Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Yep, I'm one of THOSE bloggers...but it's not my fault, I promise!

I so didn't mean to do it.
I really thought I would be a Good Blogger & continue to post & update as we started adjusting to life in our new house.

I really didn't account for how hectic things would get, how busy work would be and of course, how growing a small human would just zap anything resembling motivation.

But here we are, about 4.5 months from move-in date so here goes!

I can honestly say I love my house.  That's not to say there aren't a few things on the "wish we would've thought of that" list but overall it is exactly what we wanted and we wouldn't change a thing.  Well, except for more closet space.  The "closet" in the laundry room is just laughable and the bedrooms could have bigger/better designed closets.  I've seen the S&A homes on our street & I'm jealous!  Why couldn't we have cabinets in our laundry room to help?  I smell a future project...

It took about 6-7 weeks to have our "30-day" meeting bc our PM left to go be a Spanish teacher.  The new PM wants to make us happy.  It took a REALLY long time to get the plumber & granite guys to come fix stuff (like a total of 3 months) but they did a good job.  Now if I can get the front walk, steps & porch fixed we'll be in business.  There's an obvious mistake on the column/front walk & steps placement & the porch cracked right in front of the front door.  We were given some reason that made no sense - nice try but we're both civil engineers and understand a) how concrete works and b) what happens when it's not done correctly.

We actually have a decent yard now, although we've gone way past the 2 measly bags of seed that the landscapers donated.  J took the yard as a personal mission.  We're talking an assortment of hoses, manifolds, was elaborate.  Unfortunately, that water bill was sickening.

J & I have had an absolute blast furnishing the house.  Luckily we had saved for this - it was NOT cheap but we decided we would rather invest in quality that we would have for a long time rather than go on the cheap and replace every few years.  Here are some pictures of what we chose:

Our Bedroom...we're grownups now with REAL furniture!

Main room (looking from office).  LOVE how comfortable this is...
Total plug for La-Z-Boy design services here.

Morning Room (now we have fewer boxes and a mirror)

 See this fella?  He's...a challenge!  Super cute, which is obviously on purpose.  We decided that it was in EVERYONE'S best interest to go ahead and install a fence.  I'm fairly sure it'll be useful for small humans in the future.  Here's a picture of the installation process.  At this point, we still need to buy our shed (to free up that other garage bay...winter is coming!) but we have a fence!  Once the dirt settles we can stop using a leash when we take Harrison outside.  Which is all.the.time.  Someone likes to hear the bells on the door ring...

Harry Joe in Puppy Jail

HJ and his Daddy :)

That face!  Soooo much trouble wrapped in cuteness

He went as Chumpasaurus Rex for Halloween :)

Puppy Point Guard - UK's next blue chip recruit!

Harrison & Mommy on a Sheetz Run for donuts!

Harrison & Daddy chillin' on the chaise

Happy Day!  Harrison gets his fence!

Dignity is for suckers

We also are almost done with our other project, Stewart:  Generation 2.0.  I'm due in just over a month!  The nursery is almost done - apologies for the poor lighting but there was NO lighting until we installed the ceiling fan.  Another "why on earth does Ryan not do this" type thing.  I suppose we just had to show them the money!

Casa de Stew:  Nursery Edition
Baby Stew's crib :)

Millenium Park, Chicago:  Babymoon 2015
Labor Day Weekend - 24+ weeks

Like a Boss - Buckingham Fountain, Chicago
Babymoon, Labor Day Weekend 2015

When else can I go as the Wrecking Ball??

Finally, we begin work on our basement bar, "The Rickhouse" next week!  I'm hoping to post pictures of the finished area shortly but am making no promises :)

Really brave, really dumb or both...

Santa certainly DOES love Harrison!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

We're on the Other Side...Time to Breath Easy?

Well, I've certainly managed to do a spectacular job of ignoring this blog. I now understand why the posts are more spread out once people approach that magical closing date & the real fun begins.

J & I closed on July 10 and I must say, there were certain things that went well, overall, and certain things that still anger me greatly.  So I'll start with the good!

