Monday, December 31, 2012

10-month inspection report

We had our 10-month inspection, and most of the niggly little things have been dealt with (including the drywall nail pops and cracks). There are a number of significant outstanding issues that have yet to be resolved, but that is mostly because of the time of year.

The biggest problem we have concerns one of the joists that runs under our kitchen and out to the morning room at the rear of our house. Apparently, the joist was installed upside down. This has caused all sorts of creaking and bowing under the resilient flooring we have in this area. It is possible there may be other joists with the same problem, but it is impossible to tell because the rest of the first floor is hardwood. The Ryan Homes fixer says they are going to “flip the joist” under the kitchen floor. I was quite alarmed at this because it sounds like an enormous amount of work, but the guy seemed to think it wasn't too much of a big deal. I guess we will find out!

There is some kind of knocking noise associated with having a tap on in our guest bathroom. Attempts to fix it failed, with the sound basically moving around from one area of the wall to another. Lots of head-scratching on that one.

Like many other folks, our fireplace is subject to the recent Monessen recall. We have been contacted by the dealer who is meant to do the repair, but we don't have a scheduled fix because he is waiting on a part. It's a really bothersome time of year to be without the fireplace, quite frankly. The fireplace has never really performed as expected, with a relatively weak flame on even the highest setting.

I will blog again once the joist issue has been resolved.

Monday, October 1, 2012

10-month inspection due, landscaping

We are coming up on our 10-month inspection/final review meeting. The list of issues with our new home is very short. Basically, we have a few stairs that are creaking too much (particularly going from the first to the second floor) and there are a few areas where the floor is creaking and deforming more than is really acceptable (mostly on the first floor). We have one window (on stairs to basement) that shows evidence of water seeping in and a small problem with the way the dishwasher was installed, but that is essentially it if you exclude the usual drywall-related issues.

Frankly, we are extremely happy with the build quality of our home. To have such a short list of minor problems is a testament to how well Ryan Homes can build houses. I imagine this is one of the advantages of going with a large builder - they build so many homes that they've had the chance to iron out almost all of the problems at the design and construction phases.

With that said, I'm not all that impressed with the landscaping aspect of the work. We have sod everywhere that was laid atop the loam common in these parts. The preparation of the soil prior to laying was substandard. Existing weeds were not treated with any sort of weedkiller and because no rolling was done (of the soil or the sod after it was laid), various areas have sunk over the last few months to make the ground uneven and a little awkward to mow. The lawn has been attacked by voracious grubs and populated by crabgrass and field grass.

The choice of plants in the front of our house was not well thought out. Closest to the front porch are variegated leucothoe, but then we have physocarpus opulifolius (eastern ninebark diablo) in front of them. They are growing quickly and will soon obscure the leucothoe completely. To make matters worse, no landscaping fabric was used beneath the mulch and weeds have been fairly rampant.

My wife has been hard at work managing the mulch beds, and she plans to move or replace the plants in front of the house next year. To address the problems with the lawn, we've decided to bring in Scotts Lawn Service to help us manage weeding, feeding and insect damage. It will probably take a year or two to get it looking the way it should.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

New neighbor watch #6, black top

Work continues on our new neighbor's Savoy. Most of the siding is done and the house has such a delicious-looking buttery color it makes me wish I could spread it on my morning toast!

Meanwhile, the final bit of Spring Summer work has been done on our own place with the fine black top added to our driveway. This picture shows the new coat, with our new neighbor's house in the background:

Thursday, July 26, 2012

New neighbor watch #5

The concrete bases for the basement and the garage were poured the day before yesterday and framing began this morning. I am expecting the first upright piece of house to go up very shortly. Unfortunately for the workers, it has started raining at Sadsbury Park. I'll try to post a picture later today.


It's 5:45pm and the guys are still working:

Friday, July 13, 2012

New neighbor watch #4

As I write, the foundation concrete is being pumped into the formwork of the home of my new neighbor:

I've never seen so many concrete trucks in one place:

I setup a webcam in the window of my family room so my new neighbor and her family can watch the action. Exciting!

Monday, July 9, 2012

New neighbor watch #3

After breaking ground on the lot for the nearby Savoy last week, work began on digging the foundation hole in earnest today. In the last few hours, significant excavation has taken place and I'm confident they'll be putting footings in before the end of the week.

Our house is no more than about 200 feet from where the new one will be built, but houses from Ryan Homes are so well constructed and sealed for maximum energy efficiency that I can hear very little of the construction noise coming from the heavy machinery at work. Mostly it's just the occasional beeping you hear when a vehicle is reversing.


