Sunday, July 26, 2015

Color Selections, Change Orders & a New Kitchen Plan! Oh My!

What a crazy meeting! In today's meeting with Danielle (a truly wonderful soul who clearly knows how much help we really need), we submitted a slew of changes, picked our colors and completely changed our kitchen layout! More about all of them in a few moments, but suffice it to say that we are thoroughly exhausted!

Color Selections

We finalized all of our decisions about exterior color, interior paint, exterior finishes, kitchen and bath cabinet colors, counter tops and vanity tops. If that sounds like a lot, it felt like a lot more! We're feeling pretty good about our colors, let's hope that's true we we see them live!

Exterior Colors & Finishes

Here's our front elevations to help figure out what is going where...I hope!

For the stone on the front, we chose Dakota - it's the bottom part of the shown in the front elevation above.

For the sides and back of the house, there's a brick wrap that goes all around the first floor. This won't be showing anywhere on the front of the house and it isn't shown in the front elevations above - only the sides and back. For the brick, we chose Falls Canyon.

Here's the two of them shown together (as if you were looking at one of the front corners of the house from the street):

For the colors, we had to choose a primary and secondary color. The primary color is used on the clapboard (anywhere you can see the horizontal stripes in the front elevation above - in additional it will extend around the sides and back of the second story, above the brick on the first story). The secondary color will be used for all of the board and batten shown (the vertical siding) shown in the front elevation above. Believe it or not, Ryan Homes does not have have color/finish simulation program - for either exterior or interior choices. It seems like such an oversight not have one to use for comparing all of the options!

Our primary color for the clapboard siding is Monterey Taupe and our secondary color for the board and batten is Cobblestone,

Monterey Taupe
Cobble Stone

All of the trim will be white, which we think will dress everything up a little. The roof over the porch will be a black tin roof, the shutters and front door will also be black. 

Interior Colors

Probably just as nerve-wracking were the interior color choices we made. We upgraded all of our counter and vanity tops to granite and picked out the colors. For the kitchen, we chose the Rushmore in Painted Linen with Uba Tuba granite counter tops.
For the bathrooms, we choose the Scottsdale in Maple Expresso with Burlywood granite vanity tops.

Whew. That's a lot. Are you tired yet? I sure am, but there's still more! I haven't even gotten to the new kitchen layout!

New Kitchen Plan

When reviewing the electrical blueprints, we came across an alternate kitchen layout that wasn't include in the initial list of options we considered when putting our Dunkirk together. The new layout redesigned the kitchen to include a butler's pantry and made the kitchen flow into the morning room, giving everything a much more open feel. We asked about it during today's meeting and discovered that it was added as an option two days after we initially signed our contract!

We think that we'll be able to add it and possibly the hutch that extends into the morning room, but we're waiting on some final pricing to be sure. Tentatively, it looks as though removing the gourmet island will cover the cost of the butler's pantry, so we're very optimistic we'll be able to move forward with the new kitchen! And only days before our deadline for structural changes!

Have I built the suspense enough? Are you ready to see what we're so excited about? Here's the sketch from the electrical blueprints that has us all giddy on the inside!

Other Miscellaneous Additions

We're finally down to the mundane additions that we added thanks to reading many of the other blogs that exist about building with Ryan Homes. Many were things that we didn't think of, so I'm adding them here in the hope that they help other consider them as well!
  • Electric Outlets
    We're a pretty tech-heavy family and that means that darn near everything needs to be plugged in sooner or later. So we added seven new outlets that weren't part of the original plan. The most notable inclusions are:
    • Additional outlets in the unfinished storage space in the basement. We have multiple computers we use for file, photo and media storage. They don't need to be seen, but they do need to be plugged in! My hope is that I'll be able to keep them in one of the unfinished storage areas and tie them into our home network so we can continue enjoying Kodi for streaming video and Subsonic for streaming music throughout the entire house!
    • A switched outlet in the tray ceiling in the master bedroom so that we can add ambient LED lighting. Apparently, adding an outlet in the tray ceiling moves the crown molding down so that a rope light can be placed behind it. How cool is that?
    • An outlet in the master bedroom closet for ironing. (No, not my closet, the other one - I don't believe in ironing. And for $150 an outlet, I can always sneak into her closet if that ever changes.)
    • Added an outlet in the Great Room and in the Morning Room just because I didn't want to have a wall that only had one outlet on it.
    • Added a double duplex outlet on one end of the kitchen island (a 2-gang box for a total of 4 plugs) because it seemed really convenient.
    • Added a hot tub circuit to the rear exterior corner of the Morning Room in anticipation of needing it either for a hot tub or pool equipment.
  • Natural gas line to the rear exterior corner of the Morning Room in anticipation of using it for a natural gas grill and/or a swimming pool heater.
  • Added a rough in light in the Morning Room for a hanging light to be purchased at a later date and also added a switch to control it from the hallway leading out of the kitchen (mostly because I'm lazy and don't want to walk across the room to turn it on or off).
  • Made the front porch lights and the exterior garage lights be on the same switch. We couldn't think of time that we wouldn't have them both on at the same time and the garage lights were initially spec'ed to only have a switch inside the garage. That seemed odd to us.
  • Added the comfort-height toilets because I'm tall. 
  • Added a ceiling fan rough-in in the Study so that I can keep cool while I'm working.

