Friday, December 18, 2015

We've Broken Ground!

Ground Breaking

This week has been very busy with getting everything ready for Christmas break, etc., but we were so happy to see yesterday that they have finally broken ground on our new house!  We now have a big hole in the ground, some cement, and (what looks like) the beginnings of a driveway.  As of today, they have the footers done, the tiling done, and the gravel laid.  Next up should be walls and flooring.  We're having some good weather here this week (in the 60's in December... what!?!?) so I'm hoping that they'll have the concrete done by Christmas, but we'll see.  It's raining today so I doubt they're doing anything.

Also wanted to give a shout-out to our PM, who for the past couple of weeks has done a VERY GOOD job at communicating things with us and who is bending over backwards to get our basement modifications done (bath rough-ins relocated).  THANK YOU, ANDREW!

Here is some photos of our ground-breaking:

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

Ryan Homes Milan Ground Breaking

More to come soon - hopefully before Christmas!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Facebook Page

If any of y'all are building with Ryan Homes in the Dayton, OH region, we'd love to have you on our brand new Facebook group:

Hosting Changes

In order to improve search engine optimization in an effort to allow for maximum visibility of this blog (because I want EVERYONE to know what my experience has been like, for better or worse), I am making some hosting/domain changes.  My goal with this blog will always be maximum visibility and maximum transparency.  All changes should be complete by this Friday.  THANKS.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

First Official Delay

Construction Delay

We got a little not so good news from our PM this past week. We were scheduled to break ground late this week and my PM informed me that day that our construction start was going to be delayed a week. So, we have our official first delay. Which I'm not too shocked about, but definitely disappointed because we have had great weather here (60+ degrees) for the past week, seeing how this is December. Anyway, checked on the weather for next week and its looking like upper 40s low 50s. Still good temps for digging and pouring the foundation. I just hope it doesn't get delayed again, because we are ready to get this train moving. Our lease end and our move in date are lined up quite nicley right now and I am really hoping not to have to do a month to month lease because of delays... its outrageously expensive!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015


They've Staked the Lot

Drove by the site today and saw that they (finally) staked out our lot, so just sharing the pictures!  Hopefully breaking ground next week!  Everything seems to be on track, but I haven't heard much from the RH staff this week (which is odd), so who knows!

Ryan Homes lot Staked

Ryan Homes lot

Ryan Homes corner lot

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Electrical Changes?

Just wanted to pose question here:  have y'all talked with your PM about moving electrical outlets, switches, tying switches to different outlets other than per-plan, etc.?

Just wanted to know if you have asked to make these kinds of changes, how did y'alls PM react and were they able to accommodate your requests?

I am trying to setup a meeting with our PM to request some electrical outlet location changes (mostly just moved a couple feet over) and also there is a couple rooms I am trying to get the light switch tied to a different outlet.  Just trying to get a feel on what to expect here.... THANKS!

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Mortgage Approval

Got the word from NVR today... our loan application was APPROVED!

We have a few contingencies, but nothing major.  Just some documentation here and there to support some banking transactions.  Should be easy enough.

I have to tell you, this mortgage application has felt a bit like going to a new doctor for the first time - you have to reveal yourself in a very raw and vulnerable manner that makes you feel naked.  My philosophy on this though has always been... if you have nothing to hide than you have nothing to fear!

Anyways, this news couldn't come on a better day because TODAY is my BIRTHDAY!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! (if I do say so myself)

The news on our loan approval was the perfect gift!  Thanks, NVR!  Now, let's hope that you do not suck!  :)

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Pre-Construction Meeting Report

Pre-Construction Meeting with Ryan Homes

Well, we had our pre-construction meeting with our sales rep, Mindy, and our project manager, Andrew (who we met for the first time).  I definitely think our PM knows his stuff, has a very honest, no bull personality, and probably will keep a sharp eye on his subs and ultimately build us a very sound house.

Furthermore, and let there be no mistake here, Ryan Homes will tell you "no" a lot.  If you ask for anything during your pre-con meeting (or after your change order cut-off date in general), you'll get back a standard "NO" as a response.  That being said, occasionally they will approve something if you have a PM who is somewhat diplomatic and you have done your research and have a very good reason for your request BECAUSE YOU WILL HAVE TO CONVINCE THEM.  But, basically, the power rests with the PM, so their emotional state will undeniably have influence on how they respond to your request (they're human like the rest of us).  Further, Ryan Homes' philosophy is that they produce standardized houses that are easy and quick to build.  Their strict structural plans and change order procedures allow the builders to quickly build a home and move on to the next.  I completely understand that and respect their system because it seems to work for them. But lucky for us our PM was pretty understanding of our needs and was pretty accommodating.

