m., and Munchie and I promptly passed out for the ride to relaxation.

The rest of the madness at the house would be waiting for our return.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Week 15 continued: Home Inspection and Final Tweaks

Week 15 continued: August 22-28

To summarize this experience: if you are currently reading this and are on the fence about getting a home it. I think the cost is more than worth the potential headache of issues with your biggest investment.

We've been generally very happy with this building experience. NVR/ Homeside paperwork nightmares were by far the greater pain.  I would say the second-hardest part was second and third-guessing your upgrade selections.

We trust our Sales Rep and our PM. They have proven themselves time and time again. This week they really earned their 10's.

Home Inspector came out to see the house on Tuesday afternoon. He found few problems, but those that he found were pretty big.

1. Dryer vented into the attic.
2. Guest bedroom extra bath vented into the attic.
3. Laundry room overflow tub drain ran into the basement with an open ended pipe in the ceiling.
4. Various water and gas pipes required reinforced/additional/some support brackets.
5. Central floor joist (basement ceiling) was cracked.

#1 and #2 are being taken care of today.
#3 apparently this is just how it's done in the Rome - pipe randomly runs into unfinished part of basement.
#4 Done
#5 Engineer inspected and reports it is within tolerance. Apparently only surface cracking, not requiring sistering, etc. (Not so thrilled about this)

The long list of more cosmetic touch-ups found at our walk-through is also being handled as quickly as possible. Because our PM is awesome.
The cabinet face for the master vanity that was mentioned in the report was scratched, I removed it and switched it out with a new drawer face. It is installed
    Garage panel (was dented/scratched) is being delivered to my contractor on Tuesday and they will switch it out on Wednesday as well as installed a slide lock.
    (Ongoing swampy swale issue to right of house). Swale on right of house, the engineer was out and staked out the swale, my excavator will be out Tuesday/Wednesday to regrade and get the grading right, I will have my landscaper re-seed right after.
    Touch up’s at trim around morning room door and garage door. This will be complete today

    Area of concrete at the back corner of the house that needed to get fixed, the contractor will be out Monday, once he is complete I will have my painter come back and re-paint the stoop, back foundation and the trim around the garage door. (On schedule for Tuesday)

    Bow at the bottom of the front window (gunked up with mortar from stone). This is scheduled for today, will have it complete.

    Hearth at fireplace – vendor came out yesterday and replaced the hearth. It no longer squeaks and it has an even reveal at the shoe molding.

    There were some general touch ups throughout the home (casing in family room, casing @ laundry room, nail pop under rail near fire door etc…) These are all complete.

    We had a question about the shower door and whether or not it was scratched or dirty, it was indeed a scratch so I had them come out and switch the door with a new one. This is complete.

    I switched out the island trim so that it is one solid piece instead of 2 pieces with molding in the middle.

    The island outlet has been switched to black.

    All of the nail holes and trim at the kitchen cabinets have been touched up.

    I have a contractor coming end of day today to go through and touch up all of the hardwood. This guy is really good, so it took me a little longer to schedule him.

    There was one hardwood board that needs to be replaced, I talked to Coleman floors and they have the hardwood on order, they’re hoping it is here by Monday and they can switch it out.

    There was a scratched cabinet in the kitchen. We use a guy that can refinish cabinets and make them look brand new, I’m in contact with him now to schedule him to come out, shooting for early next week. There were also 2 cabinets that didn’t soft close properly, these have been fixed.

      These fixes are in addition to the wrong appliances issue we found at our walkthrough. Our SR worked with her bosses to get us the correct ones (one level up) at no additional charge. Still not sure what or how that mix-up happened, but thrilled it will be resolved; hopefully while we're at closing Monday morning!

      As of right now, we plan on going to closing at 11am, then heading to the house to enjoy it for a bit before probably making Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, Homegoods, etc. etc. and several Lowes/ HD runs. Fridge delivery is scheduled from between 4-8 Monday night.  Movers, washer/dryer, and new furniture deliveries are scheduled for Tuesday. I'm exhausted and thrilled just thinking about it.

      Also - we received our CD from NVR/Homeside yesterday, and thank the lord, we need to bring about $5k less than estimated to the table. We'll work on the cashier's check or wire transfer this weekend to get that squared away.

      People! This is really happening!

    Wednesday, August 24, 2016

    Week 15: Pre-Settlement Walk-Through

    Week 15: August 22-28
    Days 99 - 105

    8.22 (Day 99) was our scheduled pre-settlement walkthrough. We brought our realtor, sick (and loopy) kiddo, and builder friend to be more eyes; which surely overwhelmed our poor Ryan PM.

