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Thinking About Building a New Home? Read This First!

This Ryan Homes review shares our experience with building a new construction home– what we loved, what we’d change, and more!

Ryan Homes Review

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.)

Ryan Homes Palermo exterior, Elevation L

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.

Porch of a Ryan Homes Palermo model, Elevation L

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.

Living Room in a Ryan Homes Palermo Model

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.

White Kitchen in a Ryan Homes Palermo with Pendant Lights Over the Island

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.

Master Bedroom in the Ryan Homes Palermo

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.

Master Bathroom in a Ryan Homes Palermo

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.

Cased Opening with Trim from Ryan Homes vs. Custom Craftsman Style Trim
trim installed by Ryan Homes vs. custom trim we’ve added ourselves

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!

Flooring

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.)

White Kitchen in a Ryan Homes Palermo with Dark Wood Floors

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.

Bonus Room Over the Garage in a Ryan Homes Palermo

Paint

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.

Living Room in a Ryan Homes Palermo
our living room before we painted it, with Ryan Homes’ default white paint color

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.

Electrical

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.

Christmas Porch Decor on a Ryan Homes Palermo, Elevation L

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.

Master Closet in a Ryan Homes Palermo with EasyClosets Closet System

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.

Countertops

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.)

Ryan Homes Palermo White Kitchen on Move In Day vs. After Renovations
our kitchen on move-in day with laminate countertops vs. now with quartz countertops

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.

Windows

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.

extra windows we added in the dining room

Square Footage

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.

Morning Room in a Ryan Homes Palermo

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.

Home Office in the Bonus Room of a Ryan Homes Palermo

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.)

White Kitchen in a Ryan Homes Palermo

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.

Home Office Nook in Bonus Room of Ryan Homes Palermo

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.

Final Thoughts

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!

Important Things to Know Before Building a New House

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.)

The State of the Move: Some Updates

New House Update: We’re Getting Close!

Our New House: The “Before” Photos

Our House Tour: One Year In

A Before and After Home Tour: 2.5 Year Update

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!

22 Comments

  1. at home with Ashley says:

    Thanks for sharing this! It’s good to know what you would have done differently when building a home. It’s such a big thing to build brand new, so these tips will come in handy if I ever build 😉

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Thanks so much for reading, Ashley! I’m glad it was helpful. Have a wonderful weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  2. Great read and great detailed information. Thank you for sharing.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you, Tisa! Hope you have a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  3. Bernice Sullivan says:

    Added thoughts:
    1. Electrical: Decide where you want your permanent furniture and put the outlets at hip height or to the side, not behind.
    2. Downstairs master bedroom and bath w roll in shower. Never know when parents, guests, handicapped will need to visit. You can always use this room as den or whatever until needed for the above.
    3. Doorways: 36 inches to accommodate wheelchairs, furniture, etc.
    4. Entry: Again think handicap access.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      All great suggestions, Bernice! Thanks for sharing! <3

      ~Abby =)

  4. Christina says:

    We did two add ins to our new house, that at first made people scratch their head, but once we explained the reason, they were impressed with how well thought out we had been. We added an outlet in one of master closets for the ironing board as mentioned above, since the laundry room was too small to keep one. In the attic we also added an outlet and an input box and ran co-ax down from the attic that connected to all of the co-ax in the house. We had “cut the cable cord” in our old house, and this allowed us to put an antennae that attached to all of our tv outlets through the hous in our attic and have electric if we needed to add a booster for the signal.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Wow! LOVE that idea… way to think ahead! Thanks so much for sharing, Christina. Have a wonderful weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  5. What a great summary, Abby! I was most impressed with your suggestion about photographing the walls before the drywall goes up — what a superb idea!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad you enjoyed in, Lynn! Hope you’re having a great weekend! <3

      ~Abby =)

  6. Courtney Chaney says:

    We don’t live too far from you, just outside of Morgantown, WV and we have Ryan Homes as an option in our area also. Parry Homes, out of Washington, just opened a location in Morgantown, too and we have no idea who we will go with in the end. Your post on this subject is so helpful! We are currently in the research phase of the whole process and I have been overwhelmed. This helps, thank you!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Yay! I’m so glad it was helpful for you, Courtney! It really can be SO overwhelming, right? Ah! Sending hugs and wishing you all the best as you begin this process… it will all be worth it! 🙂

      ~Abby =)

  7. Vicki Bray says:

    Hi Abby, So just reading this about your home and I’m sure you don’t remember but we started our custom home at around the same time, perhaps a few months behind you. Well, we just moved in six months ago! I know! What the heck! Our builder at the time went past our scheduled move in date a full 8 months – basically held us hostage for those 8 months and added finish details we had not even specified. People always say your house is beautiful. If they had a week or so I could tell them where to look and what the specs called for in the original plans. Your house is beautiful! But, I disagree with your one statement – I would never do this again!

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      Oh my goodness! 8 months is such a long time! So sorry you had to go through all that, Vicki! 🙁

      ~Abby =)

    2. Ravi Gupta says:

      Like the other commenters, I appreciate your post and had concerns that are now mostly gone.

      My family was told they could not budge on pricing one bit. Do you have any experience with this when purchasing your home? Maybe not driving the price down, but getting additional add-ons at no cost?

      1. Abby Lawson says:

        Hi, Ravi! We didn’t really try to barter much or get additional fixtures when we were creating our package. We did end up getting a free upgraded microwave after we moved in because a few broke on us right away so they replaced it with a better model, but that was really the only little extra thing we got. Sorry I don’t have any great tips for getting them to budge! Best of luck with your home!

  8. Alonise Noel says:

    Thank you so much for your detailed review. We are considering building our home with Ryan Homes, but most of the reviews are so negative I didn’t know if I should go with them. They the only one that have a floor plan that we love. Your review was very helpful and will keep them in mind as we go through our process. Thank you once again.

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      So glad it was helpful for you! Wishing you all the best with your build!

      ~Abby =)

      1. Hi Abby, like another reader above, I have just started building my house with Ryan Homes and this morning came across two things in this same order; the hundreds of negative reviews, and then your review. I have already put down my 5K earnest deposit and signed the contract with the building just started this week. You lifted my spirits up immediately and I will be following your article and the likes til the end if I will end up closing with Ryan. Thank you for the detailed advise and the time you took to put it together.

        1. Abby Lawson says:

          So glad it was helpful for you, David’s. I hope you guys love your home as much as we do! Have a great week!

          ~Abby =)

  9. Hi Abby,

    Great article! As someone who is a first time home buyer this article was wonderful and I learned so much! I do have one question. What did u guys do with the bathroom mirrors? Are upgrades available? If not, can you tell them to just not install the mirrors. I don’t want those frameless slabs of mirror in my bathrooms and I heard that when builders glue them on,
    Often times you’ll damage the Sheetrock when u go to remove them. So I would rather not install if I can’t upgrade. Do u know if they force you to install?

    1. Abby Lawson says:

      I’m pretty sure they do have to install them, but you could check with your PM to make sure. The good news is, at least for ours, they were not glued on at all. We just had to pry off the little clips, and the mirrors came down easily. (So maybe if they do have to install them, specifically request that they just do the clips and not the glue?) The mirrors they install would be perfect for a home gym/workout area too if you or any of your neighbors are planning on adding one of those in your home!

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