Waiting on More Info

There were a couple of questions that we are waiting on some additional info about. One is about adding a 100A sub-panel in the garage for future expansion. Hopefully we'll be able to add one, but we'll see what the experts say in a couple of days.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh....

I love Google Voice. There are many reasons why, but one of the top ones has to be some of their translations. For instance, when Flooring America called to set up our appointment to pick out carpet and flooring - here's what Google emailed us:
Hi Mr. This is not there from Land America I was giving you a call to set up appointment for your brain selection. If you could give me a call back. At (513) xxx-xxxx to get that they're me a call with point where that. Thank you. Have a great day.
Now I don't know about you, but if someone is going to offer me a chance to pick out a new brain, I just might have to go for it....

As for progress on the house, we've been reviewing electrical blueprints trying to figure out where we want and where we need more outlets. We're pretty tech-heavy folk and I want to make sure that we can keep extension cord use to a minimum when we move into our new house!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Floor Plans

Anyone reading our blog will quickly pick up on the difference in writing voice. Shawn is all "data, details, blah blah blah" and I am all "Yay!" Here is our floor plan. The most important thing to note about it is that my closet is awesome! Mine is the one that has an entrance from the master bath. Hmmmmm yeah, I'm not sure Shawn knows that one is mine but it clearly is. :)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Signed, Sealed and Not Yet Delivered


We're Building a New House!

We've done it we're building a new house! After weeks of searching and analyzing, hoping and dreaming, we've finally signed for a new Dunkirk (Elevation L) model from Ryan Homes in the Villages of Winding Creek development in Springboro, Ohio!

It turns out that we'll actually have a Centerville address and zip code - just to make things confusing, but we're in! It's crazy how quickly everything came together from the options, to the lot, to - well, everything really!

Dunkirk - Elevation L

Here's the elevation we're building, at least the front of it! We'll post more about the options we chose once we start breathing again!

Coming Up

Next we have a financing appointment, the meeting with Guardian and a trip to American Flooring in Springboro! Wahoo!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Analysis: Estimating the Monthly Payment

Why does it always seem to come down to money?

Breaking Down the Numbers

Being addicted to numbers and high on analysis, I built a spreadsheet on Google Drive so that we could start playing with the numbers - adding and subtracting options at will to find our what we had to give up to get within our target price range. After setting up the spreadsheet, I quickly realized that second most significant figure impacting our monthly payment was the property tax that needed to be paid. Honestly, I think I knew this before, but it didn't really sink in until I saw the numbers - and just how little some of our removed options impacted our monthly payment!

Let me walk thru my steps to set up our spreadsheet - keep in mind, I am not a CPA, I do not have a degree in finance or accounting or anything mathematical. Not even a science. Any errors are probably glaringly evident to any of those people, but clearly not to me.

Calculating Your Mortgage Payment

I spent some time researching this, trying to figure out the best formula to use in my calculations because I wanted the spreadsheet to do the math based on whatever numbers I would feed into it - and it it needed to recalculate as the numbers changed. I don't like waiting or having to go visit another site to plug numbers into their calculator only to paste them back into my spreadsheet. I want the numbers NOW!

Well, lo and behold, I found I didn't have to learn anything to add this functionality to my spreadsheet - there's already a function built in to Google Sheets that would calculate the monthly payment..(And Microsoft Excel, for that matter.) For someone who doesn't really excel at math, this was a great solution! Behold the beauty of the PMT function!

I chose to setup fields for the number of years for the mortgage, the interest rate and the number of payments per year so that I could make one change and have all of the calculations for all of the house configurations change at once. I was curious how shortening the length of our mortgage might change our payments. The PMT function uses each of those values to calculate the actual payment per month (along with the actual loan amount, of course!).

Estimating Property Taxes

Since I'd already identified the second most significant figure in our monthly payment as our property tax payment, I needed to figure out a method for calculating it in my spreadsheet. A key difficulty in building a new house turned out to be estimating the actually taxes we might wind up paying. In an older house, it is easy to visit the county auditor's web site and look up the tax rates for the past few years - all of this is public information. No math needed. You simply plan on a small increase each year and your calculations offer an acceptable degree of reliability. No surprises - something I really, really like.