Here's a picture after work had ended for the day:

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Dog pee problem

Does anyone have any advice for getting rid of the brown spots on the grass caused by dog pee? We've got around half a dozen spots, mostly on the verge that wraps around our corner lot. The sod has been down for about two months and some areas are starting to go brown because of the hot weather, but these spots are obviously caused by puppy peepee - trying saying that 10 times really fast!

Also, I'd like to ask dog owners how they feel about “no dog” signs. My wife and I like dogs, but our lawn apparently doesn't. Is it bad form to put out a little sign saying “no dogs on the lawn” or something? I'd love to hear your comments and recommendations for what to do.

Monday, July 2, 2012

New neighbor watch #2

As I have mentioned previously, the second single family home to be built in Sadsbury Park (excluding the model home) will be a Savoy. I'm excited to report that moments ago (3:31pm ET), ground was broken on my new neighbor's lot. I missed the exact moment ground was broken on our house, but it was cool to see it happening for our new neighbor.

Friday, June 22, 2012

First power outage

It's been five months since we moved into Sadsbury Park and in that time we've had absolutely zero interruptions in our electricity supply. That changed half an hour ago when we had a complete loss of power for about 15 seconds. It happened literally 5 seconds after I'd walked in the door and deactivated the alarm.

The air conditioning restarted about 5 minutes after the power came back, and then about 10 minutes later there was a slight dip in the lights and AC. Twenty minutes later, everything seems fine. Apart from resetting a few clocks, and waiting for the router to reboot, there don't appear to be any problems.

It might seem like a trivial thing to blog about, but this blog is read by other members of the community and they may wish to compare notes.

New neighbor watch

My wife and I are looking forward to having a second single family home in Sadsbury Park, as there is currently only us and fifteen townhome units (with more coming soon). The day before yesterday, a surveyor came and marked out the lot of our new neighbor with those pink-ribboned stakes we are all familiar with. It won't be long before we see some construction activity!

Meanwhile, I discovered that the historic farmhouse to the rear of our property has been sold and I hope to meet the lucky new owners soon. It's a beautiful house that has been painstakingly restored and updated.

It is quite exciting to see our little community growing. It reminds me that I need to find someone to help me convert my propane grill to run on natural gas!

Friday, June 15, 2012

More pictures

After your kind comments yesterday, I thought it would be nice to give you more pictures. These do a good job of showing how the exposed foundation wall was painted:

We cannot afford to do anything with the interior of the house this year, so we plan to be “outside people” as much as possible for the time being.

Thursday, June 14, 2012


Ryan Homes have finished painting our shutters (dark green) and other “spring work” that needed to be done. Since the house is now essentially complete (just driveway asphalt to go) I thought I'd share a picture of the front with you:

Please let me know what you think!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Mowing and new construction news

I've now mowed the lawn three times. The second cut was a week after the first; however, I did the third cut after two weeks. The third cut was much easier than the other two, presumably because the grass has had a chance to get happy with its new home. The patches that had slightly different shades have more or less blended in with each other. I've been delighted with the performance of the cordless lawn mower and although I wish it was a bit bigger, it nevertheless gets my recommendation.

For the last couple of months, Ryan Homes has only been selling townhomes in Sadsbury Park after the company temporarily suspended sales of single family homes. Today, however, we had the good fortune to meet a soon-to-be new neighbor who will be building a Savoy quite close to us, which means Ryan Homes will start selling the single family homes again. My wife and I are looking forward watching the new home go up over the next few months.

In case anyone in Sadsbury Park is interested, we learned today that our tax assessment appeal with the county has gone through and the amount has been lowered to a realistic figure. My thanks to the good people at Larmore Scarlett for their assistance in this matter.

Monday, May 21, 2012

First cut

Three weeks after getting our sod, I was forced to give the lawn its first cut over the weekend. I purchased one of these bad boys from Amazon [link]:

It's a 19-inch cordless mower. I've used gas-powered and corded electric mowers before, but this was my first time using one with batteries. To do the entire lawn required the equivalent of four batteries. The mower comes with two Lithium-Ion batteries that each take around three or four hours to fully charge. The mower worked very well indeed. I spent about four hours actually cutting the grass and it again struck me how unexpectedly large our yard is.

One thing that irritates me a bit is that it seems like some of the rectangles of sod are not the same. Obviously different areas of the yard will grow in different ways depending on shade, water and wind; however, it was clear that the type of grass was not consistent. With seeding and feeding over the years, this problem will sort itself out so it isn't really a big deal. Another problem is that the landscapers did leave some rather large gaps between some of the sod rectangles. Again, seeding and feeding will solve that problem.

