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Thursday, January 31, 2013


I've gt some more eye-candy to show off.  The sod is down now, they laid it around the entire house... very nice!!!  I meet with the PM next week, after things settle down for him to look over some more improvements and completed punch-out items.

Thursday, January 24, 2013
So close!

So close!

We are getting much closer now.  My PM and I have set up weekly meetings to cover defect resolution and give updates.  We are set to have our "reveal" or "final walk-through" Feb 18th.  Settlement is set for Feb. 27th.  Not too far out now!

I get Elevation N is a little undocumented, which is something I feel a sense of leadership about, but certainly can't take any credit for.  I'm hoping the pics I've posted will be of great help for someone considering this design (I already know there's at least one other who loves it and should be building just up the road).

Just a few more touches and she'll be complete!

Saturday, January 19, 2013
Furniture shopping

Furniture shopping

Today we went out furniture shopping.  So many rooms to fill up with stuff that the ol' apartment caliber stuff just won't do.

It's true, Elevation N has captured our hearts.  I've become very infatuated with it so much I love taking  tons of pictures with every visit.  The cottage style, with hip roof, thick pilasters, country porch, tin roof, double gable is charming and will be a treat to roll home to any day of the week.

With my previous render stage, I feel I've really come to understand the transitional cottage style, and hope to capture it even more so as we get into the interior decorating stage.

Morning Room

While I can't afford to just drop cash on a just-add-water approach to filling up the Rome with furniture, I have been able to triage whats most important, namely the high traffic areas.  In our home, in our lifestyle, the Morning Room will be heavily used.  So we are starting there first.

Out & about, today we stopped by Virginia Wayside Furniture.  We've toured a number of other places, like Ashley, Haynes, Rooms-to-Go, and others, and yes those places occasionally have some nice stuff, but today was a refreshing sight for soar eyes.  This place was chock-full of quality furniture, with a plethora of options, custom order capabilities, and raw inspiration.  Also, I'm normally turned off by sales people, and would rather shop alone.  But today, we were met by Barbara, and we all had a ton of fun working with her as she helped us relate to what we were looking for.

We've come to accept that the morning room, being a center piece to our lifestyle, should deserve something durable, beefy, fun, lasting, and yet still fit within our country-cottage idea.  With that, the distressed pedestal table felt like a perfect fit.

We've scoured the internet for pedestal tables, and while there were some good ones, they either seemed too spendy, or too cheap.  One of the biggest concerns was getting a table we could really use, beat up over time, and know it would only look better with age.

Well today we found that table... a Nickols & Stone Antiguan 50" round, with 20" leaf.

Originally, when we assessed this table, we weren't thrilled how the base took up a large amount of floor space.  But we loved the cherry-stained wood top, and thick, black, distressed, pedestal base, and chunky apron.

I honestly don't know one furniture manufacture from another, but I can tell a quality made product when I see it.  Apparently Nickols & Stone has a great reputation, so I expect we are in for a life-long addition, good for many omelets, hash-browns, waffles, or whatever!

As for chairs?  Well we didn't get any.  Yes, the ones in the picture above are amazing.  And for being solid wood, they were extremely contouring and comfortable.  Sadly, they were over $400 a piece... currently too rich for my blood.  Maybe later I'll splurge, or find something more reasonable.


Perhaps strange to some, but the porch is next on our list for high traffic areas.  In fact this was the primary reason we went with Elevation N and perhaps top of the list for house requirements.  To that we are looking at this porch swing.

The red in the image above is nice, but fortunately PorchSwings.Com sells a variety of colors.  I think the Sage Green color will tie perfectly to the black door, and green siding of our home.

Everywhere Else

Yes, we still need practical stuff, like the refrigerator, and washer dryer, but that stuff isn't as fun to shop around for as the fun we had today.

Until next time...


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Locked... under lock & key

The markets were moving up, but I wasn't too worried about that.  Instead I was worried about locking a rate on a good credit score.  Nothing is worse than paying for something I think is fascist and oppressive  kinda like federal taxes.

First, let me acknowledged a couple things before getting into the details.

  1. I negotiate in an adversarial manner, and rarely accept price as advertised
  2. A lot of information is exchanged during a negotiation, so it's unlikely I can fully capture or express it here
  3. NVR, or more specifically, Chris, my loan representative, did a great job and is worthy praise, but more on that later.
I'm approaching 30 days to settlement, which the lock rate is generally a little lower, but knowing rates are on a rise, albeit this could be temporary, I knew I would be eligible somewhere between 3.25 and 3.35%.  I don't care for buying down points, or any of that funny business, instead I am interested in vanilla, and if I could get that rate, and the deal was at or better than the last Good Faith Estimate they provided me late Nov, then I'd be happy.  

