Building With Bay West Homes

The journey of building a new house...

Thursday, January 31, 2002

It's funny, but it just occurred to the both of us last night that while legally we're supposed to take possession today, we haven't heard anything from Bay West on how/where we get our house keys. At our walk though, the Bay West "employee who requested that we not use his name" gave us the welcome package with some information and our official Bay West key chains...but no keys. This was quite different from my experience with Hawthorne, who gave me the keys along with the package on the day of possession.

So we're hoping that sometime today we'll hear from Bay West on how we get into our house. :-)

Wednesday, January 30, 2002

I wanted to clarify something I was talking about earlier related to the interest charges: I spoke with Harry, the President of Bay West, and he said that they wouldn't have charged us interest if it was only a few days over. From their point of view, the most important thing is that the customer (us) is making an effort to get all the documentation in order. So it seems that when Marlene at Thompson & Ball told us that we would be charged interest, she wasn't speaking for Bay West. It's a little dangerous to throw around a threat like that!

However, that still doesn't change the fact that I felt the walkthrough should have been done before the meeting with the lawyers. When Gordon Thompson, the lawyer we met with, said that our only recourse was the Alberta New Home Warranty if we were dissatisfied, I knew we had made a mistake. Relying on a faceless committee to solve our problems instead of having control over the money we're paying the builder can't be a good thing.

I have some other thoughts about the walkthrough that I'll post later tonight or tomorrow.

I heard back today from Jeff Rust about the sink, and we've decided to go with the oval stainless steel sink. We've opting for the same brand as our other sinks, so the finish will be the same. Although part of me wants to say "Make our house the way it was supposed to be on the blueprint!", ultimately that choice would be expensive for Bay West and very inconvenient for us. And the wall would never quite look right either. Of course, not wanting to let Bay West off the hook completely for screwing up, I asked for something else: that they put sod in our front yard when spring comes. After some discussion, Bay West agreed to give us $250 in cash for us to use to sod the yard when we wanted, likely after Carma delivers our tree (sometime in the spring). I think they're getting off pretty easy, but I'm satisfied. If the error was more serious, this would be a bigger deal, but ultimately the "problem" isn't much of one at all.

As you all know, we had our walkthrough earlier this week, and many of you have been asking to hear about it, so here it is! There are photos, and comments to go along with those photos!

Generally, we were pleased with the walkthrough and what came out of it. It started out on a bit of a sour note, as the first room we "critiqued" was the master bedroom. All the doors we chose are flat, no wood grain, and show every single bit of dirt and grease because of the finish. We commented to the gentleman who did the walkthrough with us (he asked that his name not be used on the web site) that we expected all the doors to be cleaned, as all you can see on them are greasy fingerprints which have been lacquered over. He said that because of the style of door, they can't do anything about the flaws. I guess the sales people, or the supplier was supposed to have said something to us about the poor finished quality of this particular style of door, but didn't, so now we'll be moving into a brand new house that has dirty fingerprints all over all the doors. Very disappointing. However, we were told that in 3 months, we can call Baywest back, and they'll come in and touch up the doors with paint brushes. My dad, who as Jason mentioned earlier, painted interiors and exteriors of homes on his own for 25 years, said that with these doors which were originally sprayed, they need to be taken off the hinges and re-sprayed. Baywest doesn't do this for us, so we may have doors that we'll be able to see brush marks on forever. <> That was the biggest frustration of the walkthrough.

We talked about the poor quality of painting on the walls, and unforunately, the painters were there working while we were doing our walkthrough, so it made for a bit of an awkward situation when we had something negative to say about the paint. With a south facing house, apparently we're to expect that we'll be able to see blemishes in the walls and the paint...who knew? The other thing with the paint is that when the painters did touch ups on the walls, they didn't go back and repaint all the walls afterwards, so if you stand at an angle to most walls, you can see all the touch up points. We mentioned this, and were told that based on the New Home Warranty guidelines, we're supposed to stand 3 feet back from the wall, dead on, and if we can't see any blemishes from there, it passes code. Nice try! I guess we can't really do much about it, but were under the impression that as a brand new home, everything would look "perfect", or at least to our satisfaction.

