Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hurry up and Wait!

This post is a bit late... because the month of April was a whole lot of waiting!  After encountering some communication issues, that resulted in more money needing to be spent to get what we needed, but Keystone totally coming to the rescue (and eating the cost), it felt like a whole lot of hurry up and wait!  We had to wait for all the background pieces to come together... drafting of our custom requests, engineer approvals of our blueprints, permits for the build...  So we just waited.  And waited.  Until finally we got the call from the building manager that said, "Can we meet?  We're scheduled to break ground this week!"  I was like, "What!?"  So we met with the builder, went over the blueprints one last time, walked over the land, and signed all our life savings away!

Abbi got to make a special trip with us to see the land and blueprints.

Then they broke ground later that week!

It was time to break the news to all the kids, so we took them to "the hole" to see where our new house would be.

I think they were a little excited.

During this visit, we made friends with a few of our neighbors.  There are some other kids in the neighborhood, and everyone was super friendly!  The kids didn't want to leave!  And BONUS: the new neighbors said they'd text us updates of our construction.  YIPEE!

The following week, we got this picture:
Wow!  That was so fast!  We have a foundation!  

We couldn't resist... the next weekend we went back for a visit with the kids, to show them that "the hole" now had some walls!  They played on the footers for the structural support beams for 30 minutes or so.  It is such a neat experience to have them watch this progress each week.

Finally, today, we got this picture!

The garage is all filled in, and the framing has begun!  They say the Amish can get these frames up in just days!  I don't think you can get better framers than the Amish.  :)  So exciting!  We may just have to make another trip to see the progress this weekend!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Final Decisions are made!

The hardest decisions are done.

We went with the white Winstead cabinets with black laminate countertop (with a beveled edge).  While laminate wasn't my first choice, it's easily replaced down the road and allowed us to stay on budget.  (While still getting those awesome GE Cafe line stainless appliances!)

This is the kind of look we're going for...

I'm thinking I want a build a kitchen/dining table for that huge breakfast bumpout... maybe something like this??  We still haven't decided what color we'll be accenting with yet, but I'm loving the farmhouse table look.  With seating for at least 8...

We went with the English leather floors throughout the first floor, and tan colored carpet for upstairs. (See the previous post for pics!).  We also selected the brushed bronze light fixtures and doorknobs/hardware.  

For the Venetian Bath, we went with a brown colored theme with the brushed bronze fixtures, sarsaparilla colored cabinets, stark white sinks and tub, and lighter colored dramatic marble surround.  (I can't find any great pictures, so you'll have to wait for the finished product!)

The fireplace will be the standard white mantel, with a slate surround...  

This was a concession, because what I really wanted was this...

But in the end, it was over a $2K difference, and my super practical bestie convinced me that all stone/brick fireplaces get dated over time... but the mantel lives on!

Now - for the exterior.  We really didn't want to spend our money on how the house looked from the outside.  It was more important to put those funds to use on the inside, and create curb appeal later with a little sweat equity!  So we choose a light Victorian grey vinyl siding, black shutters, and a red door!  My heart was set on white, but the neighbor has a white house, and they wouldn't let us put two of the same color next to each other... sigh.  But the door?  No brainer! 

Our sidelights will be 5-pane, going to the floor... and only one lamp, but you get the idea!

And lastly, we went with a wood deck.  Why?  Simply put, $$.  In the end, they have great deck finishing products that will require some upkeep in comparison to composite, but we are just as happy with real wood.  Plus, because there is an easement on the back of our property, we were unable to put the full deck on the back of the breakfast bump-out, as I had envisioned it.  Instead, we put a 5ft wide deck across the 17.5ft length of the bump-out.  Stairs to grade will go on one end, and an 11x16 deck will be on the other side, in front of our family room.  It will still be a grand space, and I'm excited for the views from the kitchen!

To be honest, this process has been much easier than we'd ever imagined.  I'm not going to lie, I did lose some sleep over some of these decisions... I mean, you only get one chance to make it right.  The hardest part of this week was waiting for the loan commitment from the bank.  It was a huge sigh of relief when we got the final conditional approval.  Now it feels like this is really happening!  I'm not sure it's really set-in yet.  Someone pinch me!!!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Caught up in the Details

While we are waiting for the final blueprints to be drafted for approval (this Saturday!!!) we are now diving into the details...  Sometime next week, we will have the opportunity to go to the design gallery where we'll make decisions about appliances, flooring, colors, cabinets, fixtures, counters, etc.  The biggest challenge here will be to stay within our budget!  As I previously mentioned, we spent a large portion of our budget on structural changes - moving or adding rooms, adding windows, etc.  This was partly because we are buying during a huge promotion - the His or Hers package.  The builders are offering a free half-finished basement OR free classic kitchen package, free Venetian bath, free hard wood floors in the foyer and kitchen, and free Crown/chair/picture frame molding for the dining room.  We went with the hers, since the basement will be my new project - So lots of upgrades will be included!