Some background...

Back in August, when I first met with Chris, I was steamed about a couple things.  The NVR rate was high, and the closing costs were high, which to me seemed hardly competitive.  I was definitely on track to seek alternate lending.  Into November, NVR sent me a revised GFE which was substantially better, and reasonably competitive.  Based upon that, I abandoned my search, and communicated to NVR my intent to use their lending service.    

What a relief!

With online rates, compared to the NVR incentive, it was true I'd be getting a better rate elsewhere, but I also noticed a lackadaisical attitude from other lender reps.  It's quite clear, NVR has an obligatory interest in your loan, whereas other lenders may not.  Is the additional cost worth the extra convenience?  Right now, I say it is, and that's why ultimately I went with NVR.  Also, when rates dropped since August, they seemed to compress with NVR's rates.  So the difference ended up negligible.

Recently, I contacted NVR to get the lock underway.  Part of my rate was predicated upon having a score greater than 740.  In August, I was at 737, and we both thought I would naturally rise above this number after the 5 to 6 months, should no derogatory activity occur on my report.  Well, I'm here to say, no derogatory information occurred, but my score actually fell to 722!  


Here's my issue.  The FICO score, the credit bureaus, are profit making machines.  Their scoring algorithm is proprietary, like secret sauce.  Intellectual property has its place, but if you have an entire nation of mortgage hungry folks, trying to survive, put a roof over their head, or even get a small bite of that American pie, then all that can radically change because some puppeteer alters the algorithm on a whim.  The FICO score is a LIE!  It's a device everyone uses, and has to use, yet nobody knows how it is actually calculated.  If nobody knows, then how can you really believe the FAQ... "How do I increase my credit score?"  

In my case, I followed the FAQ to a T, e.g. reduce my revolving credit, keep my credit inquires within a short period of time, yet I was surprised to find out, my score had actually fallen, and it fell a lot.  How could this happen?  Was it the result of having a mere two additional credit inquiries?  In my opinion, shopping around for competitive lenders should increase your score, as it shows you are diligent about your financial picture, and also your aptitude for repayment.  

Also, before speaking with NVR, I went out to check my report.  I also purchased my score from TransUnion, and Experian.  I was already paying Equifax monthly for their score.  TransUnion shows I have a score of 840, while Experian shows my score is 864.  OK, let me call back NVR and tell them we are good to go.  Except, as it turns out, I wasn't good to go.  NVR uses CredCo to pull credit scores.  When you visit CredCo's site, you get the perception they sell services specifically to mortgage companies and state contradictory claims for their flagship CredScore product.

"The supplemental data featured in the CoreScore credit report is sourced exclusively from the CoreLogic proprietary information databases, the largest and most comprehensive collection of real estate, rental information and public records in the nation"

"Our databases contain nearly 1 billion consumer transaction records covering 99.9 percent of the U.S. population including county, municipal and special tax jurisdictions, landlord/tenant data, payday lending, installment and rent-to-own information, residential properties and liens and consumer-specific bankruptcies, liens and judgments"

"...generates the industry's first "composite” credit score for mortgage origination risk"

"Analysis conducted using a representative sample of loan applications demonstrates that the use of CoreScore can increase the number of loans accepted and new revenue generated"

"and increases new lending opportunities by identifying previously hidden credit behavior that could improve a consumer’s credit profile"


Is CredCo accessing more information about you that will help show you are a trustworthy borrower?  Was it their 1 billion transactions that drove us over a cliff back in 2008?  Perhaps no one will ever know.  

My suspicion is that CredCo does indeed pull credit information from the three repositories, but the score provided is of their own concoction.  I suspect it is in their interest to tarnish an average person's credit using a presumed (and bogus) calculated risk.  In order to pass on the risk, and generate additional profit, the Fannie Mae LLPA requires adding an additional .25% to a lender's published rate.  This effectively passes on the risk to the consumer.  In my opinion, risky consumers should pay for their risky behavior.  But I am appalled at a widely accepted system, that degrades the ability for consumers to rectify their behavior having no insight into the metrics we are being judged by.

This is fundamentally WRONG!

Even worse, is that when consumers like you, go out to get your credit score with which to make lifetime credit-based decisions, and pay for your score from presumably the same places CredCo gets its information, and then go out into the market to negotiate, you are at a tremendous disadvantage.  The information you get from TransUnion, Experian, Equifax, is not the same as the score you get from CredCo.  In my case it was radically different.  It's impossible to negotiate on misinformation.  Based upon claims from the three repositories, that the score they provide you accurately reflects the score lenders use, you should have an understanding of your credit purchasing power.  Being deceived by this, and incurring a rather hefty rate increase, consumers like you may be liable for $15,000 or more over the life of the loan.  

