Monday, April 30, 2012

It's a small lot after all....

<read to the tune of It's a Small World>

The only drawback for us in picking our neighborhood is the size of our lot. We couldn't pick a Verona because the neighborhood only has 50-foot lots available, and the Rome just baaarely fits (kind of like me putting on my jeans after eating at Wendy's). It's a big house, and that means we won't have very much side yard and back yard. Here are some photos of our lot to illustrate:

(See, it doesn't look that small when it was first cleared - Hi Hannah and Alden)

With the outline of the house marked, it becomes a little clearer. 

This picture was taken from the end of our property line in the backyard (the morning room is in the foreground). They will of course grade the backyard down, but there is not a lot of room on either side or the back. 

So, with all that said, why are we staying with this lot? There are several reasons to stay where we are: 

1. We had a choice between seven lots. Three had a private backyard, but all were at the bottom of a hill, creating a long uphill walk to the neighborhood amenity center. One was a bigger corner lot, but was at the intersection of two main roads in the development and would see a lot of traffic. Another had a big green electrical box in the center of the front yard (and a big ugly dead tree and rocks that might not be able to be removed). Another was across the street from the construction trailer (and they will be building here for several more years). The final lot was next to ours, and we liked ours a little better. 

2. If you look closely at the last picture, you can see the amenity center in clear view. It is an easy walk from our home. Lauren and I both know that if we had to get in the car and drive there, we would be a lot less likely to use it. Now, it is only about 100 yards from our house. 

3. The street we live on is a cul-de-sac, and will not be a major traffic artery. We only expect 5-6 home owners to drive past our home - the rest will use other streets. 

4. Our lot is pretty flat (once the back gets graded) and other than the corner lot, every other lot was about the same size as ours (and a couple are a little smaller). We aren't that big into landscaping and yard work (less for me to mow!) so that's a bonus. 

So, we'll feel a bit of a squeeze, but we're O.K. with that. 

The Pre Construction Meeting (aka "Are we allowed to do that?")

We came to our pre construction meeting with a list of 17 questions (hey, I am a former newspaper reporter so I am prone to asking lots of questions). We took several suggestions we had seen from other blogs, and came out with a few ideas of our own, and went from there. Our project manager Abe is a younger guy, but he's pretty laid back and willing to work with us. He was fine with the bonus room modification we wanted to make and also chimed in with suggestions about the best place for our rear floodlight as well as where to put the dedicated outlet for our chest freezer in the garage.

Abe also spelled out all of the measurements for the bonus room, just so we could have an idea for furniture placement. (and as we found out later, it will definitely mean a different layout than we expected). He was also open to adding additional outlets that had not been discussed previously. We are adding outlets in the walk-in closet of the guest bedroom downstairs, and in the walk-in closet next to the bathroom in the master (the other walk-in closet in the master is being eliminated for the bonus room). We are also adding an outlet in our expanded pantry (we'll have plenty of room for that).

It took about 90 minutes, and Abe walked me briefly through our lot. (the phone and cable green poles are thankfully not on our property line). We also discovered just how small our lot will be, but I'll detail more about our lot in my next post.

Guardian: not really our bag...

We had our Guardian meeting the same day as we made our flooring choices, and after blowing our budget there, we were even more conservative than we expected with Guardian. It was pretty clear that from the start, we weren't going to pick a lot. Luckily, our sales rep was not very pushy and understood where we were coming from.

We elected for the wall mount in the family room for our flat screen TV, and a couple of additional cable outlets, but the total was less than $600. We've heard that some folks have spent thousands of dollars on surround sound systems and security systems, but we decided to pass for now. We may do some of that later, but we're content with what we have.

Flooring choices...

So, you know when you schedule your flooring meeting and you think, "I don't want to spend more than XXX dollars," well good luck when you go to the flooring meeting.

That pretty hardwood that complements your foyer? It's extra. So is the upgraded carpet, tile, and a lot of other things. We ending up surpassing our initial budget for flooring by more than $2500, but it is pretty easy to do.

We went to Rite Rug, and our sales lady Susan was pretty helpful. It is pretty overwhelming to stare at colors and try to figure out how it all turns out. After a while, we started looking like these guys:

She said "hard, wood." Heh-heh-heh. 

Yes, the Rite Rug appointment was more challenging than getting those guys a date. But we made some decisions, and learned a lot. Here is what we chose: 

Maple Cognac cabinets with Uba Tuba granite and tile backsplash. We have upgraded Brazillian Cherry hardwood in the hall and downstairs areas, and vinyl in the kitchen (hardwood and tile were another $3000 in the kitchen and morning room, and to be honest, we weren't that crazy about the tile we saw). 