This is the 10x4 island that will be in the kitchen!  The classic kitchen upgrades include the staggered cabinets, recessed lighting, water line for the ice maker, garbage disposal, and upgraded cabinets.

This is the Venetian Bath - which includes a soaking tub, HUGE walk-in shower, marble countertops, and his and hers vanities for our house layout!

And the crown, rail and picture frame molding for the dining room!

The next hurdle is choosing some of our options... While some are no-brainers, like adding a second shower head to the shower, we have to make some other decisions...

Like what color hardwood floors... We're adding them to the dining room and powder room in addition to the already included kitchen, foyer and hall:
English Leather (I think this one is my favorite!)
Antique Bronze
Cherry Hill

And what type/color of cabinets for the kitchen - in order by price (all cabinet choices will be in all baths too!):

Landen Maple - Rouge
Winstead - Sarsaparilla
Briarcliff II - Sarsaparilla

Winstead - White (hard to see on here...)
This is a better view!

...or lastly (and probably my favorite!)
Briarcliff II - White
but again, because it's white here's a better view:

Then of course there is the counter top dilemna, which is highly dependent on the cabinet choice because of color schemes and pricing.  If we go with the white cabinets, I'll likely be forced to choose a high quality nice dark colored or white marbled laminate.  Not my favorite choice, but it would mean getting the cabinets of my choice and we can always upgrade the countertops later to a soapstone, concrete, or granite.  If we go with a darker colored cabinet, I could afford to do Corian countertops, which are very nice, but I'm not in love with the speckled look of most of the Corian options that my builder offers.  So I'm leaning toward laminate at the moment, with the idea we can upgrade in a few years... laminate has come a long way.  Have you seen Formica's new look??


I'm also debating between light fixtures.  Builders grade is that ugly horrible gold/brass look.  So this is one area we have to upgrade. We'll also be upgrading the doorknobs and hinges to match whatever metal we choose.  Brushed nickel or Herloom Bronze?  I really like the Heirloom Bronze, but if we go with a white kitchen, I wonder if the brushed nickel won't look better?

And lastly is the appliances... we are going to go with GAS for the stove, and stainless steel is our preference, so we have two options that have a significant price difference:

GE Cafe Series, 5 burner, double oven drawer, convection oven
(If I can squeeze this cost in - I will go with the above option!)
GE Profile, 5 burner oven

Well - flooring, cabinets, counter tops, lighting/doorknob packages, and appliances... I think that's enough decision making for today.  Maybe next time we'll talk about which tiles and marble surround will look good in the Venetian Bath, and if we go with a gray scheme, should we also upgrade the flooring.  Or which fireplace surround is better - slate or marble?  And what color carpet to get in the family room, study and upstairs hall and bedrooms.  Or what front door is the best? (I've already added side lite windows to the front door in the structural decisions.)  And my favorite - is the Composite deck worth it and does 12x16 vs. 14x16 deck size really make a difference?  Until then - let me know which of the above items you like best!  :D

Sunday, March 15, 2015

A Place to call Home

For the past year, we've contemplated buying our rental home.  It's in a nice community, the house fits our needs, and we're comfortable here.  5 bedroom (well, one is now a theater room) and 3.5 baths... 3537 square feet among 3 full floors.  While it isn't full of bells and whistles, it's a good space for our family of 6!

But when we spoke with the owners about the possibility, they weren't really interested.  It's a bummer, because the house is really nice!  And I DREAD moving AGAIN...

So, we've been saving and praying, and really just wondering where do we go from here.  Do we buy?  Do we continue to rent?  Do we want to make Maryland our forever home?  We love the idea of home ownership again, and making something our own.  Plus the tax benefits and investment are all good things too.  We're feeling pretty settled here in Maryland, so we hooked up with a realtor.  She's been great.

We've seen what we want to buy... the spacious, luxurious, holy crap it's how much!? house.

All the way to the cute little farmhouse we could fix up to be our own...
But my awesome techy husband does not LOVE a good project, as his experience with a tool belt is sparce.  It sounds like tons of fun to me, but in the end, I need a partner in crime who would love living in a construction zone for years, and that just isn't going to happen!

Our budget isn't going to take us very far in the Baltimore metropolitan area.  Maybe an older home, with limited space, but we'd still have no money left to fix it up!  Since our work recently relocated to an interstate location that's a hop and a skip away from the PA border, we decided to expand our search to include lower York County PA!