Good Things:

1.  Our home is absolutely beautiful.
2.  Our home was pretty clean and ready when we did our walk through the day before - there were a few issues we noted but they were fixed by the time we got our keys.
3.  We have the space we needed and wanted.
4.  Our lawn is starting to think about growing (more on that because it's also a negative)
5.  We can still see the top of the USX Tower & the BNY Mellon building from our 2nd floor even with the new homes going up down the street!
6.  All of our neighbors are pretty great - good advice, very welcoming and friendly people.  This court is going to be a great place for us!
7.  Our Sales Rep (the one who doesn't suck) left us a nice welcome gift.  More reasons why I don't want to grade him and our Worthless Rep on the same survey.
8.  This home is exactly what Justin & I wanted and we are thrilled to share it with each other, our new puppy AND our other new addition...

Bad Things:
1.  NVRSS, in particular, is incompetent.  These bozos have no idea how to do things in a reasonable time frame or how to communicate with a buyer.  They also refuse to take any responsibility for their mistakes and have an attitude that they are clearly untouchable.  We'll see how much they like a letter to their higher-ups.

At closing, we were still questioning some charges on our HUD-1 (remember the one that came in at 1:45 on a Wednesday, we needed to wire money into NVRSS's account by 11am Thursday for an 11am Friday close? This is part of the poor timing/communication.  Doesn't jive for people with jobs.)  Our loan person fell off the planet and wouldn't respond to us.  She tried to have someone else do it (the office mgr, as it turns out) but that person never responded.  They did explain where our incentives were located but really - did that HAVE to be done at the 11th hour?  We asked for 2 days and got no answers.

Our closing was pushed back a few hours per NVRSS.  Wonder if we would've been able to do that? Guessing no, but I have no claim there. Just another annoyance to a customer trying to plan their day/time off.

When we again asked why we were never told our closing date and thus were subjected to a 0.5% point higher interest rate, we were not given an answer that is reasonable.  Their failure to communicate & point fingers at the PM/others is astounding.  I fail to see how THAT is at all something we should pay for over the next 30 years.  See the letter threat above.

2. Our landscaping, particularly the yard.  C'mon, you really think at this price point that grass seed is effective/called for?  It looks like hell.  Add to that we didn't get our lawn graded/roots sort of picked out & seeded for 3 days post-close (granted it was very wet but Not My Problem) and then were hit with a 10-day dry spell and you guessed it, grass is having issues.  We are also at the top of a hill and our water pressure stinks.  The fix, from our awesome neighbors, is to contact the PM & have them adjust the regulator.  Fine, but with 3 sprinklers & 2 pieces of hose for an entire yard, you'd have to be moving hoses every 3 hours to make this system work.  So for now we've invested in timed manifolds to try and water our grass, including the sweet ruts from the truck that weren't fixed when they seeded.

Side Note:  For anyone in the greater Pgh area interested in an alternative lawn...there is a sod farm up in Evans City that delivers by the pallet at a VERY reasonable rate.  We bought 1 pallet for the backyard so Harrison could have a nice potty area & it wasn't bad at all!  J built a temp set of steps until we do our outdoor patio next spring.  Next up is a fence and perhaps we'll just sod the rest of the lawn.  Perhaps the landscaping guys would like a little job on the side??

3.  Little things we find that are just bad.  Example - flush the toilet on the main level & you get a nice low-pitched whine.  But only when the toilet is flushed.  Stain on the walls but missing from the railing.  A chip! in my beautiful granite island.  NOT going to just let that be filled get the idea.

4.  The driveway.  I'm curious how OTHER folks got a concrete driveway.  And one that's a little wider than the garage door.  Ours seems really, really narrow.  At some point, we are going to widen ours but this would've been easier to do during construction.  We are also going to install a little pad for our trash cans.  Even though we got the garage extension, the garage isn't as big as it looks.  We're going to put in a shed ASAP to house the lawn tools, ladders, etc so we have room for my "dowry."  I came into this marriage with a radial arm saw, compound miter saw, tons of tools & a sizeable workbench.  Ergo, that's my dowry!

5. The mailbox situation.  We have a cabinet.  We had to go to USPS and they were just confused.  Eventually they left us a key to our mailbox but didn't know which cabinet we were in.  Just confusing.

6.  Not really an NVR issue but kinda is.  For our property tax abatement, we had major issues trying to send the paperwork because the address doesn't exist on the county's website.  Super convenient.  Hours of phone calls later, I think we are set.

Now for some pics...finished rooms will be forthcoming, but I do not guarantee that they will be posted quickly :)

Finished!  Well, except for the pesky lawn :)

Dining Room.  I LOVE the way this floor turned out.
You wouldn't know it's laminate!