The good news, however, is that our mantel which was poorly installed, and our island which was described earlier, are both being replaced. The gentleman doing the walkthrough with us agreed that the final quality of both was "crap", and said he would be in contact with Prestique Kitchens regarding the island, and that he himself would rebuild our mantel.

I'm gonna go on a bit of a rant about Prestique Kitchens right now. You'll see a photo here of our drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, and you'll notice that they're horribly misaligned.

Well, this is what ALL our drawers and cupboards look like. Not a single bank of them in any room of the house is aligned as it should be. So, we'll have to have them in to fix all those problems. But, that's not the biggest point of contention with them. They are the people responsible for the disaster that is our current island. We were told during the walkthrough that Prestique is not highly regarded in the site superintendent's eyes, and they have a notorious reputation for being very slow to fix problems they cause. We, of course, pushed back and even went so far as to call Baywest's president, Harry, and insist that our island be fixed/replaced by Friday, when we move in. He got on Prestique's case, and they're coming in tomorrow to try and fix the island. We told Baywest that if it doesn't look EXACTLY like the one in their showhome (featured below), Prestique will be back to replace the entire thing.

We're quite displeased with the quality of workmanship displayed by Prestique Kitchens, and will not let them off the hook until everything they installed is corrected and to our satisfaction.

This photo above shows the gap between the island top and the wall it rests on. We weren't sure why there was such a gap, but were told that there will be a wood trim being put there, along with a support beam to hold up the island.

You can see here what our kitchen is going to look like when we move in. The fridge isn't in its hole yet, and it's a good thing! We discovered that the door of the fridge doesn't close. We were unable to see any sort of blockage, and have contacted Coast Wholesale Appliances to have it fixed, or replaced.

The hardwood floors look AWESOME! We are SO pleased with how they turned out! Nu-Way Floor Fashions did a remarkable job, and we couldn't be happier. We don't have a photo of the carpets, but they're equally as pleasing to us. Thanks Nu-Way, and Connie!

We were never given the option of choosing different towel rods and toilet paper holders, and wondered why. Shelly told us that their supplier basically has one or two choices! So, we took it upon ourselves to make yet another trip to IKEA and we picked out some of our own. We'll be sure to post some photos of them soon! Here are the standard ones that are in our bathrooms right now.

This nice little hole greeted us when we walked into the laundry room! It was fixed up prior to the walkthrough though! We figured Baywest must've accidentally made our laundry chute too small! :-) Just kidding!

Our last little "surprise" was this lovely $5 thermostat! We paid for an upgraded thermostat that would accommodate air conditioning when we get it installed somewhere down the road, and it appears as though a little mistake was made! Baywest is going to be fixing that up for us as well!

At the end of a long two and a half hours, we were being shown some paperwork and upkeep brochures, and the final document we were shown was a copy of a contract that would be sent to New Home Warranties, outlining what was left to be finished, in other words, a deficiency list for our home. We were rather shocked to discover that Baywest submits this document with only our signatures on it, and none of the deficiency boxes filled in! They supply us with a contract between Baywest and us that outlines what needs to be fixed, and what will be fixed, but that never sees a lawyer's office. We were told that the reason they do this is that lawyers often don't understand exactly what needs to be fixed, and can mistake a small painting touch up for something worthy of holding back money for. Makes sense, I guess, but also made us very uncomfortable signing a blank document when there is obviously much left to finish.

All in all, it was a productive experience, and we have the guarantee of a nicely finished house when all is said and done. I'm amazed at the number of hoops we have to jump through in order to get our house to look exactly like we want it to look, but Baywest seems to be doing their best to get things fixed up for us, prior to our possession date.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

So I got a call today from Jeff at Bay West that was a little surprising. It seems that they built part of our house a little "wrong". The half-bathroom on the main floor is more like a 4/10ths bathroom! Apparently the framer made an error when framing the bathroom and framed on the inside of his mark rather than the outside. The net result is that our bathroom is roughly six inches narrower than it should be. Normally that might not be considered a big deal, but it affected the size of our bathroom counter top, and now our round stainless-steel sink won't fit! I was quite surprised when I heard this - it's one thing to have issues with the quality of a paint job in a room, but now we find out our bathroom isn't built to match the blueprints? Yikes.

