Monday, December 28, 2015

The wonderful world of meetings....

I will admit I have been remiss in not posting each meeting as it happened, but as they took place in a very short amount of time and over the Christmas holiday, I hope you will forgive me.

OK, after the initial signing and deposit, we had another meeting with Brittany our Sales Rep.  This was to "option out" the house.  In other words to choose anything that was not standard.  We are going Elevation K.  But in reverse because of the slope of the lot. With the 2ft extension on the garage.

We have chose to add the Morning room to the kitchen, which will have the extended island and wall ovens.  Changed the one bedroom into a Study, moving the bath to between the study and bedroom, thereby widening the hall way and adding a tray ceiling.  Added the Roman shower (to get a shower seat) to the master bath, added the Sitting room the Bedroom to add some extra space as well as a tray ceiling.  Putting a Cathedral ceiling in the Great Room to at least make it feel bigger.  Skipped adding a fireplace as we never use the one we have.  And last but not least, doing a partially finished basement (as it was the incentive for the month) with a full bathroom.  We did not do the 2nd floor as we could not see paying $30k for an entire floor we will not use.  At the end of this meeting you sign the contracts and fork over the first big check.  And leave with a binder full of homework.  Seriously.

Fast forward a few days and we have the Guardian meeting.  This is the one Susie was looking forward to ever since she found out we could get a central vacuum.  As we have two dogs and have killed numerous vacuum cleaners over the years, she sees this as a gift from heaven.  We also splurged and got the 4 room speaker package.  I am going to love playing with that as it is wireless and can stream from different devices.  In the guardian meeting they will try and upsell the security systems, but it is totally your call.  I have 3 security systems, two have four legs and one has 10 rounds.  But we did go for the monitored fire system.  You also decide on the number and placement of any Ethernet wiring, cable tv, internet and phone.

Skip ahead another day or two and we met with NVR mortgage.  You don't need to use their mortgage company, but as the rates are competitive, it just simplifies the process.  Our mortgage person, Stacy, was very nice and very helpful.  However, because of all the new forms and disclosures, this meeting just DRAAAAGGGGGS.  Once you give them all the info, it should take about 30 days to get approval.  One tip, ask for a list of things they will need BEFORE the meeting, saves a lot of followup calls and emails later.

Then we met with the flooring people.  In Pittsburgh they are using Rite Rug.  Ok, here is the simple truth of the matter, you basic flooring choices suck.  No other word for it.  Be ready to shell out for even the most modest upgrade.  We were hoping to get the tile flooring that looks like wood planks, but at $27,000 (no that is not a typo) we skipped that and went for the high end vinyl planks that look like wood for a few thousand extra. When that wears out, we will replace it for what we really want at a substantial savings over Rite Rug's prices.  Upgraded the padding in the bedrooms and opted for a nicer carpet in those rooms.  Went for the middle grade padding and carpet in the basement as that room will not see too much use.  Rite Rug will have samples of the cabinets and counter tops for you to use in picking out the floors so it is a good time to look at that too.  If you leave this meeting with a bad taste in your mouth, you are not alone.

The next meeting is the final options meeting with Brittany,  we went over all the option we had already picked for the floor plan, Guardian and Rite Rug.  Then you go to the sample room and pick the cabinets, counters and exterior materials and colors. Ryan is using Timberlake cabinets in this development, we encourage you to go the their website and check out the colors and features.  We opted to upgrade the cabinets to the level 2 cabinets (live and learn, hate the cabinets in our current house) in the Rushmore cabinet with a Butterscotch glaze.  We are putting them in the kitchen and all the bathrooms.  Bit of a disappointment in that soft close drawers and doors are not offered, even as an option.   Now, counter tops were a bit of a disappointment.  They only offer laminate and granite.  No other solid surface options (we were hoping for quartz).  So in the Kitchen where they cover a lot of surface area we opted for the middle of the road laminate, thinking we will replace with something better in a year or two. The bathrooms we picked a nice granite we can live with.  For the outside, it pays to get in early, as you cannot have the same siding or stone (or brick) as your immediate neighbors or the house across the street.  We lost out on one of the stone choices because our neighbor picked it first, but second runner up is still pretty nice.  For the siding, we picked Irish Thistle for the batten siding in the front and the regular siding on the other sides (which will be a nice wide plank beaded siding).  The shake look siding on the one roof peak and around the front entry is going to be Sandy Tan.  With tan vinyl windows and all exterior trim and garage door in tan as well.  Honestly,  Irish Thistle, Sandy Tan, who thinks of these names.
We picked brushed nickle for the faucets and fixtures.