Living Room, c/w Bucks County Ledgestone fireplace surround

My pretty kitchen.  Kinda my pride & joy.

Morning Room!  J is just happy I found an alternative to
Restoration Hardware...

Pantry, before.  Now it's got shelf liners and is filled.
How I fit everything in my small townhome kitchen & closets,
I just do NOT know.

Laundry - I have a red Samsung front loader & matching gas dryer.
A word about the've got to be creative to hook it to the vent box
bc they forgot to leave the oval - round adapter piece.  The 4" round metal
thingie at Home Depot (or Lowes) bends and works just fine but aggravating to deal with.

This is dark, but my master bath/shower.  I love it.  The shower door
is solid but kind of a pain.  A word to the designer...where in the hell
do YOU keep your bath towel?  A bar somewhere in reaching distance
is needed.

Look close at the horizon (really close) and you'll see the tops of
the USX & BNY Mellon buildings.

The night we moved in.  It's like it was meant to be!

Announcing the arrival of Baby Stewart!

Only a puppy could lay like this for hours!

Harrison J. Stewart:  World's Cutest Puppy
(I may be a little biased)

Harrison helped us announce.  Responsibilities
begin early for our little guy - a Guard Dog at 8 months!
Joining the team this Christmas!
(Harrison thought HE was the baby...dark days, indeed!)

One more Buccos picture

One of my favorite views of Pittsburgh!  Happy to call this place home!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Unbelievable. Simply Unbelievable

I had really hoped that our struggles with the poor communication at Ryan between our PM, LO and SR had come to a close.  With under a week until close, it had to be ok, right?


Last week, we invited J's parents, uncle & aunt to come see our new place on Sunday.  Throughout this whole process, we have been able to go to the model, get a key and enter our house.  No one, not the PM or the SR EVER mentioned that this routine might change.  Imagine our confusion when we put the master key in the lock & it didn't work.  Not in the garage, the front door or the back door (J can climb over the railing if the knob opens).  So I went back down to the office.  Our normal SR (well, the one who doesn't suck, not our original) wasn't there.  The girl there had some people that were signing over a check - presumably they were finalizing some portion of their deal.  They now know what to expect.  I didn't want to interrupt but the stand-in SR asked what was up & I told her that the key didn't work.  After several exchanges, it was clear she was totally baffled.  Then she asked when we were closing.

I kid you not, this is what was said:

"You close on Friday?  That explains it.  They've changed your locks."
"Fine.  I'll take that key instead."
"Nope, only your PM has it.  This is why we tell people to call first.  Didn't he email you that update?"
(Um, NO ONE EVER TOLD US THAT.  NEVER, AND THE ROCK MEANS NEVER, WERE WE TOLD THAT WE WOULD BE LOCKED OUT AND THAT ONLY ONE PERSON WOULD HAVE ACCESS TO OUR HOUSE.  How damn stupid is that strategy - only one moron has the key & doesn't work weekends when normal people can visit?  You know, those people who have to work during the day? And our PM didn't do sh!t to update us this week.  Surprise, surprise.  I'm totally over his unaccommodating behavior.)

I pretty much told her that, although I left out the Rock reference.  He's a former wrestler who was hilarious for those confused by that line.

She attempted to apologize with "I'm sorry..."
I cut her off with "I'm sorry for the people who drove 80 miles to have their time wasted because communication is impossible with you people."  I slammed the door & left.  Good luck to those poor folks handing over their money.

Poor J was called into the car where I had an impressive tantrum.  We were able to peek into windows but I'm very angry that I won't be able to see my home until Thursday since our PM refuses to stay past 4pm.  Impossible for people who work to make it up there.

Needless to say, Ryan is getting a very angry email.  This is the last straw.  NVRM can't be bothered to keep track of documents we send, resulting in multiple emails of the SAME form.  Incompetent.  Our PM & LO couldn't get on the same page right after our pre-drywall meeting and give us a close date.  Interest rates rose before they told us 2 weeks later we would close in a month.  Incompetent.  That one has cost us dearly.  We will NOT let this one go unnoticed.  Many people, including my own mother, have said that they wouldn't want to be on the receiving end of this email.

Next up is us questioning what in the hell they used for door handles.  The rest of our home is brushed nickel but quite inexplicably, the exterior door handles are all oil-rubbed bronze?  No.  Try again, clowns.

