Monday, August 30, 2010

I Feel So Connected!

Hallelujah, we have the internet!  I feel so connected again, finally.  I'll be able to upload pictures of the house this evening and get them up to share.  Guardian should be arriving within the next three hours to finish the rest of their work and then I think that is finally going to be it for any installation types of visits that we need ... I hope.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

What a PAIN!

This has nothing to do with Ryan Homes. This has everything to do with AT&T and Time Warner Cable and doing everything in your power to simply get phone and Internet service set up. I am now going on week FOUR of scheduling service only to get a call the night before informing me that my request has been cancelled because my address is new. No, wait ... That was just Time Warner. AT&T must have felt it was perfectly acceptable to cancel my orders and just never notify me, leaving me to only discover this when taking the initiative to follow up on my own.

How come my neighbors have all their service set up and are just as new - if not newer - than us?! No one can tell me why.

So here I am, blogging away on my iPhone (thank goodness for 3G), but this won't cut it. I feel sorry for whatever manager is on duty tomorrow morning when my phonecall is answered ...

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Green Beginnings!

Landscapers arrived last Thursday (which was 9 days after receiving our keys, for those of you curious) to re-grade our yard, spray the hydroseed, and lay our front mulch beds. It was a pretty funny sight that evening; there are five of us that had our landscaping done that day and everyone was out in their 'yard', fiddling with hoses and sprinklers, getting the seed as wet as possible as we're all anxious to have some grass growing. We were fortunate at the old house to never need to water the lawn ... and we hadn't yet come across our two garden hoses ... so my husband quickly ran to Home Depot and spent close to $70 on two hoses and two sprinklers, one of each for the front and back yards. What we wish we had known was that the very next morning there would be a really nice 75' garden hose and fancy sprinkler left on our front porch by the landscapers. Darn it - would have been nice to save that money. So just a heads up - you may want to hold off just 12 short hours after your lawn is sprayed, as you'll most likely receive this as well (maybe check with your PM to make sure).

The landscapers told us not to have super high expectations from the hydroseed, but to keep it watered morning and night in order to get the most out of it as possible. Last night I was walking down the driveway and when I looked closely, I was able to see a few little strands of grass here and there. I called to my husband to see it - the beginnings of our lawn! Well lo and behold, I am not sure what exactly happened overnight, but this morning when I stepped into the garage from the house and put the garage door up, I could see grass slivers everywhere! It's like the amazing, growing grass! I am sure that we'll have to still re-seed mid-September ... and we're still a ways away from actually having a yard full of grass, but this was some major progress and I am impressed!

Move-In Advice

I consider myself a very organized person, so as I was packing up all of our belongings at the old house, everything was done with organization in mind and my focus was on packing things and labeling them so that I would have as stress-free time as possible unpacking once we arrived at the new house.

Regardless of how organized I tried to be, the fact of the matter was that I still ended up staring at a garage full of cardboard boxes, feeling very overwhelmed. We had the movers place some boxes in their designated rooms, but we had gone to storage on our own, making several trips with boxes prior to the movers coming in an attempt to cutting down on their time and thus the size of the check that I would be writing. It sure did pay off - they quoted us 6 hours originally and had everything moved and in at the 3-hour mark. However, as I mentioned, I was left staring at a garage of intimidating boxes.
 Here is where my (simplistic) advice comes in. I was really able to become most productive once my family and I took to the garage, putting signs up around the perimeter walls - one for each room. Being 6 months pregnant right now, my job was to label the appropriate place on the wall, then direct everyone else moving the boxes to the correct label. Within 45 minutes or so, we had a much more organized area to work from and could then tackle individual rooms in a very organized manner. I knew that night that I wanted to tackle baby rooms, so it was easy to ask helpers to go to the garage and only bring in the boxes in the 'baby room section'.