We have three options: we can use the round sink and mount the taps to the right or left, switch to an oval sink and put the taps in their normal place, or have Bay West rip out the entire wall and correct the mistake. The first two options are easy outs for Bay West - it doesn't cost them anything extra to switch the sinks. The last option is more expensive for them, but it's more of a pain for us - and the wall will never be quite the same. What to do...

We're leaning towards going with the oval sink so the taps can be mounted properly, but I'm reluctant to simply accept such a significant error on the house so easily. I think there may be a solution that makes both Bay West and us happy...we'll see what they say when I suggest it. :-)

For those of you who have been emailing us asking for details on the walkthrough, be patient, I'll post on it later tonight. :-) I wanted to post something interesting that I had received via email. Remember we talked about going with the Asian-style backsplash tile? Check out what Ken Lin had to say about it:

"I am glad you did not go with the Asian themed pattern back splash. First, the Chinese characters mean "Happy New Year", which would be nice to see once a year but probably not every day of the year. Second, if your picture is oriented correctly and had you installed that tile that way, you will find Chinese visitors to your kitchen smiling as they lean their heads toward their left shoulders when reading the characters. The tile shop has displayed it 90 degrees off (counterclockwise)!"

I guess I should have asked someone that knew Chinese to look at the tiles. :-)

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Today is the big day of our walk through! We spent a few hours at the house on Sunday, walking around and looking at the house, and it was a mixed experience.

On one hand, it's really exciting to see the carpet installed, the walls painted (mostly) and even some of our appliances waiting to be installed! The house is really coming together, and we're immensely pleased with the decisions we made on the colours and interior style. The hard wood flooring looks beautiful and was worth the cost. The installation of the hard wood floor and lino was nicely done, and the house is nice and warm on a day that was -32 Celsius. Some of the things we paid extra for when going with Bay West (they were more expensive than other builders) were the thicker walls, better structural support, etc. The home feels wonderfully solid!

On the other hand, it was frustrating to see how far they still have to go. The painters, to put it bluntly, are sloppy. They have zero attention to detail, and we coated the walls with nearly a hundred sticky notes on spots that they missed or badly done touch-ups. Ashley's father was a painter for 25 years, so he knows what details to look for. Some of the workmanship inside our house is downright horrible. Our mantle is uneven and badly installed. The island counter-top is nothing like the one in the show home - I'll post pictures tomorrow, but suffice it to say that the island counter-top on the show home looks beautiful, with smooth angles, while ours looks like the carpenter who cut it had an seizure while doing so.

We'll see how things go tomorrow, but I'm a little worried about not seeing eye to eye with the Bay West person assigned to do our walk through when it comes to the quality of workmanship. Let's hope things go well!

Friday, January 25, 2002

Well, it's a few hours after our meeting with Thompson, Ball & Associates, and it wasn't as bad as we thought it was going to be. Gordon Thompson, the lawyer who dealt with us, was very patient in explaining what we were signing, why we were signing, and what exactly we had the power to do once the money was in their hands. First off, the money we gave them today is held in trust until our actual possession date, at which time it will be released to Baywest, but no sooner. Also, when we do the walk through on Monday afternoon, anything we mark down as needing to be fixed is somewhat of a "binding contract" from Baywest, guaranteeing that everything on that list will be fixed as soon as possible. Gordon Thompson was saying that of all the builders he's ever worked with, Baywest's reputation for follow up maintenance and work is remarkable in comparison to other builders. That definitely helped distill any worries we had.

And as for that $198 interest charge we were looking at if we were even a day late with the money, Gordon said he talked to Harry, Baywest's owner, and because we came in to do the paperwork as soon as we were able, Harry is looking upon us favourably, and won't charge us any interest if the money is a day late. Thanks Harry! We appreciate it!