Overall, the house does look beautiful.  I'm positive we will find imperfections once we are allowed in but at the moment, the frustration and utter nonsense and poor customer service are making this week much more difficult than needed.

Until Thursday...

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Keep Calm & Close in 9 Days!

Yep, you read that right - we're coming down the home stretch in this process!  We received word about a week ago that our closing is set for Friday, July 10 at 11am.  To say we're excited is an understatement!  Of course, like with everything else, there are challenges before we get those keys but the end is definitely in sight.

It's been a really hectic few weeks (noticing a pattern here?  Us too!) what with getting everything out of J's old house, preparing this one and some other projects too.  We successfully unloaded 1 mortgage payment last Friday - J's Cranberry property is off the books!  The closing was pretty easy from the sellers' side - show up, sign a bunch of forms (but not as many as the buyer) and receive a check.  Score!

We have also started to pack up my house - not quite as big of a concern because we aren't forced out by a certain date BUT I'm not hiring movers just for furniture - they can carry the boxes too.  I just need to get things INTO the boxes.  There's no sugar-coating it, and it's no surprise, but moving royally sucks.  Our goal is to have the upper 2 floors finished this weekend.  That means paper plates and takeout for 2 weeks.  Eh, whatever.  It'll work.

Just a few pictures this time - I really need to go check on the place but I have, ahem, other things keeping me busy after work.  Like...

Meet Harrison, the original Toy Boy!

Duck is as big as Harrison!

Proud Parents!


That's right, we took the plunge and added a puppy to our little family!  Harrison is a 9-week old Labrador Mix (they tell us Collie...maybe like 2%?  He's pretty diluted on the "mix" part) that we rescued from Ohio.  We closed on J's house and hauled you-know-what to Ohio to make the 3pm pick-up.  He's adorable and full of puppy mischief.  A ton of work, to be sure, but totally worth it.  

We've already decided that we will buy a little set of temporary steps for our back door & a 10 x 10 patch of sod for his to use while the grass comes up - since we plan to install a stone patio next spring, who cares if the "real" grass grows right there??  I'd rather have a non-muddy area for potty training!

We DID get a chance to visit on Sunday - we're at the point now where we would need to either go during "visiting hours" and get the key or roll the dice that the morning room door is still unlocked and J can climb up and let himself in.  Upper body strength must be nice.  I just wait near the garage until he lets me in.  They've made more progress inside - we now have a dishwasher, sink, stove & our backsplash looks pretty sweet!  That being said, a TON of work remains.  Still need to change out the 3 broken windows, the broken drawer front in the kitchen, final coat of paint, deep clean everything, etc. But I'm going with the mindset that it'll get done & we shouldn't worry!

Yep, I LOVE my backsplash!

Who has a basement with natural light??  WE DO!

I just love the stone!  And the colors do work together.
Now about that blah door...

The light pole & curved sidewalk are just cute!

Final note - remember my venting about our worthless SR, the guy who's trying to make it right and MORONS at NVRM?  Well the new SR continues to really save the day here.  I like this guy & just wish that he had been our original SR.  I'm still thinking I'll be venty on the comments section of the survey but he gets good marks - no fair making him pay for the sins of the Worthless.  As for NVRM, seriously, people, you're pretty much incompetent.  Why on earth do I have to KEEP sending the SAME document over and over?  Do you not have the ability to save a file to a location you can remember?  Bah.  Underwriting can kiss my grits.  The final straw was when we had to turn in pay stubs within 30 days of closing.  Mine was dated 6/17.  Qualifies, right?  Nope, apparently the pay period ended 6/9.  Really?  Really?  REALLY?  Our processor guy was all put out that I didn't get paid again until today.  It's not my policy, bub.  Deep breaths, we're almost done with this incompetence...

So, we'll continue to pack my place, spend time with our new puppy and LET THE COUNTDOWN BEGIN!!!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

So, yeah, it's been a minute...

What can I say? It got a teency bit busy the last few weeks between my job, J's job, packing up one house, thinking about packing up another, attempting to adopt a rescue dog, dealing with a sick cat at the emergency vet and of course pool season! So the blog slipped a bit. In my defense, there wasn't really anything that interesting going on until about the last 10 days or so. Finishing drywall is about as exciting to see as it sounds. Well, maybe that's not entirely true as they did a really nice job, for the most part.