I'm 40 years old now.  If I actually pay off this mortgage at 70, that life-threatening medical problem which might have been covered, may become a financial nightmare sourced at a misinformed decision made 30 years prior.  How can anyone make an informed decision when the information is held under lock and key by credit/data collecting corporations who judge your integrity?

The result...

While I cannot speak for other people's experience, I've arrived at an awareness that NVR, or more specifically, Chris, is legit!  The company operates against a set of rules that permits them to make a modicum profit base upon rates handed to them from the secondary market.  They employ CredCo just the same as many other lenders probably do, build a cost/profit model against standards in the mortgage industry, and operate on that. A problem with taking the adversarial approach, something I still think is necessary, is that perceptions can get dinged up along the way.  In a previous post, I grilled NVR for their business model, and targeted Chris to some extent.  Now that the deal is done, or close to done, I feel I owe him an apology, or better yet, an acknowledgement of praise for doing an excellent job working with me and attending to my concerns.  The result of this was that he demonstrated flexibility and a true appreciation for my needs, and as a result, I walked away completely satisfied with my rate, and closing costs.  In spite of all that, he's quite a remarkable talent, a veritable walking mortgage calculator.  Though I pushed him to the limit, he is one of NVR's finest and any prospective new home goer should be pleased to have him as their loan representative.

Many thanks!

Friday, January 18, 2013
The A-Team & Kudos

The A-Team & Kudos

Over the holiday, a few developments occurred on my home.  I've posted about some of them, like cabinets, tile, garage door, etc.  Each new thing by itself carves out some uncharted space in my head for consideration, for which I primarily consider the question: was the job done right?  When something isn't done right, my PM has to know about it, and without trying to come across like an extremist, arrogant, snotty, or any other negative behavior, I try to spell it out by email giving care to express terseness toward the important issues (of course, that doesn't always work out). 

Recently there have been a few issues to crop up, and when they do, I try to fit them into three categories...
  • Cosmetic (easy to correct)
  • Incomplete (work not yet performed or is on hold for something)
  • Unacceptable (work is shoddy and should be redone)
It's important to keep in mind a couple things when categorizing in this way.  First, it's all subjective and limited by an inability to see the full picture--trust your Project Manager.  Second, you and your Project Manager should be operating on the same sheet of music.  This means, the way you categorize the above, should be similar to the way your PM does at some point through the process, keeping in mind it may take more communication to get there.

If anything falls on your unacceptable list, communicate it a.s.a.p.  Your PM is probably already aware of it, will agree with you, but may be seeking additional information from the subcontractor, or management on how to rectify it. The time to get emotional about it isn't before this point, but after, and only if after the music is getting out of sync.  That's not happened to me thankfully, well, at least not with my PM--I attribute his excellent communication skills and genuine desire to build a solid home.

In a previous meeting, he talked about a period where he will be bringing in his trusted crew, to come in and smooth out the rough edges.  I forgot about that, but now that they are present, I call'm the A-Team.  I've met one guy, very nice fellow, and can't wait to see the magic he does.  In my mind, I'd think they'd deal mostly with the Cosmetic/Incomplete stuff, and perhaps generally they do.  But if an item falls in the Unacceptable list, then I feel it's unfortunate they would be required to handle it, although I am sure their specialization is up to the task.

The issues.
  • Bathroom tile (unacceptable)
  • Porch pilaster partially misses foundation (unacceptable)
  • Garage door not sealed (incomplete)
  • Cracks in windows/vanities (incomplete) 
  • Cabinet hole from microwave power cable (cosmetic)
  • Cabinet knobs aren't aligned (cosmetic)
  • Cabinets dinged up (cosmetic)
  • Basement bathroom interior top door casing cut to fit slanted ceiling (cosmetic)
  • Baseboards in tiled areas sit too low beneath tile (cosmetic)
  • Back deck support beam placement slightly impedes exit (cosmetic)
This is a list I sent to my PM (minus the categorization), which to my fault was probably accompanied with an emotional slant.  Nonetheless, he handled it very well, and I left with a feeling of complete assurance, and confident he was in my corner.  The porch pilaster issue was already fixed upon my arrival, and the bathroom wall/surround tile (all bathrooms) is going to be completely redone... ya, it was that bad!

Let me say that I am in that house almost every day.  Because of this, there have been legitimate items I've caught that I do think would have gone unnoticed.  So in my opinion, my involvement, and my affinity for my PM, is resulting is an incredibly well built home.  It sure does have a beauty deserving of it!

Here's a few pictures to prove it...