We got sent home with the electrical blueprints so we can see where outlets and switches will be to see where we may want to add or make changes.

Well, that is it for now until our 30 day meeting (30 days from when you signed the initial contract).  We will not meet with Ryan again until they are ready to begin and we meet our project manager and have the pre-construction meeting.  We hope to hear from NVR mortgage before the end of January.  Not really expecting any surprises there.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A deliberate decision or a just a happy accident?

Wow, where to start.  First of, this is the Mike of Sue & Mike.  Let me rewind a bit to what put us on this path.

We are your typical suburban couple, 40 something, married 20 something years. We have two hairy kids that have four legs and make a mess.  The house we are currently in was a custom built for us a little more than 16 years ago.  Your usual 2 story, 4 bedroom suburban home.  Nice big yard, big rooms for family gatherings, great location close to major roads and shopping areas.  But as time has taken its toll on my body, I find the yard more of a challenge than a enjoyable hobby and find the steps from the garage to the 1st floor and from the 1st floor to the 2nd floor more of an obstacle every day.

So, to paraphrase Lewis Carroll, "The time has come," the Walrus said,
"To talk of many things: Of shoes--and ships--and sealing-wax--" and a single level house.

We had been saying for a couple years that we would someday need a house with at least a 1st floor master bedroom.  Never really looked, just kind of kept browsing the market place.  No one seemed to be doing single level homes in Pittsburgh until recently and those with a 1st floor master were usually much larger and much more expensive than we needed.

Then this past spring, a new development was started just down the road.  It was to be an active over 55 development.  All single level homes and townhomes, built on a slab.  Now, we are not at 55 yet, but we discovered that at least 25% of the homes must be available to people under 55.  So one day, we stopped just to look.  We liked what we saw, so we went back again to look and to talk.  Next thing we know, we had a floor plan we liked and a lot we liked.  During the discussions we found out two things that put a stop to the entire process.  One, turns out you only own the concrete pad your house is on, so no planting trees or sheds or patios. Not totally a deal breaker, but when we were told the only fence we could put up was for an area about 12ft deep by the width of the house and that we could not plant grass in it, well we walked.  We love our dogs, they are big crazy hairy kids, who need room to run and play safely and a 12x35 ft run is not it.

However, the seed was planted, so we began looking a little more earnestly.  We would sit and look at houses on Zillow almost every night.  Then one day, while driving home, I saw a sign for a new Ryan Homes community called Highland Estates. I went online later to check it out and found out that it was being built on an old country club golf course that we knew of and that was very close to our first home (a late 80's Ryan townhouse) in Ross Township.  But what really peaked my interest was the fact that the 3 cul-de-sacs in the plan were going to be "Legacy" homes.  Basically, smaller single level homes for empty nesters. We looked at the various floor plans and talked about pros and cons.  Eventually agreeing on the Pisa Torre model best meeting our needs.

So, one Saturday, not too long ago, I stopped to take a look around.  I liked the "Legacy" cul-de-sac for phase 1, only 12 home sites and the side of the street I liked was very flat.  So I stopped in the model home to see what other info I could get.  That is where I met Brittany, the sales rep.  She showed me the map and what lots were available.  It turns out that one of the few lots left on that street could only fit a Pisa Torre model.  Seemed that fate was smiling on us.

So, I went home and shared all the information with my wife and we later went back to take a look at the lot and at the model home.  Next thing I know we are setting up the pricing be continued.