However with new construction, it isn't so easy. Since there's no home, there's no history to trend or use as a basis - because there's no house yet. Depending on the history of the development, there might be figure for your lot, but its only going to be based on the value of the land. I was stymied here for a while and tried a number of different approaches - mostly to avoid having to figure out how to actually calculate property taxes using millage rates. It seemed scary to me. And I don't like math. Really, I don't. Finally, one dark and stormy night I gave in. I needed to get reliable figure and I decided it would just learn how to calculate property taxes.

Appraisal Values

After extensive research, I found that most appraisals - the base value used to determine annual property taxes, was less than the sale price of the home. Exactly how much less varied significantly from house to house, but it was almost always less. I only came across one home that was appraised for a value higher than the sale price - but it was for a new home that was just sold in November 2014 (making it very comparable to our situation). In that case - the home sold for $326k, but was appraised for taxes at $328. I decided that in order to have a number that would be close to the actual property taxes we would be paying, I needed to have confidence in the number - and I would rather be over-estimating than under-estimating. Rightly or wrongly, I decided to use the sale price as the basis for my property tax calculations. You may decide otherwise, once everything is said and done, I 'll have to see how close my actual calculations were, but that's going to be a couple of years down the road!

Millage Rates

Millage rates are one of those figures that we really only think about around elections - and only then when there is a levy issue on the ballot. Even still, I never really gave it much thought - but when you're trying to estimate property taxes on a new house it quickly becomes another story.

I found the millage rates for each of the subdivisions we were considering on the country treasurer's website. They post the millage rates for each of the taxation districts within the county. Hopefully you will have similar success finding them as easily as I did! Once I found the list, I had to find the right combination of city/township and school district for each housing development we were considering. In Ohio, this seems to be more difficult than I initially expected. There are many places where the city or township and school district are not same, creating some really unexpected combinations - all of which have an impact on the millage rate for that tax district.

Another factor that goes into this calculation (at least in Ohio) is that the millage rate is only assessed against 35% of the appraised value of the land and any improvements - and there is a further rate reduction for residential properties. Thankfully, the millage rates for the full tax (with no reduction), the residential millage rate (for resident properties) and the commercial rate (for business properties) were all included in the county tax rate publications. They ranged anywhere from 57 to over 90 for the areas we were considering.

My Property Tax Estimation Formula

So far, my formula was shaping up to look like:

Appraisal Value = Sale Amount of Home (assumed)
Taxable Appraisal Amount = Appraisal Value * .35 (only taxed on 35% of appraisal value - at least in Ohio)

But what to do with the millage rate? To apply the millage rate to the Taxable Appraisal Amount, you divide the millage rate by 1,000 ("mill" should have been a dead giveway - but I am a little slow sometimes) and then multiple the result by the Taxable Appraisal Amount.

Annual Property Taxes = (Millage Rate/1,000) * Taxable Appraisal Amount

Now that I had the annual property tax amount, I just divided into twelve monthly payments to estimate the amount that we would need to add to our mortgage to cover our tax payments.

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

PMI is essentially an extra payment that is added to loans when the loan amount is greater than 80% of the value of property. It is a type of insurance that protects the lender should you default on your loan before there is enough equity established in the property to ensure the lender is able to fully recover the loan amount.  It was difficult to find clear information, but the best sources I could find identified this as a percentage of the loan amount - where the actual percentage varies based on the credit score of the borrower.  The range seems to be from .3% to 1.5% of the loan amount annually.

When generating your estimated monthly payment, you can pick a value you think is reflective of your own credit history. I would prefer to over-estimate and be pleasantly surprised later with a smaller payment than under-estimate, so I quasi-randomly chose the value .68. I don't have any science or fact to support that decision, it just seemed to be somewhere in the middle.

Breaking this annual expense into monthly payments that are included in your loan balance due each month is a simple process.

Monthly PMI Payment = (Total Loan Amount * PMI rate)/12


Homeowner's insurance is also a must to include for me - granted, its smaller than just about everything else, but why not include it? Just take the annual premium amount and divide it into monthly payments. Easy peasy.

Home Owner's Association (HOA) Fees

Ok, now I know I'm just being ridiculous, but depending on how much the HOA fees are you may want to account for those as well.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Starting Point: Choices

Choices, choices, choices.

Property Searching 101

Having made the decision that now is the time to move, we've been thoroughly researching buying a new home. We've narrowed down school districts, gone to open houses, tracked properties on Zillow, Trulia and HomeSnap. At first, we thought our criteria were pretty straight-forward. We wanted a newer house with a basement and a pool in an acceptable school district. Simple, right?

