All posts by bryanpryor

Watching the grass grow

Want to learn how to go from bare dirt to a lush lawn in less than 1  year?  I’ll show you the steps I took to get these results!

Growing a lawn in one year from seed
Growing a lawn in one year from seed

Oh, the joys of building a new house – you get to establish the lawn.  Of course, we could always just pay to have it done, but being super frugal we’ve decided to plant it ourselves.  Here’s some pics to see the status.

grass3
October 11, 2015. 10 days after planting Tall Fescue. 4″ of topsoil brought in to the front yard, with irrigation system.

We used mostly Tall Fescue from TSC for this planting, although since we were so close to winter I decided to throw some winter rye in the mix just in case.  I didn’t get this grass planted until October 1 in Michigan, which is LATE!  2 months earlier would have been just fine with me. My other post lists different grass seed options and the pros and cons of them.

October 15 - starting to see some real green
October 15 – starting to see some real green
grass1
October 25 – Finally filling in!
grass2
October 25 – just starting to fill in. Thank God this was a warm fall!

Picking out the floor plan

Ok, so we’ve chosen a school district, then decided on our lot.  Now it’s time to pick the rest of the details for the floor plan for our new construction.  With an infinite number of choices, we were only limited by our imagination and our budget.

I would recommend that you make a list of “must haves” and a list of “nice to haves” when it comes to the features for your new house. Then, DO NOT compromise on anything from your “must have” list.  If it really is a “must have,” don’t build a house without it.  You’ll find that it’s best to have many of these decisions made before you meet with your builder so you can get a good estimate of what it costs to put into the house.  The base price listed for most new construction houses could easily be doubled if you want to add a lot of high end luxuries.

Here’s some of our “Must Haves”

  • 3+ bedrooms total, 2 + baths.  Must have a master suite.
  • Master bedroom must be large enough for king sized bed
  • 1 other bedroom should accommodate a queen sized bed
  • Full basement with walkout
  • 1st floor master bedroom
  • Laundry room NOT in basement
  • Open floor plan
  • Good lighting and good use of natural light
  • 3+ car attached garage
  • Good curb appeal

We were lucky to find a standard floor plan from our builder that met all of our needs (and we really liked it).  This was very nice, because it saved money on architect/design fees.  Even with this basic floor plan, our builder was willing to move interior and exterior walls as we wanted, so we went with it.  It was actually nice to find a pre-made plan that we liked.  It REALLY sped up the decision  making process.   One walk-through a house with this plan was all it took to decide.

Some of the other upgrades we chose (“Nice to Haves”)

  • 4 car garage, with bonus room above garage (extra storage!)
  • 9′ basement ceilings, 9′ 1st floor ceilings
  • 42″ tall cabinets

In the end, it will look something like this!

What’s Important in a Lot?

Paranoid Dad thoughts for what is important in a lot, once we’ve narrowed it down to Clarkston.

  1. Proximity to highways:  Multiple studies show that there’s elevated risk of lung diseases for kids that grow up within 400 feet of a highway.  I chose to stay at least 1 mile away from a highway.  Plus, that really keeps the road  noise down.
  2. Power lines:  There’s a major set of power lines that run through Clarkston.  We’ve all seen the TV reports hinting at the risk of cancer if you live close to power lines.  For the health reasons as well as the resale value reasons, we chose to avoid them.
  3. Dirt Road/Paved Road:  One big deciding factor for us was that we did not want to live on a dirt road.  I wanted a paved driveway off of a paved road.  That is a really good way to limit your real-estate searches.
  4. Lot Size:  should be big enough, but does not have to be huge.   Too large just leads to extra yard work/maintenance/cost.  Our old lot in Waterford was about 1/4 acre, and we wanted a little bigger.  We decided to look at lots  between 1/2 acre and 3 acres.
  5. Lot features:  A walk-out basement was a must on our list.  Good drainage also (no wet basements!).  Lakefront or Lake access would be nice, but 1/2 acre on any decent lake was way out of our budget.

We ended up looking at quite a few existing houses and a few new construction possibilities.  We ended up falling in love with one lot/neighborhood.  Here it is:  our gently sloping walk-out lot.  It’s close to 3/4 of an acre, but has 10 acres of shared common space behind it!  This will be the view from the back of our new home.

Location, Location, Location

During this first year of Emma’s life, we’re going to try to describe our decision-making process for the new house, as well as keep the world up-to-date on Emma’s progress.  Emma & the house are 2 of the biggest things going on  in our life, so they’ll likely be the 2 biggest topics this year on the Blog. 🙂

First off in our new house search:  location.  Emma (and her eventual school) is what got us started looking at new houses.  We were in an OK school district before (Waterford) but knew we wanted better for her if we could afford it.  Also, we wanted to limit commutes to 30 minutes.  That left Clarkston, Rochester, Troy, and the Bloomfields as our options.  We chose Clarkston because we preferred the feel of living on the outskirts of the metro area.  Not really the country, but it’s REALLY not the city.  It’s a good mix of easy access and open areas.

Clarkston_House_Locations

Next choice:  Which lot/neighborhood to choose in Clarkston?  And what’s important in location for a forever home?  Hint:  The map above shows some of the areas we wanted to avoid.

Basic things we chose to avoid:

  • I-75.  I didn’t want to live close to the highway for noise & air pollution reasons
  • DTE:  Traffic & noise during the summer.
  • Waterford Hills:  Noise during the summer

We ended up finding a great location north of I-75 that met all of our criteria.  It’s out of the city, but plenty close to highway access when we want it.

November Updates

It has been a very busy 6 months!  Emma was born in April, and you would not believe how much it changed my way of thinking.  There’s something that happens to a dad when he holds his daughter for the first time.  It’s hard to describe, but a new sense of protection kicks in.

Before Emma was born, our plan was to stay in the Waterford house for 3-5 years, then move to a house in a better school district.  After she was born, I immediately began re-thinking that, and ultimately decided we needed to move in 2014.

Let’s recap how things went after Emma arrived:
April – Emma is born
May – Contacted our realtor to look at listings and see what might be available to buy.  The real-estate market looked the healthiest it has since 2007, so we decided to list our house for sale.  This started the mad dash to get the house ready to sell. (keep in mind, we have a newborn baby to take care of, too.)
June – Continued work on the house.  Paint, counters, flooring… you name it.  We crammed 3 years worth of renovations into 8 weeks.
July – Finally listed the house for sale mid-July!  We were lucky, we didn’t miss the summer selling season.  We got accepted an offer on the house towards the end of the month, and started packing (ugh!)
We still haven’t found a great house to buy ourselves, so we start leaning towards new construction.  We had already found a great lot in a new subdivision, and it’s looking even better  now!
August – Decision Time:  we closed the deal for a new construction on the lot we loved.  Now comes the drudgery:  pack, move, repeat.  As it turns out, we have a TON of stuff.  Thanks to all the friends and family that helped us get this move completed.  We closed the sale on the Waterford house at the end of the month and were finally out of there.  Now we just have to wait 12 months for our new house to get built.