This Ryan Homes review shares our experience with building a new construction home-- what we loved, what we'd change, and more!
In 2016 we decided that it was finally time to move out of our little townhouse into a single family home. After looking at the listings for every single house available in our school district and realizing that I would want to do major renovations to each and every one of them, we decided to build a house instead so that we could choose the major features that we wanted from the get go.
We ultimately decided to go with a community builder, Ryan Homes, rather than building a completely custom home because it was an affordable way to have a "blank slate" that we could work to customize ourselves over the years.
(With this type of build, they had a certain number of cabinet styles we could choose from, a certain number of flooring options, a certain number of floor plans, etc. as opposed to a totally custom build where you can choose pretty much anything you want.)
Because Ryan Homes builds tons and tons of communities, particularly here on the eastern side of the country, I get questions weekly about what our experience was like, what advice we would give to someone building a Ryan home, what we liked/what we didn't, etc.
Ryan Homes Review and New Construction Tips and Tricks
I've held off writing a post sharing all of this info until we had lived in our house for a while so that I could speak from experience, and now that we've been here nearly three years, it seemed like it was time.
Ryan Homes in no way sponsored our house or compensated me in any way for building with them; my goal with this post is to share my neutral, unbiased thoughts and experiences after going through the process.
Also, though our home is specifically a Ryan home, many of the thoughts and suggestions I'm about to share would apply to most home builds and could still be helpful for those who are building with other companies.
Before I dive in, a caveat: Everyone's experience with building a home will be different. No one will deal with the same exact sales people, project managers, and construction crews that we did, so I can't say that our experience will be exactly what everyone else will experience.
I will say that although everything about our house building process wasn't 100% perfect (Is it ever?!), overall I am very pleased with our experience and would absolutely do it again.
Starting the Building Process
Even when building a home that isn't completely custom, starting the process can feel really overwhelming because there are still a lot of decisions to make! Here are some things we did (or wished we did!) at the very beginning of the process to help things go more smoothly.
Talk to as many people as you can. See as many houses as you can. Keep track of what you like and what you don't.
The most helpful thing we did at the beginning of the house building process was to gather as much information as we possibly could.
We met with several friends who had built with Ryan Homes in different neighborhoods, saw their houses, and got their take on what they liked, what they didn't, what they would do differently, etc.
Although none of our friends had the same model that we ended up building (the Palermo), many of the homes have a similar layout, so it was helpful to see how the spaces functioned and hear about what options were available.
We also drove to several different Ryan neighborhoods and toured the model homes, including a Palermo model, so we could see even more options.
The #ryanhomes hashtag on Instagram shows even more ideas and options that are available, so that's another great way to "tour" spaces virtually.
I tried to keep a log of everything I had seen and liked and didn't like before we went into the actual decision making process so that I wouldn't forget any details in the midst of trying to make tons and tons of choices.
Seeing many, many houses and options also helped me to know what the possibilities were, since there's no way to go over every single possible scenario and combination of things while you're making decisions about your home.
For example, one question I get a lot is, "How did you get pendant lights over your kitchen island? Did you add electrical for those afterwards?" Apparently they don't always come right out and ask if you want those roughed in during your electrical meeting.
Because I had been looking at lots of Ryan Homes in advance, I asked for them specifically during our electrical meeting and we were able to get rough ins put into the plan, so all we had to do after we moved in was to add the lights themselves.
Start the process when you have time to devote to research and decision making.
I wish we had done a better job of this! Once we signed our paperwork, we had a three week window to make all of the decisions about the house. We had done a lot of research already, thankfully, but there are always more details to iron out during this period.
During our three week decision making period, we were in the midst of a major product launch for the blog, and Donnie and I both traveled across the country, where I was speaking at a blogging conference, so both preparing my talk and the travel itself took a lot of time!
We ended up feeling a bit rushed in our decision making, and though we didn't do anything completely detrimental, if I did it again, I would have tried to time it better.
Don't rush the flooring/tile appointment.
One of the appointments that happened during our three week decision making window was an appointment to choose our flooring and bathroom tile options.