The first 20 minutes of the meeting consisted of the PM explaining our lot plan, and confirming our selected features/upgrades/colors for the house.  He also gave us his contact information and relayed some other information on Ryan Homes' policies.  There were a few discrepancies in some of the features/upgrades we had chosen, but he made the corrections.  He did a pretty good job taking time to review our lot plan with us.  We took note of a couple of important things from this part of the meeting:

  • Our PM wants us to notify him if we want to visit the site, because he wants to be with us, but he basically told us "he can't do it every day."  I have no qualms in saying that I DO plan on checking in on the house quite a bit.  I'll send the courtesy e-mails to him and he can meet me if he wants (if I actually want to go ON the site), but at least for a while, I will be driving by the site nearly every day checking on things, taking pictures, and documenting everything.  That being said, I don't have a problem letting our PM know if we want to go ON the site though - there are liability concerns there and I get that.
  • We cannot pick our slab of granite.  Bummer.  However, I read on someone else's blog that we should contact the granite provider directly to get this done.
  • In the Milan (and maybe others), if you don't opt for the double-bowl sink in the secondary bath, you don't get the extended counter-top/cabinet.  This was very confusing because, on the plan, it says "opt. double bowl sink" and says nothing about the cabinet/counter-top length. We thought that even if we didn't get the extra sink, we'd still get the wider cabinet/counter-top.  When I brought this up in this meeting and found out otherwise, I asked if we could get the double-sink now, or (better yet) just the extended cabinet/counter-top, they were quick to tell me "NO" because their manager would not approve that change at this point.  OK I'm not really upset about this, and it was probably due to sheer confusion, but I think they should've at least considered my request due to the circumstances.
  • If you want pendant lighting above your kitchen island, ask your SR BEFORE your change order cut-off date.  They said this was an option and had to be elected as an "upgrade" and since we were past our cut-off date we couldn't get it.  This actually was NOT an option on our options list that we saw, so we assumed it would need to be addressed with the PM directly.  When we asked, we basically heard the "no, manager wouldn't approve this" answer again.  But I pressed the issue and the PM said he might be able to get the electrician to move some of our kitchen recessed lighting around so that we could convert two of the lights to pendant light over the island later on down the road.  I'd be okay with this but the PM said to follow-up with him about it, which I will!
  • The SR told me when we picked out the lot that our backyard would, for the most part, be flat.  During this meeting the PM showed me a lot plan that has a pretty substantial grade to it.  I would have understood a slight grade, but this was a bit much and threw me off. I think this might've just been a case where the SR didn't actually know what the PM was planning. A little extra communication between the two probably would've averted this shock. 

That was the first 20 minutes.  The PM finished his part and I pulled out my list of questions at this point. The PM sort of looked shocked.  I told him "I have some questions for you.".  He looked at my list and said to me "those should've been asked while we were going through everything." Couldn't tell if he was joking or not. I just wanted to wait until he got through all his stuff first so I didn't interrupt him. At any rate, I went ahead and read through my questions and he definitely seemed knowledgable and answered everything to my satisfaction. 

So here's the main points that came out of this part of the meeting:

The basement plan (it get its own paragraph because it is, BY FAR, the most important request we made)

If you've been following my blog, you know I have plans for my basement, and you also know that I can't follow through on those plans without getting our builder to move the location of the basement bathroom rough-ins (because the per-plan location is absolutely horrible and doesn't allow you to properly expand your basement).  See my post "Basement plans" to see what I'm talking about.  Well I asked about this and immediately got the "NO."  I wasn't about to give up easily on this one though.  I told the PM that if he couldn't move those rough-ins then I didn't want them because they interfered with what I wanted to do with my basement and it's not like they could just simply be moved later on.  I pulled out my design plan that I made up for my basement, which has the bathroom rough-ins moved to a location where I can expand the finished basement space.  To my surprise, he was actually very impressed with my drawing and gave me a lot of credit for it.  Props to him on that.  I told him that, in the Milan, they put the optional wet bar where I wanted my bathroom, so obviously somewhere in their plans there is a blueprint for how to run water/drainage to/from that area.  He looked at his papers and at my drawing and, after some more of me babbling on about "this one thing would enable me to do so much more with this basement," he told me he would investigate into getting it done.  Not a resounding "yes" but I think it's all good - he made a lot of notes on his plans and even made a copy of the basement plan I designed.  I'll keep ya'll updated on this as it progresses but I have a good feeling about it.  Thanks Andrew!

