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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

No News Is Good News...?

Well, Is No News Really Good News?  In my business, no news means that no action is being taken... We've been in underwriting for a week now and we just got a request for clarification on a minor item.  I'm hoping this means they are at the end of their process and this is the final item before their decision.  Hopefully they didn't just start on the file and this is the first of many clarifications... Ugh.

Monday, February 25, 2013

New Granite Choices

Our SR called to inform us they got in new granite samples to choose from and it was not too late to switch.  We were originally going with Desert Brown but they are now able to get Santa Cecilia for the same price...Score!  I'm really happy about this change and I think the kitchen is going to look beautiful with this color.

Here are a few pictures of an Avalon with Cream Cabinets and Santa Cecilia Granite.  It may be hard to tell in these pictures but these are not the Butterscotch Glaze they are a Non-Standard Hazlenut Glaze.  They have a little more depth and texture.  Our floors will not be this red, they will be more of a dark brown.

Santa Cecilia on Cream Hazlenut Glaze Cabinets

Great looking kitchen but definitely needs some contrasting color on the walls

Saving Money on Technicality

I mentioned a Mysterious Credit in an earlier post.  As it turns out, the developer where we are building our Ryan Home (it's not a RH's development) requires a faux brick chimney for even gas fireplaces.  It serves no function and is merely cosmetic.  The price of the gas fireplace was already factored into the base price of the home.  First, I didn't know the fireplace was included and the Option price we added was for the faux chimney.  Second, I didn't know that to comply with the developers design requirements we would be losing the big beautiful arched window in the family room.  We didn't get the stone fireplace because it went all the way up the wall and would eliminate the window.

The SR already knew our concern about this and was working behind the scenes to get approval from the developer to not do a full faux chimney.  They approved it and we received a credit for the chimney.  It turned out to be a $3,600 difference.  Nice! Oh, but we got hit for a $275 charge to upgrade the vanity lights in the basement.  We didn't see the point in putting expensive fixtures in a basement bathroom but apparently you don't get a choice.  It's all or nothing with the lighting package.

In light of the credit (pardon the pun) we are asking to add the laundry room cabinets. It is still unclear to me if you get the laundry sink without this option but I am fairly certain you get the sink if you add the cabinets (UPDATE: A sink and cabinet was included in our community. Not sure if it is in others.).  We originally were not going to get these because our front load washer/dryer on the stands may be too tall to fit under the cabinets.  My wife saw a home with a counter top above the W/D and wants this in her life. Yes laundry cabinets and counter tops above the W/D it is.

Ours won't be this nice but this is the idea...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

In Underwriting...We Hope?

Not Yet Approved but Wishful Thinking

My wife called the LP a few days ago and they said they sent the file to underwriting.  My confidence in NVRM is absolutely shaken, so I don't know if I can trust or believe anything they say.  Based on the lack of attention to detail and time/expectations management I'm concerned about getting through this process.  I'm expecting some speed bumps.  Hopefully they don't become road blocks.  I guess we'll know something in 5-7 days (Guessing).  (UPDATE: It was 13 days...16 to get an emailed letter.)

Mysterious Credit

We were in the neighborhood and stopped by to see our SR.  There were still some questions we were waiting for clarification on.  She mentioned the possibility of a credit of some sort. She wouldn't clarify but said she was waiting on approval from her boss.  It was going to be 2 to 3 days before she would know anything.  So of course we spent some time trying to figure it out.  In the end I guess it doesn't matter, any little bit helps.  I'll post the outcome as soon as we find out.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

If Your Crawling Backward Are You Still Making Progress

Called NVRM again yesterday and guess what, they missed "their own" deadline again!  Still haven't submitted our file to underwriting.  Having been a Project Manager for most of my career, this really, really, really upsets me.  Say what you are going to do, and do what you say! 

I can forgive schedule slips due to good reasons.  I cannot forgive continued schedule slips due to excuses, poor time management and incompetence.  There are a lot of competent people out there looking for work...Why does it seem like the incompetent ones get hired while the competent ones do not?

Called our SR, which is always a pleasure to work with.  The one person in this RH equation that actually has to go out and work for their business...and ultimately pick up the pieces to satisfy the customer.  She assured me we are still making progress...which brings me to the title of this blog.  They were quoting a June, July delivery when we signed our Purchase Agreement.  We were really worried about the July becoming really August.  We have to be out of our current residence by the end of July.  August is not an option.  We did our homework up front so did our Production Release at the same time we signed our Purchase Agreement.  No wasted time.  Even by doing that, they are thinking a possible mid-July closing.  If we would not have followed our instincts, we would have most definitely slid into August.