Not so much. As we looked at houses, the number of houses with pools is small, so we gradually expanded our search to include houses that did not have pools. In every case, we found ones that were acceptable, but nothing that was sweeping us off our feet. It wasn't so bad, our house wasn't quite ready to be put on the market, so we waited. And waited. And searched. And waited.

As weeks turned into months, we kept extending our timeline, waiting for something that would really give us the options that we wanted - or at least the option we wanted and the option of adding a pool. Every choice we looked at involved us settling - settling for something that we liked, but didn't really love. We loved the house we're in now when we bought it and it served our needs (and wants) for many years, but as we've grown as a family, our needs have changed and we're ready to move on. But we weren't, and aren't, ready to settle for something we don't love.

Introducing Ryan Homes

We never considered building a new house. I'm not exactly sure why, maybe the last time we looked the prices were so outrageous that it didn't even make it within the scope of possibility. Maybe we always thought building was something that other people did, just not us. I really have no idea - but we never considered it.

Then we found Ryan Homes. They're big. They have mixed reviews all over the internet. Some people love them, some people hate them. Pretty typical for most internet postings - either you love it so much you're compelled to write about or you are so upset that you choose to vent your frustrations online. Either way, they had developments in all the school districts we were looking in and seemed to be reasonable priced. So we started looking at new houses they were building around Dayton.

Ravenna @ The Vineyards in Bellbrook, Ohio

We started in Bellbrook, looking at the Vineyards. It's a nice community - small, but nice. We liked the location and learned all about lot premiums - an addition builder's added to purportedly cover increased costs of development for specific lots or larger than normal lots. We discovered the world of Ryan Homes options and upgrade. Everything is an upgrade. Quickly, our wants started expanding as we had a slew of options available to us.

We started low, looking at the Ravenna. We liked it, and thought we loved it. We loved it so much we kept adding upgrades, adding options, adding, adding, adding - you get the picture. Soon. our affordable dream was looking more like a pipe dream. The little costs of each upgrade started to pile up and become real money. We needed to start backtracking.

Bateman @ The Enclaves in Centerville, Ohio

We headed over to the Enclaves in Centerville, Ohio - another school district that has a solid reputation. We loved the community, it's smaller than some of the other Ryan Home communities - probably due to the fact that the development started as a custom home community that was only partially completed before the economic downturn destroyed the housing market. The lots seemed larger and they were only planning on building about 100 homes. We priced out the Bateman, a model that offered a bedroom with an optional private bathroom. We thought having a room with a private bedroom might help keep our daughter from destroying our guest bathroom. 

Unfortunately, by the time we'd gone thru our list of wants, we were once again forced to backtrack and start crossing options off the list. After our last experience, I actually built a spreadsheet that would us compare our choice with various option configurations (maybe I'll write more on that later). Even as we ran various configurations, we kept feeling like we were giving up more than we wanted - especially if we were building what we considered to be our "dream" home.

Milan @ Villages of Winding Creek in Springboro and Centerville, Ohio

The Villages of Winding Creek is a larger development that actually crosses the county line from Montgomery County (on the north) and stretches into Warren County. In the process, it offers a choice between two well-respected school districts - Centerville and Springboro.  We discovered the Milan here and liked the home office that was located off to the side and the second floor loft. But what really sold us on the Milan was the option to have a finished attic with a bedroom and its own bathroom. We never doubted it would be a pricey option, but when it we priced it out, the $29k option made us take several steps back.

Once again we walked back thru the options we'd selected, making the choice between what we liked, what we wanted and what we felt we needed in a new home. Quite honestly, our dilemma really was that we don't need a huge a house, but we really, really wanted some of the options that are only available in the larger houses - things like two closets in the master bedroom. (we really don't like to share), a master bath with a soaking tub AND a shower (this one isn't mine, I promise) and a second floor laundry (we are done hauling laundry between levels!). If we could have found a smaller plan that offered those features, that's probably what we'd be building.

It was at this point that we were just about to throw in the towel and leave the new home market and continue searching for an existing house. In a last ditch effort, we started going back thru all of the models that Ryan offered around us, trying to find something small enough that we wouldn't have to to break the bank but still offered most of the things we really wanted in a new house. This is when we found the Dunkirk.

Dunkirk @ Villages of Winding Creek in Springboro and Centerville, Ohio

This post is already too long, but I think we've found the floor plan that really meets all of our criteria - introducing the Dunkirk! And we can build it in the Villages of Winding Creek! We are set to price it out tomorrow, and are very hopeful that everything will fall into line!