Now for the pictures and the true updates!

I'll start with the hanging of drywall. It was cool to see this in progress, cooler when it was taped & finished.

Great Room & Kitchen...Halfway There!

Half of the Morning Room 

Good selection on that sheet...

Walls AND a ceiling in the kitchen?!?!?  What next?!!

The Future Rickhouse (aka the basement & bar)

Now for some entertaining mishaps and utter nonsense (I'm guessing this will be fixed. Otherwise it's getting the blue tape treatment)


Sweet crack.  Hopefully it's just mud

Measure twice, cut once, punch off the corner?

Strong control of English..."You mist"
(this is the above hole)

Not really feeling this is a quality concrete repair job

Again, not a quality repair

Was a level optional?  When is this door
going to close properly?
I know - on the 12th of Never!!!

Big Progress - here's a look at the exterior, then & now! Rumor has it we get stone this week...
Given how little is on the house that made Bucks County Ledgestone a no-go for us, I'm just amused. I think 2 pallets covered all 18 inches of stone on the elevation they chose. And for that we had to re-pick the stone & color scheme? Fail. Just Fail.  

Exterior on May 24

Exterior on June 13

Stone!  It's not Bucks County Ledgestone but we like it

And finally, Big Progress on the Inside!! Hold onto your seats - WE HAVE CABINETS! FLOORS! VANITIES! TILE! SHOWERS! ELECTRICAL OUTLETS & LIGHTS! We are carpeting and toilets away from a legit house! Oh, and of course all of the finishing work like countertops, cleanup, actually hanging doors properly, repainting the walls, final grading, etc. But since we are closing, yes...we have a date...there's an end in sight!

A garage full of goodies!  Yet it was still unlocked.  Very trusting...

This truly is my dream kitchen!

Close-up of my floors - darker in real life but I love them!

Floors & Tile

Main bath - it's livable.  Not my fave but a fun shower curtain will cure it.

My master bath!

Shower & Soaking Tub!!

Yeah, this floor was so much better tiled vs fiberglass.  Worth. Every. Penny.

Beast Mode is Definitely On!

As for the closing, well, RH has dropped the ball again. I don't know why I'm surprised at this point. After our pre-drywall meeting, our PM allegedly gave our Loan Officer the target date. Why that wasn't communicated to us to lock in our rates just isn't clear.  At least not satisfactorily so. What I do know is by the time I found out, raised hell & put props under it, interest rates had risen from 3.85% to 4.125%. On a 30-year loan, that ain't chump change. To say I was livid is an understatement. EVERYONE felt it, from our SR to J. They did take a little off of our closing cost but nowhere near the amount that this mistake will cost us. I'm not above dangling the survey over peoples' heads. I've done it a few times with great results. I really am not a difficult or mean-spirited person but do NOT mess with my money. Ever. It ends very badly. Think Bane in the Dark Knight Rises movie bad.

Speaking of the whole SR situation, remember that debacle? We were apparently the red-headed stepchildren left hanging when the old one moved on to bother another community. The guy left eventually took us over & told her to buzz off. Not sure how much buzzing was done since she wasn't doing jack squat anyhow but she won't be bothering us anymore. New guy really is trying to placate us me. I'll give him that. But you better believe I'll be tearing the old, useless SR a new one in the "comments" section. What a waste of space she turned out to be. Her personal issues aren't my problem. Period. Everything is much smoother now but in all honesty I just want to be in the house. I've hit the "over building a house" stage full-on this week! 3 weeks...just 3 more weeks...

Oh, and here are just a few other pictures relating to why it took so long to make a new post - my sweet baby Vinny. This poor cat started HOWLING in pain at 7:45pm on a Saturday night. Of course this was right after his vet had closed so we got to visit the emergency vet. A TON of cash and a 5-night stay at the animal hospital later (thanks...that was for furniture, Vincent) he's all better. But I do not recommend trying to drug a cat on your own. The big benefit was that he was all cuddly due to the painkillers. J wants to know if we can get more & keep him drugged up. Maybe...maybe...

At the hospital, wearing his Cone of Shame

Happy Kitty, Sleepy Kitty, Purr, Purr, Purr

Found this at Consol Energy Center -
they would NOT let me take this for our basement.
No vision on their part!

Love this sign!  Didn't even make it to the open market!