While this is such simplistic advice, I highly recommend it. It was at that point that we became ultra-productive and in less than 24 hours had 90% of the boxes unpacked, contents put away, and boxes broken down.

My Guardian Frustrations

I feel like I have a little bit of built up resentment towards Guardian right now, although it may not be fair of me to be upset with them for these things, but I'll let you be the judge of that.

We spent a decent chunk of money with the options we selected from Guardian and with that amount of money, I expected a certain level of service/assistance to come with it. The selections we made were:

* Outdoor speakers
* 5.1 surround sound speakers mounted in the ceilings in one room
* Pre-wired surround sound in second room
* Pre-wire run to a component closet
* Pre-wire for two wall mounted televisions
* Security system

Outdoor Speakers

I wish I could tell you how these work ... except all we have right now are two pieces of wire hanging down the exterior of our house where I assume speakers should be installed. Maybe it is my own fault, but for the first few days after moving into the house, I didn't call anyone about this because I just assumed Guardian would be out to install the speakers within a day or two. Nope. I finally called yesterday to set up the activation of our security system and mentioned that we still had no outdoor speakers. The gentleman I spoke to seemed shocked.

Him: "You have two blue wires, correct?"
Me: "No - two grey ones"
Him: "Grey ones? Just hanging there?"
Me: "Yes ..."
Him: "Hrm. I'm sorry about that. We'll take care of that."

It'll be another week until that is taken care of.

5.1 surround sound speakers mounted in the ceilings in one room / Pre-wire run to a component closet
I am not the most technical person, but I work in IT and have always been the one in our household in the past to set up any electronic components, etc with no problems. I expected to look in our coat closet (using the shelf to house our components), I expected to see raw speaker wire coming out of the wall, labeled for each speaker, but with a male and female end for each. What I see are what look to be component jacks - one male and one female for each labeled speaker.

After much confusion a few weeks ago, before moving in, and a call to our Guardian rep, I learned that I simply needed to unscrew each 'jack', push my speaker wire through it (which is connected to my receiver at the other end), and tighten the jack. Voila, should be as simple as that. However it wasn't. No matter how tighly we would screw those puppies shut, our wire would slip right back out. We were using the 16-guage wire that was recommended as well.

Finally, after a night of finally screaming out my frustration, my husband drove to Best Buy to purchase Banana Plugs for each piece of speaker wire - we needed 12 total. He spent some time connecting a plug to the end of each raw wire, then was able to plug the banana plug into the jack and finally, we had working surround sound speakers in the ceilings. This only took us over a week to figure out (sarcasm?).

I really feel that one of two things should be done, if not both. Guardian should have a rep come meet with you right as you move in - if not on the same day as your pre-settlement meeting - so they can show you exactly how what you have purchased will work. Additionally, at the time of purchase from them, they should provide you with literature explaining exactly what it is that you purchased, and what else you may need to purchase on your own, or ensure that you already own, to make sure that everything works smoothly for you. I don't know, just something I would expect.

So my advice is this. If you plan to even do the surround sound speakers - and if you have the means - I'd just go ahead and buy the whole kit and kaboodle from Guardian (i.e. Receiver, etc) and let them set the entire thing up for you. Doing this would have saved me hours of frustration, many trips to Best Buy / Radio Shack and about another $200 in materials to properly connect.

Security System
I can't provide feedback on this as Guardian cannot come and set up the security system until your home phone is installed - and that has been a nightmare in itself. More on this when I can comment on it.

All the Other Stuff
The pre-wires for the wall mounted televisions are great - no complaints at all. The pre-wired surround sound in the basement seems to be fine as well - just haven't gotten around to hooking up our receiver yet.

All the while I received our final bill from Guardian, asking that we pay our balance immediately. I am calling the billing department today to let them know that I cannot send them a check until their work is finished and in working order. I hope this goes over smoothly.

I've Been MIA ...