The really frustrating thing with NVRM is that we signed loan docs Mid-January, thinking that is plenty of time to process a loan and keep us on track for a July move.  There has been no speed bumps for them.  No crazy curve balls or offshore accounts...just a garden variety loan app.  What was a May, June delivery became a June, July delivery and is now possibly a July, August delivery.

As many homes as RH sells, their Corporate Office must be getting the survey data but is doing nothing about it; as evidenced by the string of Blogs.  What will it take to finally get their attention and for them to fix this problem?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Frustrated with NVR wouldn't even begin to describe it...

So the NVR processor was ready to send us to underwriting last Monday. But the LO had a couple things for us to sign before releasing the file.  She said the first available appointment was Friday.  I said I didn't want to waste another week because they were already a week behind.  I even offered to drive the hour down to her office but she said we would not waste a week and it was Friday or the following week.

Why NVR thinks its a good idea to only have 1 LO per 200sq miles is absurd. Basically if you're in Cincinnati you're taken care of but if you're not...well, the proof is in the pudding. Our flooring rep is down in Cinci too and we couldn't seem to get a timely appointment (starting to see a pattern).  After all the issues I had with these two, I wasn't even going to entertain Guardian's excuses.  I bet their rep operates out of Cinci or Columbus. (UPDATE: Turns out he does).

Well she was right...we didn't waste a week, we are wasting two.  Spoke to the LP this evening and she just got the file from the LO today but had training all day.  So, maybe it makes it out tomorrow and instead of hearing something by the end of the week, it will be sometime next week (UPDATE: It wasn't, it was the week after).  It's already been over 30 days...oh, and their boss will not review our file to give RH a green light for construction until a few days after it has been submitted to underwriting (so basically approved).  Like many of you, we carefully planned this purchase around our existing lease, our kids school dates, our vacation time, the available time of our family members to help, etc.  Absolutely UNSAT.  RH some how can build an entire house in as little as 60 days (not all homes and assuming no acts of God), but their Mortgage company can't seem to process a loan in under 30 days.  I've been pushing papers for a living for sometime now and I just don't understand this.  Something is just not adding up.

My Recommendation:  What ever NVRM incentive they are offering's not worth it.  My credit union has their underwriting department in the same building.  There are many banks out there that are hungry for your business.  Regular LOs have to hustle to make money.  They don't have business handed to them on a silver platter like NVRM.  Where's the Time and Attention?

I'm really concerned that if we are having this much trouble now, we may be in jeopardy going into underwriting and worse when we get to closing.  I've read about all the issues others have had and I'm concerned (unfortunately I read about these issues after we decided to go with them. It seemed like it was easier to keep going then to start over. At this point I'm starting to second guess that decision).  I even mentioned to the LO that I had read about issues prior to closing and asked what the primary cause was and what we could do to avoid it.  I didn't get a straight answer and she tended to blame home buyers for doing stupid things.  However, what I've read about was oversights by NVRM, sloppy paperwork, forgetting documents, signatures, etc. I don't want to become a statistic.  This process is stressful enough.  Does that crossing your fingers thing work?

Impatiently Waiting

Met with NVR again on Friday to re-sign some paperwork.  From my earlier post, we were supposed to go to underwriting last week but got pushed to this week because a few papers had to be signed.  We had to wait a week for the LO to meet with us.  This seems to be a trend amongst all their affiliates... there seems to be a staffing issue.  With the unemployment rate as high as it is, I don't think the issue is a lack of job applicants.  I have a novel idea... Hire enough personnel to meet the demand.  There seems to be little incentive for them to do that because they have a captive audience.  Give me a second while I get off my soap box.

So during the re-signing last week, there was something we discussed and I emailed the LO yesterday to make sure she didn't forget.  Not only did she forget but needed paperwork for it, she failed to mention last Friday.  I could have gotten it to her immediately.  So I send the paperwork to her today to get an out of office reply.  So we are waiting on this LO again to go to underwriting and they needed this paperwork that they both forgot about and failed to mention they needed.  In all fairness, I would probably forget things and make these mistakes too if I was spread as thin as they are.  This is ridiculous and seems to be the trend, RH/NVR wide.  Again, it's not like the future of our family is on the line here...