Other points

  • When I asked about installing outdoor PVC tubing for future landscape electrical and also when I asked about light dimmers I got back a "no". On both points, his response included something like "sure it can be done, on the day that you get your keys and you can have a whole team come in and do it or whatever else you might want."  Sigh... I just figured I'll need to work on developing a better rapport with him.
  • Ryan Homes apparently does not caulk the seams between your counter-tops and cabinets.... weird... they should do this.
  • Ryan Homes does not install flooring underneath cabinetry.  They stop at the edges.  Again they should do this. 
  • We're going to have a gravel driveway/walkway (most likely) when we move in since our house will be built through the winter and they don't want to pour that concrete until Spring... understandable.
  • They actually do fully dry-wall the garages now.  That is GREAT!  Very happy about this.
  • Our PM agreed to let us choose the basement window locations... we didn't even have to present an argument for this!  Thanks Andrew!
  • Our expected completion date is in mid-March 2016.
  • When we asked where our attic access was, our PM said he could move it if we didn't like where it was per-plan.  We chose to keep it where it was, but I did like that he actually offered to do this.

Final thoughts

I had to be pretty determined with our PM.  I called him out on a lot of things that he did the pre-programmed-like "no" response with.  Only because if I am to be told "no" when spending all this money, there had better be a good reason why they can't accommodate me.  Just saying.  The things that I did my research on are the things we should be getting - the basement bath rough-ins relocation, and (possibly) the pendant lighting above the kitchen island, depending on whether or not I convince the PM to have our electrician install our kitchen recessed lighting to make it work.  I probably COULD have argued enough to get the outdoor PVC tubing for future outdoor electrical wiring done, but I didn't want to stoke the fire much more with the PM all but agreeing to the basement plan.  At any rate, Andrew seemed very down-to-earth, that he knew his stuff, and he was consistent in his responses.  I tested this because I asked him a few questions that I had already asked the SR weeks before this meeting to see if I'd get the same answers - for the most part, I did.  Like all of the rest of the Ryan Homes employees, his first response was "no" to a lot of things but I think that's how they are all "programmed" by the company.  He seemed to be understanding on the important stuff, so there's that.  I got the impression that, when it comes to running his crews, he runs a no bull-sh*t kind of operation, and is pretty thorough on checking EVERYTHING.  Which, clearly, is what we want.  I was hoping for an AWESOME PM.... not quite sure just by this meeting if we got that, though I do believe he will build us a quality home in the long run.  Here's hoping we can develop a good rapport as construction proceeds.  Will keep y'all updated as things develop.

Well, I promised transparency with this blog (good, bad, or ugly), and you're getting it!  How have ya'lls experience with your PM's been?  Anybody had a similar experience?  Would love to hear some comments on this, thanks!

Side note...

I think that if you are happy with the cookie-cutter process that Ryan Homes uses and you go along with all of their cut-off dates and make NO non-standard requests, they'll love you - you're the kind of customer they WANT.  But, if you're anything like me, and like to make unique, personal touches to things... be prepared for a tooth-and-nail fight and to back up your needs with damn good reasons. Do your homework. 

And now, the list of questions (with answers)

Can I run my own low-voltage cabling?  If no, why not?
Not officially allowed per Ryan Homes’ safety policy due to liability concerns.

With the finished basement, can we move the location of the bathroom rough-ins?  Can we leave out the wall for the media room and have the basement extended fully to the foundation wall?  If this can’t be included in base pricing, how much would it cost to do both these things?
Should be able to get the bathroom rough-in relocations done, PM made notes and said he’d follow up with us.  No to the media room wall removal.

We don’t like the dry-walled in duct work in the family room that we’ve seen in some of the models.  Since we have a basement to run duct work through, can we make sure we don’t have this?
We will not have this per plan with basement, but follow-up with PM after ground-breaking to remind him.

We have several changes to the electrical plans to discuss, such as several electrical outlets we'd like moved or added in.  Can we discuss this now and make these changes (see electrical plans)?
Electrical outlets, etc. have to follow a strict code, but he said e-mail him the changes and he’ll do his best to accommodate them.

Can our porch be extended to a full porch?  Why, or why not?  If yes, what would be our cost impact?
No, it is not an option with our elevation and cannot be incorporated at this time as a non-standard due to structural requirements of the construction process.

Do the foundation footers and walls have rebar enclosed within them?  If not, why?
Yes, 2

How do you prevent garage floor cracking/sinking when having to backfill previously dug-out work areas?
They compact the backfill gravel prior to pouring garage flooring.

Will you ensure the foundation outer footer/wall seams are absolutely clear of debris before applying the black sealant?

With our house being next to a waterway, can you include a natural drain from the basement outer tiling out to the waterway?  If not, why?  If so, what is the cost impact to us?
Will consider this if it’s feasible for our lot plan, but follow-up with him after ground-breaking.

Do we have GeoMAT (or something similar)?  If not, can we get it?  If so, how does it help prevent basement leaking?
Yes, it prevents hydrostatic pressure from building up against the foundation walls by allowing water to drain down against the wall to the tile-work below.

What are the estimated milestones?  When is the planned closing date? 
Foundation/basement, framing and plumbing, flooring and electrical, cabinets and counter-tops, drywall, painting and finishing.  Planned closing date is mid-March 2016.