    We started in the kitchen and the PM walked me (and occasionally Hubs as he swung by with random concerns/questions), through the whole warranty and demo spiels, including the prep-talk about the all-important survey. I'll only note the variations from everyone else's walk-through notes I've read on other blogs.
    1. No more binder - we got a flash drive that contains all of that info.
    2. No 30-day walkthrough, now it's a 3 week critical systems/ issues check by the PM. The explanation is that they want us to start using the Service website/phone for everything.
    3. No painting on our own or drywall certificate (valid for 13 months) is voided. I pushed back with what I've been reading elsewhere (you can paint your own but they will only paint back to builder color), but PM was absolute.

    Minor issues found all over the place; hopefully most will be easy fixes in this last week before we close. The biggest outstanding concern is that the appliance are wrong. I noticed it in the pics Hubs snuck last week, but of course, couldn't say anything about that until we did a sanctioned walk-through.

    I was able to pull up an email from our SR on my phone, and forwarded it to the PM immediately. Her email containing appliances included a "gas on glass" cooktop, hidden control dishwasher, and well-rated double ovens and microwave. Ours may have been the lowest-end stainless options, and quick searches of their model numbers indicated older models with less-than-stellar reviews. Hopefully this will be resolved quickly and easily....

    We kept a running list of all still-needed fixes that we and the PM both signed off on. Hopefully everything made it on that list...
    For peace of mind, we hired an independent home inspector to check out the house the afternoon of 8.24. We'll give our PM that report as well, and I suppose, add any items found to that formally documented punch-list.

    On the NVR (Homeside) front, I still haven't seen paperwork for the 15% loan...or anything regarding final closing costs/ amount of check needed at closing.
    They did send a paper copy of lock-in verification for the 80% loan on 8/22. I didn't know to expect that, as I thought we had taken care of all of it electronically. Sigh.

    It was such a crazy visit we didn't take any new pics (also because nothing has changed much since the sneaky visit a few days prior).

    The end is SO close!!

    Tuesday, August 23, 2016

    Week 14: Making it Prettier

    Week 14 - August 15 - 21, 2016

    Days 92 - 98

    Not much to report. It was more prettifying all week in preparation for our pre-settlement walk-through on 8/22.
    Hubs snuck in (open front door) on 8/18. Pics!
    Day 95 Front door view

    Day 95 kids bath

    Day 95 living room and dining room

    Day 95 Dining Room with corrected hallway ceiling drywall.
    Day 95 Kitchen View #1
    Day 95 Kitchen View #2
    Day 95  Kitchen View #3. How awesome is the custom oven move to the empty wall?
    Thank you bloggers who originally made that request!
    Day 95 Powder Room
    Day 95 Family Room with Study (playroom) door to the right.
    Day 95 Family Room View #2
    Day 95 View from master bedroom into bath and my WIC.
    Note the "accidental-on-purpose" door swing change.
    Day 95 Master Vanity
    Day 95  Master WC - teeny tiny!!
    Day 95 Master tub & shower with seat.

    Day 95 (Crappy) Landscaping and hydroseed!

    Tuesday, August 16, 2016

    Week 13: Making it Pretty

    Week 13 - August 8 - 14, 2016

    Days 85 - 91

    8/8 - text PM to ask for pics of newly installed appliances (crickets - turns out he was on vacay)
    8/13 - Door unlocked = surprise visit!
     So, we were sad that we wouldn't get to see any progress this week. But an invite to a friend's pool in the area meant a drive by/ door try. We were met with unexpected success!
    We ran through the house really fast, but managed to notice the following changes (stay tuned for pics):
    • Floors uncovered - looks amazing, but now nervous about them getting damaged!
    • Appliances installed - need to check these for accuracy. I thought we were getting "gas on glass", and we saw gas on stainless.
    • Cabinets swapped out for correct finish
    • Laundry-room door swing changed (YAY!)
    • Banister stained
    • 1 coat of paint on front door
    • Interior & exterior door handles installed
    • Yard grading
    • Toilets installed
    • Corrected cabinet and side panels around fridge opening
    Still to be done
    • Missing handles on garage door
    • Replace/repair dented garage door (a new find)
    • More coats of paint on the front door
    • Door swing on master bath
    • Drywall repairs noted previously (didn't check on these)
    • Landscaping & hydro seed (sigh)
    • Cleaning (obviously)
    • Final painting
    What else....
    • We finally locked in the interest rate on our 80% mortgage (doing an 80/15/5), but are still waiting for the paperwork on the 15% one...
    • We ordered our new king bed and bedroom set (moving up from a queen!)
    • Submitted my company's internet service request form (they pay for our access!)
    • Still need to order a fridge, coffee/side tables for the family room, our daughter's "big girl bed", etc. etc. 
    • Need to call the utilities about switching over
    • Need to call Guardian about final stuff. Not sure what this is for, but we were told to do this at our pre-drywall meeting, and I'm already a week late....oops.
    • Shop for rugs, blinds, curtains, garage door opener, dehumidifier, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. (basically, hemorrhage money).

    Our pre-settlement walk-through is scheduled for Monday (8/22) at 2pm.
    People. This is really happening!