I've been DYING to get on here to blog and post updates since our official move-in, etc.  We are still without phone and internet service at the house and will be without it until this Friday, so I'll be doing a LOT of catch up with pictures, etc. at that point.

We're all in and pretty well settled with the exception of a few more boxes to plow through.  It is really starting to feel like home and I am absolutely loving the house.  I do have several topics to write more on, which I'll do this weekend, but I think some of it will be good tips and advice for those of you going through this process.  We've already come across some lessons learned, albeit rather minor.  Here are the top three topics I want to make sure that I remember to talk more in depth about:
  1. Guardian - Advice if you purchased surround sound pre-wiring, security system, and/or outdoor speakers
  2. Unpacking process
  3. Yard installation (hydroseeding and mulch)
Can't wait to blog more soon!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Keys, Keys, Keys!!

This afternoon we'll receive the call that we've counted down to for three months now - KEYS!  I was just looking back at my calendar and saw that we listed our old house for sale back on March 13th.  It will have been exactly five months to the day when we officially move into our house this Friday.  That's incredible to me.  In five month's time we have listed a house, sold a house, and built a house.  Extreme Makeover Home Edition has nothin' on us!  :)

I meant to mention this in my Pre-Settlement posting yesterday.  I am a nut about child-proofing our home and I am sure this is a little gadget that all moms are all too familiar with:
Seeing as how I feel that the number of outlets in this house is about 4-5 times the number we had in the old house, I stocked up on this outlet protectors the other day.  While they're really pretty cheap, I was relieved to hear yesterday that I can return them, and save the energy of plugging them in to all the outlets in the house!  The outlets that Ryan Homes now use have this little wall behind the opening for the outlet prongs.  The ONLY way that this 'wall' will open up is if both of them are pressed on at the same time, as it would be if you were legitimately plugging something in.  So no little fingers can go where they shouldn't!  This is brilliant to me.  My joke was that we're now safe with outlets unless my daughter gets ahold of TWO knives!  Anyhow, I love this, as I always hated scratching up outlet covers when the time to remove a plug came around.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Closing Day!

Happy Closing Day to us!!  This morning our paper chain officially has one link remaining - and that one will disappear tomorrow when we receive our keys and officially own our new home!

This morning we had our Pre-Settlement meeting with our project manager.  This meeting took exactly two hours and we were given a LOT of information during that time.  Information such as specifics about appliances, the AC and heating, hot water tank, fireplace, warranties, who to call when, what specific cleaners to use on what, etc.  As we walked room-to-room, we noticed a few more things that needed to be touched up and our project manager was happy to say he'd get right on them and they'd be fixed by tomorrow.  They were all minor things, such as:

- A little paint on the carpet of the master closet
- A chip in the door trim on the inside of the master bathroom
- A smude of paint on the handrail on the stairs
- Etc.

A couple things that I learned we need to do that I didn't realize, for whatever reason:
- Concrete sealant.  We have to apply a concrete sealant to our driveway, garage floor, walkway to front door and front stoop.  This is to keep away the absorption of water.  It is very important we do this before freezing season begins.  I have no idea what this will cost, but do know that you simply roll it onto the concrete with a paint roller. 

- Grout sealer.  I had just assumed this would be done by Ryan homes, but it isn't.  It isn't a huge deal and I plan to head to the house tomorrow night and do this myself while my husband is handling larger jobs.  We need to seal the kitchen, morning room, laundry room, and master bathroom.  Not a huge deal.

All in all we are absolutely, 100% thrilled and content up to this point.  I cannot believe that this is OUR home.  Even today I kept trying to convince myself of that, but kept falling back into the feeling that I was simply walking through a model or someone else's home.  I cannot wait to start getting our things moved in and settling down - just one more day until that begins to happen!

This afternoon we will drive out to the mortgage office and sign our papers.  Tomorrow, early afternoon, we should receive the call that our keys are ready to be picked up!  At that point we'll head directly to the house (with both cars already loaded) and start getting some little things unloaded and the painter will meet us there as well to get his work started.  On Wednesday we have several deliveries lined up as well as Dish Network coming out to install a new dish and set up our cable. 