Friday, May 18, 2012

What are these?

Please excuse my complete lack of a green thumb, but can anyone identify these two plants for me?



Here's another picture with both in:

Examples of these were planted in the front of our house by Ryan Homes' landscapers. I can just about tell the difference between trees and grass, but that's about it. I know that at least one of you fine folks can help me out here.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Sod and landscaping

After what has seemed like an age we finally have our yard sodded and landscaped:

The finished yard looks larger than we expected it to, which is nice. Our old home had almost an acre of land and our new lot is only supposed to be roughly one third of that, yet it seems like we have almost as much lawn. Perhaps it is just a welcome optical illusion!

Watering takes roughly four hours. The water pressure isn't that great here, so I can only run two oscillating sprinklers at a time. I bought a couple of those one-into-four adapters with four little shutoff taps so that I can switch the flow between several sprinklers. As I mentioned in my previous post, I'm worried about the giant water bill we are going to get. I woke up this morning literally overjoyed that we'd had overnight rain. I reckon rain saves me about $8.

The landscaping looks pretty good. We have a corner lot, so the landscaping company gave us quite a few little shrubs and bushes to go down the street sides of the property. Our front porch is flanked by two magnolia trees. I hear they can grow to be quite large, so I will have to learn how to properly trim them.

We are still waiting for Ryan Homes to come and do our exterior painting. Various areas of the two porches need white paint, the exposed foundation walls need painting (I didn't realize they would be doing that) and our shutters need to be painted to match our front door. When it's warm enough, we are supposed to be getting our driveway finished with a finer asphalt. Next time you hear from me, I hope to have a couple of pictures with everything finished!

Monday, March 19, 2012


With the warm weather well and truly upon us, I expect Ryan Homes will shortly be coming back to our home to work on the exterior. Our project manager promised to have everything pressure washed (lots of filth left over from construction). We have many areas that need painting, including all the shutters and columns.

Our package included having sod put down over the entire yard (although our lot isn't very large), but before that happens we are trying to work something out whereby rainwater from some of our downspouts can drain into a pipe buried underneath the yard. At the moment, the water pools near our garage and also flows between the garage and the morning room. Since we are planning to put a patio in this area, we want to make sure rainwater doesn't screw it up.

With all this happening imminently, I suppose it is almost time for me to go out and buy a bunch of hoses and sprinklers. I contacted Pennsylvania American Water about trying to make sure we don't pay sewer charges for water used for irrigation, but they basically said they would only be able to make a small deduction for one month only. Greedy bastards.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Utility bills

I'm sure prospective buyers are interested in how much the utility bills are, so I thought I'd blog about mine. I imagine a few existing Ryan Homes owners will be interested in comparing as well. We get our gas and electricity from PECO and our water and sewer from Pennsylvania American Water. For February, the bills came in as follows:

  • PECO Gas: $160
  • PECO Electricity: $100
  • PAW Water: $30
  • PAW Sewer: $55

First of all, it is worth bearing in mind that the Michener II is a fairly big house with over 3,000 square feet in our configuration. On the flip side, it has been a very mild winter thus far. The gas bill seems rather high, but part of the problem is that I work at home so we have the heating running most of the time. We've shut off a few vents for areas we don't frequent (like the basement), but it is still higher than we'd like. Electricity is a little lower than I expected. Water seems reasonable, but I was very surprised that the sewer bill was almost double the water bill. I'd be interested to hear about what other people are paying for their sewer service, particularly the ratio between water and sewer costs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Just the drapes to do

Apart from drapes (so expensive, will get them soon) we have finished a room. Woohoo! At last, we have a habitable guest room with a new bed, dresser and bedside table. We probably need to get a lamp and a television, but otherwise it's all good. The light isn't good, but here's some pictures to gawp at:

In case you're wondering, all the furniture came from Raymour and Flanigan's Geneva collection.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Empty dining room

I'm sorry I haven't posted for a while. After moving in, the house continues to be in a state of disarray. Boxes are all over the place and I swear we'll still be sorting through them all come 2013. We spent almost everything we have on the nice house, so there wasn't really anything left over for furniture. It'll take us a while to accumulate the things we are missing and replace the things that don't look right. By way of example, I present our dining room:

It looks awesome, but its functionality is somewhat impaired by the lack of a number of key features.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Although we settled on January 12, it has taken until today to get a temporary mailbox. I guess this is one of the problems with being the first buyers in a new development. Until now, the United States Post Office has been unable to give us an “official” address or deliver mail. I've been driving to the nearest sorting office to pick up my mail by hand, although some of it has apparently been lost or returned to sender. Anyway, thanks to my project manager we have a mailbox:

After it was put in, I went back to the sorting office and informed them. They said they would start delivering our mail from tomorrow and it should only be a few more days before our address gets added to that all important computer system of theirs.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Laundry room

Here's a picture, at last:

You can see how tight it is in there with the tub, but it fits and that's all that matters. In case anyone is interested, we went with a Samsung WA5471ABW/XAA top-loading washer (love the enormous capacity) and the matching DV5471AEW/XAA front-loading dryer. They have a smaller footprint than most of the fancy machines out there today, but they don't skimp on capacity and options.