Playing the "What Model is that?" Game

I Know, I Know, Pick Me...

I was reading a post from another Blogger and she mentioned her and her husband would stay sane during this waiting period by playing the "What model is that?" game (I'll put the link here later but it was 172 Waverly).  It's funny because my wife and I were already playing this game.  Over the past month we've systematically visited every RH development from Indianapolis to Cincinnati and everywhere in between.  At this point we can describe the kitchen's, bath's and layouts of every model in the tri-state area.  We started this before we purchased and during the Selections process.  It really helped us to know exactly what we wanted in our home.  It also made making trade-offs a lot harder.  Things you thought you could easily do without, were harder to cut once you had seen them.  We still made the cuts to get inside our budget but they were tough.  Lots of debate and compromise (I say compromise but my wife got everything she wanted...).  Again, this is a great couples therapy exercise.

Hopefully we will have a production date soon and start posting construction photos.  I'm sure for many that have been through the process, when they look back, it seems like the time went by pretty fast but all this waiting and idle time is driving me crazy.  I'm a person very focused on Action and hate being idle.

Saturday, February 16, 2013


The low voltage wiring contractor Ryan uses is called Guardian (The Direct Competitor to ADT). They do your cable and telephone jacks but also offer home security, home entertainment and centralized vacuum systems. 

A lot of the gadgets they offer can be obtained aftermarket or through a competitor at a fraction of the cost.  Many of these items are wireless, and more flexible (save the vacuum system), so we were not going to add much from Guardian.   I had a budget for this company but after nearly a month they had not called me to set up an appointment.  They finally called and their earliest appointment was next month.  Unsat!   This made it a very easy decision...Delete Key on my Spreadsheet.   Thanks for saving me money Guardian!

Not sure what Guardian is trying to do to us but...

This pretty much describes it...

I don't want to jump on the bash Ryan bandwagon but this is the largest area they are failing in.  From one standpoint I agree with Ryan's decision to stick to their core competency of efficiently building homes... On the other hand, the sum of our buying/building experience includes the interaction with their sub-contractors.   If Ryan doesn't give us a choice of who can perform this work and the sub-contractors provide poor customer service, then it reflects poorly on Ryan.  5-10 years from now I won't remember Guardian but I will reflect on all the trouble I had with NVR, Rite Rug and Guardian.  Those memories will be projected on my buying experience with Ryan homes, making it difficult to recommend them to others.   You must truly have the patience of Job to deal with the amount of stress you are already under with buying/qualifying/building a home but to deal with incompetent subs...this is unnecessary, frustrating and shows a lack of general business acumen on Ryan's part.

UPDATE: Contacted my Insurance Company and they have special offers through ADT.  They have some great products, to include Wireless Systems that incorporate Fire, Security, and Carbon sensors.  Through the discounts we would receive, their equipment is cheaper, their monitoring is cheaper and I don't have to sign a 3 year contract.  Lesson:  Call your insurance company and see what they have to offer.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Flooring Close Call

OK, not that kind of close call but...

We submitted our Production Release last week and Ryan decided to stop putting the hardwood we selected in homes with basements. I guess they float the engineered wood instead of nailing it down. With the OSB sub-floor they were having a lot of splintering and buckling issues.

This change in policy is a big problem because the cream cabinets we chose do not look good with lighter floors (unless you like a more country look, which is not what we were going for), which was all that was left in our budgeted price. After peeling me off the ceiling, our flooring rep said she could do the next level flooring for the same price.  We had originally liked another floor but went down to save money.  Due to this change of events, we decided to add the flooring in the formal Dining and Living room as well.  The logic before was that if we put in a cheaper floor and they float it, then we could just pull it up and run actual hardwoods throughout the entire first floor when we were ready to spend more.  Now by having nailed down 3/4" hardwood... trying to add more later would be very difficult to match.  Oh, and we certainly wouldn't want to rip up a floor rated to last at least 25 years.  This is going to cost us money now but save us in the long run.

Aside from that, finally a price difference that landed on our side instead of theirs.  Score!  I'm sure their is an expense right around the corner that will eat up the difference.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cross Your Fingers - Next Stop Underwriting

Cross Your Fingers....orrr... Hold your Breath... Either Way

Spoke with one of the loan processors today and they are wanting to forward our file to underwriting early this week.  They expect something back within 5 to 7 days.  This is the nerve racking part. 