It is really taking all of my will power not to try and convince my hubby to go to Home Depot and rent their $19.95 truck so that we can grab our mattresses from storage and just camp out in the new house prior to our formal move-in of this Friday!! 

I took a lot of pictures today - some of which will probably look like repeats - so please bear with me.

Morning room.


Living room

Living room, into dining room

Looking down the upstairs hallway.

Upstairs full bath.

Master bedroom.

Master bathroom.

Basement, looking into playroom.(In the Florence model this is typically unfinished storage, but Ryan Homes allowed us to do some minor customization by finishing the area and adding the French doors.  We still have a LOT of storage space left!

Basement, looking into playroom.


Basement full bath.

Basement, looking back at full bath and under-stair storage.

Playroom, looking into additional storage.

Playroom!  (I am DYING to get my hands on the setup and decorating of this room!)

Playroom, looking out into living room.

This pretty much sums up how we ALL feel - so excited that we want to do somersaults!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

T-Minus Five Days

Nothing much to report today, other than my EXTREME EXCITEMENT knowing that we will be spending our very first night in our house in five days!  FIVE DAYS!  Today we went and picked up our paint.  Sherwin Williams was having an incredible one-day sale - 40% off all paint.  Too good to pass up!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Last Weekend Without a House of Our Own!

Wow.  Technically, after today our house will be FINISHED!  Granted, we assume there will still be a few things for them to finish on Monday morning ... and our yard will be rock-hounded and the lawn hydroseed sprayed early next week.  However, the house-house will be DONE! 

We stopped out yesterday to see how things were going, as there were still a couple 'big' things to be completed.  One of the kitchen cabinet doors above the fridge arrived broken, so we had been waiting for the replacement.  We were awaiting the placement of the appliances.  We were also waiting for our shower glass to be installed in the master bath as well as the french doors in the basement that lead into the playroom, which is the customization we added down there.

The french doors open off of the main basement area into an additional area we had finished; this will be a playroom.  (Doors have paper over the glass right now for installation)

Kitchen with appliances installed!  I think it looks super sharp!

View of kitchen from the morning room.

Master bathroom tub and shower.

Master bath shower.  Not so sure about the space at the top of the glass door - about 1/2".  We'll have to ask our PM about this during the pre-settlement meeting on Monday.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Our Dates are Finalized!

We are less than a week away from our closing!  It feels as though this will be the longest week of all throughout the entire process, due to our extreme excitement. 

  • Monday. 8/9:  Pre-Settlement meeting with our project manager; Sign closing papers with mortgage company
  • Tuesday, 8/10:  Receive keys!
Movers aren't coming to our house until Friday, so in the days in between we'll have the painters coming in, deck and patio guys doing their thing, and we'll be unpacking some boxes that we've had here at my in-law's house.  All of the new furniture we ordered as well as the washer and dryer will be delivered earlier in the week as well.  Things are finally coming together!

My only piece of advice at this point in the game for those of you going through this process is to really communicate at this point and don't wait for your sales rep or PM to communicate with you.  We weren't getting a completely clear answer as to when we'd get our keys versus sign our closing papers.  Our sales rep said keys on Wednesday, but our PM said keys on Tuesday.  This was an important detail to us since we had painters and contractors to schedule.  After asking our sales rep again, she said some people get keys on the day that they sign the papers, some don't - at that point it is more up to the mortgage company.

After hearing that, we decided to just contact our mortgage company ourselves and ask.  Turns out they provided us with a phone number and contact name and told us we had to call and schedule a meeting time to sign all of our papers.  We would have never known this had we not taken control of the situation.  I'd hate to think that maybe we could have been delayed had we not taken this step.  So when you get to this point, just make sure to over communicate.