We had pamphlets to look at before the appointment, but we really didn't get to see all of the examples and ask detailed questions until we were at our meeting, and we were going to be making all of our decisions right then and there.
During this appointment, you look at tons of samples of carpets, tile, hardwoods, and other flooring options. Cost numbers get thrown around and estimated. It's a lot of information all at one time.
Rather than making our final decisions at that meeting, I wish I would have gathered all of the information at the appointment, taken a few days to think about it and talk about it with Donnie, and then decided what we wanted to do.
I didn't love any of the bathroom tile options, for example, but because I felt like I needed to make a quick decision, I chose my favorite out of what was there and moved on. If I had thought about it, I might have pushed to see if we could upgrade further and get better tile or even just put in the basic tub surround and planned to do our own tile somewhere down the road.
It wasn't completely disastrous and our bathrooms are fine, but if I had taken more time to think through the options, I may have done things a little differently.
Ask lots of questions about upgrades and add-ons.
Clear communication with your sales reps is absolutely key during the decision making phase of the process. It's important to ask clarifying questions and see as many examples as possible when deciding on upgrades and add-ons.
There are so many decisions happening at one time, and the sales reps often know the options so well that they may assume that you know them too. If anything is unclear, ask, ask, ask!
For example, when we made the decision to upgrade our baseboards and chose to do cased openings for the doorways, we were in the model home. When the sales rep was talking about the cased opening option, he gestured toward the trim in the house to show us some of what he was talking about. I liked the way the trim looked in the model, so we decided to do the upgrade.
When they started installing the trim in our house though, it was thin and cheap looking, not the chunkier trim that had been in the model. We came to find out that we had only upgraded to the basic trim package and would have had to upgrade another level to get the nicer looking cased openings that we were expecting.
Our sales rep was fantastic, and I in no way think that he intentionally deceived us, but this was a case where we should have clarified what we were getting with more questions and asked to see exactly what would be installed in our house.
We are currently in the process of changing out all of the trim in our house ourselves, and had we asked more questions, we may not have ended up having to do that.
Decisions We're Glad We Made
Though our decision making wasn't perfect, there are lots of decisions that we're glad we made, so I wanted to be sure to pass those along!
While we may have rushed our flooring decisions a little bit, I am happy with the majority of our choices.
We did hardwoods in the entire downstairs, up the steps (This was huge! Carpet on stairs gets worn so easily!), and in the upstairs hallway, and I'm really glad we did. (We chose the Dundee Oak 3 1/4″ Plank in Mocha.)
I love the look of the hardwoods with area rugs layered on top, and I don't have any complaints about the quality of the flooring after three years. It still looks great.
I have heard from others that the carpeting Ryan uses (ours was through a company called RiteRug at the time) wears out easily, but since we only have it in the bedrooms and in my office-- not in any of the super high traffic areas-- it has held up just fine. We haven't had any stains or discolorations or worn spots.
We didn't actually get to choose the color they painted the interior of the house, but some of our neighbors got to choose between a "white white" (Sherwin Williams Heron Plume) and an "antique white" that was more of a cream color, so I wanted to make sure I mentioned this.
If you can choose between the white and antique white, choose white. They paint the walls and the ceilings all the same color, and the people in our neighborhood who had the antique white are having to repaint all of their ceilings when they repaint the walls in their house because the ceilings end up looking yellowish.
By default, we ended up getting the "white white" color, and though it isn't the exact color I would have chosen if I could have picked any color, it was a nice neutral shade that worked perfectly well until we were ready to paint each room, and we didn't have to repaint the ceilings.
After talking to a few friends who had Ryan homes, we made a few specific electrical requests that have been helpful.
First, we had all of the outdoor outlets put on a switch that is inside the house. This especially comes in handy at Christmas time when we have lights out. We can just keep them plugged in at all times and turn them on and off from inside the house.
We also had an outlet installed in each of the end cabinets in the kitchen. We plan to put in under-cabinet lighting, and having those outlets already available will make it so much easier.