If you're lucky, I might show you a bathroom or two tomorrow!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Why no pictures?

I still haven't taken any pictures of the inside of our new home yet, although I found an image on the web that gives you some idea:

We are gradually making inroads, but it is going to take forever. Give me another week, and I should be able to take pictures of at least some of the rooms to share with you.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Moved in

It has been a week since we moved in, although I use the term loosely. All our stuff is in the house, but there are about eleventy-billion boxes to sort through. My wife has managed to unload and put away all the kitchen stuff and she has done a tremendous job. We've had the chance to cook a few things in there and everything has worked out just fine. The house is wonderful, and we love it to pieces.

We've had one or two problems. The fridge we ordered would not push back far enough because it was being fouled by the side-mounted waterline spigot. Our project manager came back and fiddled with it a bit, and now all is well. A more serious problem arose when we ordered a washing machine and dryer. Modern machines need around 36 inches of depth when you factor in the dryer vent, but our laundry room only gave us about 31 inches before the door got in the way. Part of the problem is that we have a laundry tub, which means we are unable to move the machines away from the door. That being said, it's our feeling that in a brand new house, there should be room to spare in a laundry room once the machines are in. In the end, we ordered a washer/dryer combo that was among the shallowest and then got one of those flexible dryer vents. It's still a tight squeeze, but the door can now close unhindered.

Our house is a mess at the moment, so I have no pictures for you at this time. You'll just have to be patient!

Thursday, January 12, 2012


So, we've done the deed. We are now homeowners again. Closing took about an hour and was fairly straightforward. We did have one surprise, however. Shortly after we move in, we are expected to pay around $4,500 in school tax to cover the period between now and the summer. We were not told about this, so we will have to wait a few months before we'll be able to afford a new bed, washing machine and dryer.

Stopping by the house afterward, we were delighted to see everything all ship shape. We found a surprise gift from our sales and project managers, but I'm not going to spoil the surprise for anyone else who might get it too.


In fairness to NVR Mortgage, we were told about the interim tax payment back in October when we received a Good Faith Estimate; however, it was not something that was brought to our attention in any verbal discussions we had. The moral of this story is to always read all the little bits of paper you get from your mortgage company or broker, and make sure you understand everything. Make sure you understand what is included in closing costs, what is rolled into the mortgage payments, and what costs (if any) are not covered in either of these.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

1 - Anticipation

We close tomorrow afternoon. If I wasn't on the eighteenth day of a nasty cold/flu/whatever, I'd probably be bouncing off the walls. As it is, my excitement level goes up to eleven.

Right up until the last minute, we're still getting the odd call or email from NVR Mortgage asking us for bits of information or documentation they already have or should've asked us for ages ago. Just in case, I've copied every single document I've ever sent them to a USB flash drive that I will take with me.

After we've settled, we plan to take a car load of “sit around stuff” over to the house. Basically, it's loose stuff that we'd rather move ourselves. I'll take another car load of stuff over on Friday morning and then spend the whole day there receiving various deliveries and getting the cable hooked up, etc.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

2 - Penurbia

One of the things that attracted me to Sadsbury Park was the penurban setting. Although fairly close to the city of Coatesville, it has a distinctly different flavor. It sits in the fringe between rural Pennsylvania and the Philadelphia suburbs and exurbs. It's far enough away from metropolitan areas to have fairly dark skies, which appeals to the amateur astronomer in me, but not so far away that good shopping and services aren't available. There are farms and stores nearby where one can easily source local produce, but also large grocery stores aren't more than 10 minutes away. The area is rural enough to be peaceful, but suburban enough not to feel isolated.

Monday, January 9, 2012

3 - Ryan Homes staff

I first met our Ryan Homes sales manager back in early May, 2011. Since that time, he has gone out of his way to make our home building experience go smoothly. He has essentially functioned as our guide and advocate, making sure we got everything we wanted for the home and gathering essential information to make sure the lender was given an accurate and fair appraisal of the home's value.