Anyway, a special thanks to my Project Manager (R.H.) for being considerate, communicative, and managing my expectations, even the ridiculous ones.  I genuinely feel, in spite of all my skepticism, this is one excellent house!  Any new home buyers in my neck of the woods should be in for a great experience, and an awesome product!!!

Monday, January 7, 2013
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Plundering the dumpster

Checking the dumpster has become a regular affair for me.  It's also been a good exercise of balance climbing the busted up, bendy metal, blue chipped ladder, and scaling my way across a veritable I-Beam to get to locations where some juicy remnants may be ripe for the taking.

Today I snagged 4 boxes of tile.  Two boxes of each actually.  An excellent day in the dumpster because who knows, maybe one day I will want to replace a cracked piece difficult to match.  But heck!  There may even be enough there for tiling who knows what?  I even found some backsplash tile, not much though, that must have gotten tossed in the mix.  I know I didn't order any backsplash, but I snagged it anyway, just in case I choose that style for my future kitchen renovations.

Of course the real creme-de-la-creme was snagging some vinyl siding.  In fact there is another box of it sitting on the ground waiting to be used to finish up the front of the garage.  I know for certain there is more in that box than will be used, so I've got my eye on it!  Who knows when the next hurricane will blow a couple panels off.  Heck!  I may even use it to cover a dog house, or someday tool shed.

What's most interesting though, is all the crap neighbors throw in there too.  My dumpster was especially popular over x-mas.  From Christmas trees, office chairs, wrapping paper... I even found a gutted deer lobbed over the edge.

We humans certainly are a thrifty bunch... always seizing an opportunity when eyes aren't looking ;)

Blessings to your treasure finding dumpster plunders.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013
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Cart before the horse

This post is for prospective new home owners seeking to do business with Ryan Homes.  In the business I work, perception is the most valuable asset.  No other job in my life has there been such a keen awareness and accentuated alignment as supporting a positive perception.  By relating to this fact, I am able to understand how important what I say is to the livelihood and proliferation of the entity we do business with, Ryan Homes.

The development of my "Rome", Elevation N, has been generally smooth, even by comparison to other bloggers I've since been keeping up with.  However, there is a distinct point in the 5-7 month process where I believe your scrutiny is especially important.  Of course I am not completely through the journey, so I could be speaking prematurely, but you should begin paying extremely close attention to the development of your home at the pre-drywall meeting stage. There are without doubt, other key points, but, up until this point your home is developed rather sequentially.  That is to say, one thing is done, then the other, but nothing is really started until the previous task is complete. This kind of progression is easy for the human mind to keep up with.

After the pre-drywall meeting, things start to happen in parallel.  This is to say, one task may be started, while another task has yet to be completed.  When the human mind starts to multi-task, it is much more prone to error.  For all of you existing bloggers, who are close to me in progression, or who have since gone through this journey, you understand all of this.  We know one particular human mind is especially important in the process, that is your Project Manager.  Once you come to terms with the awareness your PM is multi-tasking the development of your home, in parallel with the development of several other homes, and along with other facets of work, such as sick time, vacation, and role change, you can appreciate the possibility, or probability, something will be overlooked, or go awry.

In my opinion, your qualifications aside, this makes you the only true Project Manager of your new home.  When all is said and done, when the warranty expires, it is your home. Any deficiency in craftsmanship is on you... caveat emptor!  If you notice any detail during the development of your home that doesn't seem quite correct, it is on your shoulders to surface the concern.  With independent workers coming into your home with the intent of completing their task, they do so with little to no knowledge of other tasks that have occurred, are occurring, are incomplete, or otherwise are required to start.  Also, after the pre-drywall, workers are far more likely to make a change that is difficult and costly to undue, especially should a necessary and preceding step not have been completed, or worse, was completed incorrectly.

In total awareness, this means there is a high likelihood, parts of your home will be compromised because of such an oversight, and if caught too late, which is, in some cases, even the next day is considered too late, will be left to remain, with, or without your cognition to effect.

In retrospect, when tasks appear to break down, or when your PM appears to be aloof, you will start a mental dialogue where perception is at stake.  It’s quite likely that the disparity between your knowledge of development and your project manager’s is so great that a concern you may be having is really just based upon misunderstanding.  Still though, enough of these can stack up, and can degrade your overall perception, which in turn can contribute to the global perception prospective home buyers have of Ryan Homes.  Give your PM a chance to answer, and give RH a chance to make it right.  If they don’t make it right, and it’s at your expense, be assured your perception will ultimately balance the equation, and thus it’s to Ryan Home’s credit to do right by you.

Best of luck, and to your good fortune, stay engaged!

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