We are crossing our fingers... not like it's a big deal or anything.  Just our dream home and where we plan on raising our kids; creating memories that they will have for the rest of their lives.  No big deal...and why can't I talk to this guy behind the curtain?  Who is this underwriter guy?

I'm sure many of you have gone through this and have the jagged fingernails to prove it.  I'll see you on the other side.  Hopefully we will have a production date soon as well.

For those keeping track:  We purchased on January 20th, applied for the loan the next day with NVR and signed the Production Release a few weeks later.  We won't get a Production Date until NVR gives Ryan a Green Light.  Then they can pull permits and get their factory to start pulling all the materials and building the walls. 

If you didn't know, Ryan has a plant (would love to see this in person) that builds the walls in a controlled environment with fixtures to ensure they are perfect (or as close as you are going to get using imperfect construction methods).  Then they ship them to the site.  It seems to take about 3 to 4 days to frame the house once they begin.  I used to build homes in Vegas as a teenager and let me tell you, that's fast.  I'm looking forward to it.

UPDATE:  I guess the folks at NVR weren't all on the same page.  They are looking at sending it to underwriting next week. 

Hello World!

Hello World, this is our Blog's Debut!

We are going to try to document our home building experience here for others to use for their journeys and to serve as a time capsule for us.  We have chosen Ryan Homes, a fairly large builder in our area.  We have shopped for some time and decided on RH for the value we seemed to be getting for our money.  There were other contributing factors too.  Maybe we'll get to a few of these during our future posts.

Like many of you that may be looking at building a Ryan home, or those of you that already have, I'm sure you read and followed a few of these blogs.  We have benefited greatly from other's blogs and were able to make much more informed decisions by doing so.  We discovered many great ideas and several lessons learned.  Our hope is that anyone reading this will do the same and maybe we can return the favor to the next person looking to build their dream home.

On that note, we are building a Highgrove and so far we have only found one other blog on this home.  We have visited several Ryan Homes communities and there are only a handful of SR's that have even seen one.  Even Ryan doesn't have a great selection of pictures on this model.  The rumor is that the VP of the company owns one.  If it is good enough for him, then it is good enough for me.  At any rate, hopefully our experience will help others.

We have chosen the Highgrove floor plan due to the value it brings from a price per square foot perspective.  We looked at other models and found that once you add all the structural options you want, the other homes are more expensive than the list price of the Highgrove

For our family with 3 kids ranging from 4 to 15, this home gives everyone a generous and comfortable living space.  We are renting our current home and when the kids have friends over, there is nowhere to get away.  It's been especially challenging since they've gotten older.  We hope the Highgrove will help with this problem and make both the kids and more importantly, the parents happier.

Although I haven't actually been inside one, the pictures I've seen really tell the story.  I really enjoy the two story spaces (Foyer and Family Room) and all the light that comes into the main living areas from these rooms.  The 9' ceilings provide for great spaces that don't make you feel closed in (which is a staple for most Ryan Homes).  The basement includes 9' ceilings as well which really makes it a true living space.  I'm happy about that.

Probably like most people, we didn't create this blog until we were pretty far along in the process. Not including shopping around with other builder's and looking at resale homes... we have been working with Ryan for about 3 weeks already. We have already signed our purchase agreement, picked out all our options, colors and flooring and approved our Production Release (PR).  We are just waiting to be put on the production schedule.

Highgrove Elevation "C" w/Left Side Entry 3 Car Garage

The picture above is of a Model with the same Elevation we are getting.  This is Elevation "C" with a 3 Car Side Entry Garage.  The other thing I like about this image is that it shows the garage on the left, where ours will be.  We are not getting this color brick and it looks like their roof is lighter but it should be pretty close.  Also, notice the hipped roof.  I like this more traditional look.

Rendering of Highgrove Elevation "C" with Solarium and 2 Car Side Entry Garage

This is the rendering of the home from the front.  We are not getting the little addition on the left side.  That is a solarium, and for one, they don't offer them anymore due to Energy Star reasons, and they are a bit too swanky for me.  Besides I don't have a Baby Grand Piano to put inside it.

Well buckle up and enjoy the ride, here we go!