Among our first couple weeks browsing the listings, we noticed 2 awesome things.  First, the housing market in PA is MUCH more affordable (albiet the school taxes are astronomical, but school choice is a yes for us!).  Second, we started to notice that new housing communities were popping up all along the MD-PA border, probably for people just like us!  We kept seeing listings for new housing, but never in our dreams did we think building a house was in our cards.  We're getting an FHA loan, so our downpayment can be affordable.  (Little did we know that FHA loans can be for construction too!)

One Saturday afternoon we took a drive up to PA to take a gander at some of the new communities.  As we drove on windy back roads among farms, forests full of trees, amish markets, small home-town communities, corner-stores, fields and those trees.  Did I mention the trees?  They are so beautiful.  Where was I?  Oh yes, as we drove among the PA roads and little communities, we both just KNEW we needed to make the switch.  Get a little further from the city and LOT further from the city schools!

After calling to speak with a few builders and communities, we landed on a builder we both felt comfortable with - Keystone Custom Homes.  They offered great floorplans, great reviews, and no non-sense sales.  We met with our first Keystone realtor Kim, who talked to us about the process, and helped us to feel more comfortable with the idea.  We then jumped to another community where we thought we really liked the location on the west side of York!  We applied for the mortgage, and with our pre-approval in hand, we made an offer on a lot of land that backed up to a large hill with a highway on top, but it was close to EVERYTHING - shopping, schools, restaurants, etc etc etc.  Then we drove home with a folder full of floor plans.

West York, PA property
Do you see - at the top of the hill lining the back yard, is a highway...

It only took a couple of nights for us both to remember how much we LOVED the country side rolling hills... and the rural areas were the reason that we were drawn to PA.  So WHY on earth did we just put an offer on a lot of land just outside the city of York??  The next day we called the original Keystone realtor Kim back and asked if we could switch our lot selection to a more rural area - without losing our deposit.  To our surprise, she said it was no problem at all!  We drove back out through the winding roads up on a hill to the original location and fell in love with this view.  Not a city in sight... just the little town below... and a winding road of neighbors.

So we picked another lot.  One with a view from the backyard!  They said it had a $HUGE$ premium (must be those darn views!), but the houses were cheaper here than they were in York... so I used my amazing bargaining skills (I think it was actually the 4 cute kids running circles around us they felt bad for! hahaha) to get that premium down and we were back in a contract!!!

There it is... Lot 20.  (and the backyard view!)

So we headed back home with those floor plans and made a decision on the one with the most square footage - 3211 to be exact, and that is before the basement gets finished.  It's a standard Colonial style home, and it boasts a nice open floor plan and AWESOME kitchen layout with a 10x4 island!  We're making some dramatic changes to the original floor plan, like bumping out the breakfast area 5 feet wider so we can use it as the main dining area.  We'll add two sets of double french doors to lead out to a nice composite deck.  I'm thinking the dining room will actually be my tv-less formal sitting room.  Who knows!?  And adding an 8x10 pantry to the kitchen, taking the place of some of that expansive storage space in the garage.  And moving the laundry room to the dead space at the end of the upper hall, so we can have his and hers walk-in closets... just to name a few...  In the end, we'll have over 3300 square feet before the basement is finished.  The basement is another story - that's where I get my project in this whole deal!  So we thought the hard part was done, right?  HA.

We've decided to spend most of our budget for upgrades inside the house, and leave the front to look like the traditional colonial style.  Well, except for the 16 foot trex deck on the back - that my friends, will be where you and I can enjoy that magnificent view!  We've reached the part where we submit all of our architectural requests to the builder - from moving walls, to window placements. Next week they will sit down and show us the drawings for what we've requested for approval.  I'm beyond excited!!!

Do you love my "Paint" job at drawing up my new "dream" house?  
It may seem like an unassuming Colonial from the outside, but wait until we get to the inside!!!

So do you remember that part where I said I thought the hard part was done?  Well, this is just the beginning!!!  Now we have to decide on flooring, colors, appliances, fixtures, lighting, the list just goes on and on.  Luckily Keystone has this cool online tool called Key Choices, where you can start the process online and get to see pictures and prices.  After we approve our drawings, we'll also get to visit the Design Gallery, where we'll make final design choices and let them get to work!  

So join us on our journey of homebuilding... maybe you'll get inspired to build too.  Or maybe you've done it before and you've got some advice!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I've been busy busy busy! This week is our second and final camp week at work for kids with and without disabilities. It has tired me out in my final month of pregnancy, more than I thought it would. I don't think I've ever worked right up to the end... None the less... I finally finished the kitchen island!
And then tonight, Jenny and I decorated my baby shower cake... LOVE!
It is my first-go at fondant, and I LOVE it!!! We had a lot of fun. I'm sure I'll have pics from the baby shower to post soon too!