I wish we would have had an outlet put into our master closet for ironing, steaming, and even charging our phones or plugging in hair appliances. We ended up having an outlet added to the closet once our home was already built, but it would have been even easier (and we would have had more of a say of where it went) if we had put it into the initial building plan.
One thing we were sure to do was to take a detailed video of the whole house right before the drywall went up. Because we have that video, we know exactly how all electrical and plumbing is run and where everything is in case there is ever an issue.
I had a very specific look in mind for our kitchen, and none of the granite countertop options that Ryan offered fit that look. We also had just renovated the kitchen in our townhouse and had used quartz countertops, and I loved them so much that I wanted to use them again.
Since this wasn't an option with Ryan, we just had them put in the laminate countertops that came with our house package and switched them out soon after we moved in. (It is not an option to just leave them off and do them yourself, unfortunately. You HAVE to have them install one of their countertop options.)
Because aesthetics were our main motivating factor, I didn't run exact numbers, but I have heard from others that it can be cheaper to have granite or quartz countertops added after the fact, rather than paying the upgrade price for them. It's definitely worth looking into and getting exact numbers if you're looking to get solid surface countertops.
When making our selections, we added all possible extra windows on the main level, and it makes the house feel so much lighter and brighter! This included two extra windows in the dining room, two windows in the morning room, and two windows in Donnie's office. For privacy's sake, we did not add any extra windows in the bedrooms upstairs.
We didn't do a ton of add-ons when it came to increasing the square footage of the house, but the two we chose are hands down my absolute favorite rooms in the house!
First, the morning room! I sit here every morning when I eat my breakfast, we hang out here all the time when we have company over, and everyone in the family just tends to gravitate toward this room during the day. It is light and bright (thanks to the aforementioned extra windows!), and it's the best room to enjoy the view.
Not all models will have a bonus room option, but the Palermo allows for a bonus room above the garage, and it is enormous and amazing! I may be a little biased because we use the bonus room as my home office, but I have seen others use it as a theater room or a playroom, and it is so great to have the extra space.
If we would ever need to move our parents or other family members into our house, the bonus room could even serve as a mini apartment because it is so roomy.
Snags We Experienced
I mentioned that we had a few snags during the process, which I imagine happens with nearly every new build. When we brought these things to the attention of our project manager, they were taken care of in a timely fashion.
-Microwave and dishwasher issues. When we first moved in, we had trouble with the dishwasher leaking and the microwave not working correctly. It took 3 dishwashers and 2 microwaves within the first few months of moving in, but we finally got ones that worked perfectly and have served us well for the 3 years that we have lived here. (They ended up giving us an upgraded microwave since we had issues with the first one.)
-Bathroom leak. A few months after we moved in, I noticed a water spot forming on the ceiling in our living room. There was still construction happening on other houses in our neighborhood, so they sent someone up that day to look at it. There ended up being something loose in the bathroom above. They created a little access panel in our master closet, fixed the issue, and then fixed the ceiling as well. We have never had any other issues with it.
-Insulation above the garage. My office has always run a little cooler than the rest of our house, but I figured it was just because it was above the garage. The second winter we were here, I noticed that the walls in my office nook were really cold, which didn't seem right.
Even though we were technically past our warranty, they sent someone to check it out and found that there was no insulation in a would-be crawl space in that area. Sometimes they leave access panels in the walls in that nook to access the crawl space, but in our case they didn't (and we wouldn't have wanted them to), but apparently the insulation people didn't get that memo. They ended up cutting small panels in the ceiling of our garage and adding the insulation, completely fixing the issue.
Overall, we are very pleased with how our home turned out and have really loved living here. We found the sales rep and project manager in our community easy to work with and attentive to issues when they arose.
I hope this Ryan Homes review was helpful! I will continue to update this post if we experience anything else as we live here longer, but three years in and knowing what we know now, we would definitely choose to do this build again.
Thinking of building a new home? Be sure to pin the image below so you can refer to it as you go through the building process!
If you're looking for more details about our building process, these posts can help:
Our New Home: A Preview (All of our selections are listed in this post.)
Is there anything I missed? If you have any other questions about the home building process, feel free to leave them in the comments below!
Thanks so much for following along! Have a great day!