Here's a photo of how it should look (we don't have the diamond-shaped mosaic, only the pewter clip the Rite Rug lady is holding on the backsplash): 

We were surprised that we chose a vinyl as dark as we did, but that wasn't the only surprise we had in store. We found out that the upgraded master bath (with the seat in the shower) didn't automatically come with the fancy tile they had in the model. That was another $1150. I could see the disappointment on Lauren's face, so we went ahead and pulled the trigger on that. Here's how it will look:

We stayed with the white marble sinks in all the bathrooms, but did upgrade the cabinets (Andover Maple Spice) and the ceramic in the secondary showers as well.

Then came the biggest sticker shock of all. I had a feeling we'd have to upgrade our carpets, but we didn't quite realize what we faced. The basic carpet only had a 5 year warranty, and didn't pass our test. But the level 1 upgrade (which had a 10 year warranty) was $2000 more (to do it throughout the home). We went ahead and did the level 2 upgrade, which actually felt significantly nicer and was $800 more on top of that. Oh, if you are considering the level 3 upgrade, prepare for $4200 or so.

See that carpet - there must be flecks of gold in there. 

All in all, we left a little surprised at the additional cost, but we had run some numbers beforehand and extended our budget a little. And, we should be pretty satisfied with the carpet. It's soft enough to sleep on (of course we might have to do that at first...). What surprised you about your flooring meetings?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Exterior Colors...

To me, this was one of the most challenging parts of this process. How do you pick the right colors based on tiny swatches and try to match them up? In reality, we couldn't. Lauren and I drove around several neighborhoods to find the right colors for us, and even then, our first choice wasn't allowed because it wasn't one of the accepted schemes for Ryan (trust me, it wasn't that crazy...).

But, our SR Amber was very helpful, and gave us some time after we made our choice to drive around and look at it (or at least a very close representation) on another house. So, here is what we went with:

- Siding: Sandy Tan
- Shake Siding: Stone Mountain Clay
- Shutters: Brown
- Front Door: Black Fox (but it is really a dark brown)
- Trim: Autumn Beige
- Stone: Kentucky
- Gutters: Mocha

So, based on those choices, this is pretty similar to how our house should look (except we will have a porch and the door and shutters will be brown instead of black):

So just imagine a porch there, and this should be pretty close to our colors. We hope. :)

Our selections....

My wife Lauren and I approached our new home with certain mindset. Knowing we were going to be here for a while (my son is 6, and we expect to still be living here after he graduates college), we decided to go ahead and load up on several options now. Many other bloggers are deciding to wait on options, and add them themselves later, but we wanted to go ahead and get things done now. My dad is very handy around the house, and even he advised to do some things now, since they are easier to do now than wait until later. With that said, here are some of the choices we have made:

- Elevation L with porch
- Upgraded garage door and opener
- Dedicated outlet for freezer
- Hardwood in foyer, mudroom, closet, and powder room and hall into kitchen.
- Morning room
- First floor bedroom and bath (more details here) and added french doors instead of 2-panel door.
- Granite countertop in kitchen (Level 1)
- Crown molding in kitchen
- 10 ceiling fan rough-ins (morning room, downstairs bedroom and study, family room, four bedrooms upstairs and two in modified bonus room)
- Tile backsplash in kitchen
- Black appliances (less fingerprints that way)
- Gourmet island
- Extended patio (12 x 14)
- Extra window in family room, modified bonus room, and Bedroom 3
- Spindles along stairwell (Lauren loves this!)
- Enclosed loft to make Bedroom 5 (for our son)
- Extra vanities in upstairs bathrooms
- Upgraded shower with seat in master bedroom
- Tankless water heater (included)
- Blinds in every room (Ryan provided this for us)
- Upgraded faucets and fixtures throughout the house (brushed nickel)

Many of these were included as incentives, and our sales rep Amber really worked with us to make it fit our budget. We decided against the washer and dryer because of bad reviews on the washer we were getting, and also passed on the fireplace (not really needed here in NC).

So, we've added a lot, but in the long run, we think we'll be happy we did.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Three reasons why our Rome is "Kind of a Big Deal."

Just so folks know, the title of our blog isn't meant to brag. My wife and I are huge "Anchorman" fans, and we like to quote the movie a lot.