Our project manager has delivered a fabulous home. He's kept us informed about every stage of the construction process and answered all our questions. It looks perfect, and my sense that the quality of the construction is very good has been confirmed by independent inspections taken before the drywall and settlement phases.

Although we picked a home from a list of pre-designed models and then applied options, our two managers have somehow managed to deliver an experience more similar to custom home construction. The finished home reflects our needs and desires just as a custom design would have, thanks to the work of our sales and project managers.

4 - Space

In 2008, my wife and I moved out of a 2,500 square foot single family home into a 998 square foot apartment. This was only supposed to be a temporary arrangement so we weren't all that bothered about it. We had to put at least half our stuff in storage and use one of the rooms of the apartment to store the rest. In 2010, we moved to a bigger apartment with an extra bedroom that gave us a bit more breathing room because events beyond our control had conspired to keep us renting.

On January 16, we will be moving into our new home. When you include the basement, it has well over 3,000 square feet. Our stuff will finally come out of storage and there will be plenty of room to put everything. Our old house was built in the '50s with a somewhat idiosyncratic design that wasted much of the space; however, these new houses are tailored to the modern family and designed to make better use of the available space. In fact, this was an important factor in the decision to buy a new house instead of an older one.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

5 - Stone

Echoing the look of our fireplace and the farmhouse next door is our exterior stone. I would've like to have seen it extended further down the side of the house past the side porch, but I think my wife will be able to tidy it up with some smart landscaping.

Friday, January 6, 2012

6 - Kitchen

I'm really glad we went with the highest level of kitchen appliances. They all look superb and expensive. The double oven is going to be extremely handy when it comes to Thanksgiving and Christmas. The “Uba Tuba” granite looks like a million dollars, and we're going to be getting it sealed before we move in. The “resilient” flooring looks and feels like proper tiles, but it's going to be much easier to maintain. The combination of recessed and counter lighting works really well. I can't wait to put the fridge in there next week to complete the picture.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

7 - Morning room

The morning room will definitely be my favorite room in the house. The amount of light we'll get in there is wonderful, and the view is reasonably attractive through these big windows.

The room has two speakers fed by the surround sound system in the family room, and we will be installing a ceiling fan (see previous post) soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

8 - Fireplace

Nothing really needs to be said. It's absolutely gorgeous, even with the crap left on it by the guys still working there. All I need to do is flick a switch and boom - a beautiful log fire. Worth every penny. It looks like it's been there for a hundred years.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

9 - Basement

Before renting, my wife and I lived in a house with a small, unfinished basement. I had to duck or dodge to avoid whacking my head on the solitary light hanging from the low ceiling. I hated going down there, but I had to do it all the time because our laundry stuff was down there.

In our new home, we have an enormous finished basement with an eight-foot ceiling, recessed lighting and a full bathroom. Part of it will be used for storage, another part for housing a treadmill and an exercise bike, and the rest will eventually feature a home cinema setup with a large screen, 7.1 surround system and a little fridge. In the mechanical area, I'll have our home networking equipment and a freezer. An unexpectedly large egress window provides plenty of natural light.

After pounding away on the treadmill for a few minutes, I'll be able to walk straight into the bathroom for a shower and then flop down in front of the TV with a cold drink from the fridge. Maybe it'll take a little while to buy some of this stuff and set it up, but in the old house it was never an option. With a couple of sofa beds, it'll make a great spillover bedroom for guests too.

Monday, January 2, 2012

10 - Getting out of the rent trap

Time to begin our 10-day countdown. Coming in at number ten is my relief at finally getting out of the rent trap. I know a bigger percentage of people prefer to rent nowadays, but I've always been a great believer in home ownership. It's something deeply ingrained in the English and I am no exception. Home ownership gives you a sense of liberty because you are basically free to do whatever you want with few constraints. Our home will be part of a community that has a home owners association, but the power of the HOA is really limited to what happens beyond the walls, especially in the case of a fully detached house like ours.

My wife and I have been renting for four years, and we've hated it. We hate having noisy neighbors who drive noisy cars. We hate climbing eleventy-billion steps with all our shopping. We hate not having a garage for our cars. We hate not having central air conditioning. We hate sharing the water and heating bill with families who have eighteen showers per day and have their heat turned way up with all their windows open. We hate having to close our windows because people are smoking nearby. We hate having half our stuff in storage. We hate that the portable, in-wall air conditioning units are basically nests for stink bugs.

The worst thing about renting, however, is that you essentially pour money down a drain. A house is an investment. For the most part, your monthly payments go toward the purchase of your home. But rent payments aren't an investment at all, so when we saw our rent go up to the same amount as a mortgage payment, we knew it was time to buy.