Can we visit the site?  Do we need permission?
Yes, but let him know when we are planning to do so.

What is the best way to reach you if we have questions or concerns? 
By text

Can we bring our own home inspector?  At what point(s)?  What is the proper procedure?
Yes.  Can do it any time, but must setup in advance with PM.  Inspector must be licensed and insured.

Will the sub-flooring be nailed, glued, or screwed?  Is this true throughout the entire house?  How far does this process go in preventing “squeaky” floors?
All 3, yes throughout whole house.  It prevents most squeaking, but there will be minor squeaking here and there as with any home.

What will our exact square footage be?

May we install, or request to have installed, underground wiring for future outdoor lights/other equipment?  If not, why not?  If yes, at what point in construction can we get this done?  Can we have PVC tubing ran under the driveway for future low-voltage wiring?  If no, why not?
This was a no, but not a resounding no.  If we do anything it must be to code and pass inspection and Ryan Homes is not liable for damage to the work we do.

Will there be deadbolts on all doors leading into the house?  Front? Garage? Morning room?
Yes, except garage

After construction is complete, can left over materials (tile, paint, hardwood, vinyl, etc.) be left on site for later use?

Can we have extra insulation due to our proximity to a main road (worried about traffic noise)?  If no, why not?
No, because the proximity of the house is not close enough for high traffic noise.

Will we have smooth or “rough” ceilings?  If smooth, is the “rough” option available?

Will we have dimmers available on any of our light switches? If so, where?

Which interior rooms will have door locks on them?
All bedrooms and bathrooms

Will there be a sump pump?  If so, where will it be located?  How is the location determined and can it be changed?
Yes, located in utility room corner per plan, can be changed but let him know immediately.

How many outdoor water spigots will there be?  Where will they be located?
2, one on front of house, one on back.

Are gutters around the entire house included? Are they covered? What’s the warranty like?
Yes, not covered, includes 1 year warranty (except for storm damage)

Where will location of the outdoor AC unit be?  Is this a heat pump system?

Can the locations of the water heater/furnace/sump pump be slightly altered to accommodate our future basement design plans (see plan draft)?  If no, why not?
Everything but the furnace can be moved.  Furnace is required to be next to return air duct which the location for is determined by the structure of the house.

Where in the foundation will the water/sewer enter?  If the locations are not desirable, can they be moved?  If no, why not?
Enter the front of the house in the media room but will be ran through the walls/flooring to utility area.

What kind of insulation is used in the house?  What kind is used in the attic space/roof?
R38 in the attic, R13 in siding, R11 in the basement

How many outdoor outlets are provided?  Where are they located?  Could we have one outlet tied to a switch on the inside of the house for Christmas lights, etc.?  If no, why not?
2, one on the porch and one by the back patio door.  Ask about tying switch in for Christmas lights prior to electrical phase of construction.

Are window blinds included with the house?  If no, can we get them (and for what cost)?
No, not offered, must get through third-party.

What are the measurements needed for us to buy a refrigerator?
35” wide, 71” tall

Is pendant lighting available for over the kitchen island?  If so, how much would it cost for rough-ins only?  For the full lighting?
Speak to Sales Rep.  If a change order can't be done, PM will look into having electrician position a couple of the recessed kitchen lights over the island so that we can convert them in the future.  Follow up with PM prior to electrical phase of construction.

Is there an option to get the glass-paned kitchen cabinets over the microwave?
Contact our cabinet provider to get this material.

Will the garage by dry-walled?  If no, can we get it fully dry-walled (and what’s the cost)?

Will the garage floor be pitched to allow water to drain away from the house structure?

We didn’t opt for the double sink in the secondary bathroom, but will we still get the extended counter-top so that we can install a second sink at a later date (this was a bit confusing on the plan)?

We will be mounting our family room TV above the fireplace.  What size TV would you recommend to fit the space that we’ll have there?  Can the mantle height of the fireplace be adjusted to accommodate a bigger TV?
50” TV or less, mantle height can be adjusted if need be, just let him know prior to construction.

Is a powered garage door opener (and remotes) included with our home?  If no, can we get it (what cost)?

Will there be light switches at both the top and bottom of both stairwells in the home?

Where will the attic access location(s) be and how will they be accessed (e.g. pull-down ladder, etc.)?
Bedroom 2, panel access (no pull-down ladder)

Can we still make modifications to the house’s build plan since we have not yet started construction (want to add bedroom #3 window and extended vanity in secondary bath if necessary)?
Not usually allowed but talk to Sales Rep ASAP if we want anything changed

How often will you be on site and personally supervising the sub-contractors?
Every day for visual inspection, but personally supervises critical phases (electrical, plumbing, foundation, drywall).