Besides, Lauren, just like Veronica Corningstone, is from Asheville, NC. We could talk about that movie all day, but that's not why you are reading this blog. Why is our Rome "Kind of a Big Deal"? There are three things that makes our Rome a little different than most (but not all):

1. The porch. Ryan has just started adding porches to the Rome floor plan recently (no one else in our neighborhood has one yet), and we just happened to spot one with a porch at another nearby Ryan community. (this is a good example of why it is always a good idea to visit as many nearby Ryan communities as you can, because you may learn things you wouldn't know otherwise). What does a Rome with a porch look like? We saw one in a nearby neighborhood. Check this out:

To quote Ron Burgundy "Don't act like you're not impressed!!!" :)

2. The guest bedroom downstairs. This is another option that Ryan has added, at least in our local market, in the last six months or so. When we first started considering Ryan Homes, this was not considered to be available, but we found out two months ago that it is now available. This option is not for everyone - it removes the dining room and living room to create the bedroom and full bath downstairs. But it was the right move for us, because my parents and Lauren's parents both live more than two hours away, and we also wanted the flexibility of a downstairs bedroom for the future (we're going to be here for a long time, and we wanted to have an extra bedroom in case life circumstances change). There is also one other major benefit for us. The pantry nearly doubles in size (it is a walk-in pantry that we think measures at least seven feet wide). That will be a great benefit for us. Again, this option isn't for everyone, but it made the most sense for us. As Veronica says "When in Rome..." (and it is really appropriate in this case...)

3. The bonus room modification. This change is something Lauren and I did on our own. When we first considered buying with Ryan, we wanted to build a Verona. However, our development only had 50-foot lots available, and Veronas, being a wider house, needed more room. We loved the closed bonus room (we aren't big fans of lofts with three younger kids) that the Verona offered. But with that home not available, we wanted to replicate that in a Rome. How are we going to do it?

- We are converting Bedroom No.4 (based on the Ryan floorplan on their website) into the bonus room.
- To add space to that room, we are removing the sitting area and second closet from the master bedroom. This squares off the master bedroom so that the southern wall (the wall with the bedroom entry door) is continuous all the way to the east side of the house.
- We've added a closet at the wall adjacent to the master bedroom (where the sitting area would have started), to add storage space to the bonus room and a better sound buffer to the master. Including the closet, the room goes back 25 feet from the front of the house to the adjacent wall to the master bedroom.
- The bonus room does have a bit of a bump-out, from where the laundry room is (that's a structural requirement that Ryan would not/could not move). The bump-out is five feet long, and comes out a little more than two feet. That makes furniture placement a bit of a challenge, but the room will now be big enough for the Rock Band concerts that our family loves. (although, unlike Ron, I am not an expert at the jazz flute).

What do you think of our modifications and changes? Let us know.

Determining the neighborhood...

Lauren and I made the decision in the summer of 2011 to find our "forever" home. We were outgrowing our current home, which had just over 1500 square feet and required the girls to share a room. We also knew that the girls, then heading into fourth grade, were zoned for a not-so-desirable middle school (to put it mildly) in the future. So, we knew that even though selling our current home would be a challenge, we had to take the plunge in the next year (to make sure we could get the girls in a better school by the fall of 2013).

We wanted a home in a great school district, located in a neighborhood with great amenities that wasn't a great distance (more than 30 miles) from uptown Charlotte. We started at the end of June last summer looking at homes, giving us plenty of time to research neighborhoods, determine the right price, and also figure out exactly what we wanted in our next home.

So, we spent the next several months visiting more than 50 neighborhoods and walking through 30 model homes (yes, we counted them up). We thought we would stay within the Charlotte city limits, but then I found a neighborhood listed in Davidson that caught my eye. It had a great amenities center, and also had some of the best schools in the Charlotte metropolitan area. The neighborhood was also eligible for USDA financing, which means no down payment and no PMI. (more on that later). That would be a big bonus for us, since we were facing a large payoff on our current home.

By September, we knew we wanted to live at The Farm at Riverpointe. (see the pool and amenity center below):

Then, we just had to determine the right floorplan, and get our current house ready to sell.

A short introduction...

This is our blog about our Ryan Home. We were inspired to begin our blog based on the vast amount of knowledge we have gained through other Ryan blogs that we have seen for homes in North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio and other areas along the East Coast. (special shout out to Noey, who actually lives in a neighborhood near us, for her very detailed and helpful blog). We hope we can pass along some helpful things too.

A quick note about our blog - we were so excited about our new home, but we were afraid to jinx everything by starting our blog before we closed on our current home. We signed the contract for our Ryan Home in late March, but didn't close on our current home until April 27th. So, posts about everything up until the actual groundbreaking (scheduled for May 1st), won't happen the day they occurred, but again, we were afraid to jump start the blog and then see it fade away if the closing fell through (we saw that happen and know how disappointing that must be). 

So, anyway, we hope you enjoy the blog. We'll have a flurry of posts in the next week or so to catch up on everything, and can't wait to join the Ryan Homes conversation. 

Kevin and Lauren