When we went to the bank today to get a certified cheque for the remainder of the money we owe Baywest, we got talking with the banker, Sandie, who is absolutely great, by the way, and she and her husband built a house in the same area we're in, fairly recently. She said that her builder did their final walkthrough at least a week prior to their possession date, and that they didn't see the lawyers until after that walkthrough was completed. Interesting...especially considering what Marlene at Thompson, Ball was trying to tell us about "all the other builders" taking people through on their possession date.

The one thing Jason and I were really hoping to avoid was having workers in our home after we've moved in. We understand and realize that for maintenance puroses, we may indeed need to bring someone in, but at the same time, it's almost like an intrusion. We paid them what they asked for, and yet we're the ones having to suffer with their workers coming in to fix things up because they couldn't be more accomodating to us - the customer - prior to our possession. Oh well. I guess things could've gone worse!

Despite all the recent frustrations we've experienced, we're both very excited to see the house on Sunday, as it will be completed (to Baywest's satisfaction, anyway), and I know all our appliances arrived this past Wednesday, which means pretty much everything should be looking complete! YAY! It's so close to moving time, I'm just wanting to be in.

Both of our parents and my cousin will be joining us here tomorrow to help us do most of our packing. Jay and I have been doing some every night, but the more hands, the faster things go, and Barb, my cousin, has a big truck, and she's offered us the use of it, which is great! Everyone's really helping us out a lot, which is wonderful.

All in all, this has really been the only big frustration, and Baywest's people have been really good to us, so we don't have THAT much to complain about! Just make sure to keep your eyes open, heads up and "ducks in a row" when you decide to build!

Well, we're off to our meeting with the lawyers at Thompson & Ball to hand over the money. I'm trying to not get too upset, but I feel like I'm being strong-armed by the mafia! Here's the breakdown of how this all happened...

Bay West is having our walk through on the 28th, three days prior to our possession date. Because I didn't want to hand over the money to Bay West's lawyers until AFTER I've seen my house in a completed state (is that so crazy?), we're on the hook for 36% INTEREST PER ANNUM. That's 3% per month, or 0.10% per day. That's $198 per day - I think Tony Soprano would be nicer to us than that! The money doesn't come into Bay West's possession until after land titles has processed the paperwork, which apparently takes five business days. So what that means is that if we sign off on the money transfer on Monday after the walk through, we'll be one day over our possession date and thus owe Bay West $198. Further, if the land titles office is back logged and the process takes a few extra days, we have to pay for that as well. Incredible - we're giving them nearly a quarter of a million dollars for this home, and they want to charge us $198 a day because someone in the land titles office can't push paperwork fast enough?

Oh yeah, they're also billing us $85 for a courier and $10 for photocopies. < sigh >

I'm really frustrated over this - all I want is to see my new home in its completed state before handing over more money than I've ever paid for anything in my life. Does that sound unreasonable? My walk through on the condo we're in now was one week prior to possession. I saw the condo, felt like it was finished, met with their lawyers and signed over the money. That seems like a logical progression doesn't it? Marlene at Thompson & Ball was trying to convince me that most builders do the walk through the same day as possession. I don't really care if that's the way it's normally done - it's not fair to the buyer. The last time we saw our house, the hardwood flooring wasn't finished, the carpet wasn't installed at all, the painting wasn't done properly, our appliances weren't in, etc. And now we're supposed to place our trust in our builder that everything is completely finished? That requires a little too much trust for me.

So, new home builders, here's what I suggest you do: when you sign the contract for a new home, add a clause stating that you want the walk through to be done 1 WEEK PRIOR to possession, and that you won't release funds until after you've seen your house in its completed state. If you're spending that much money on it, don't you want to see it finished before you hand over the money?

Thursday, January 24, 2002

Here's something else we've learned in the past few days: have all your mortgage and deposit money in place at least two weeks in advance of your possession date. Our walk through is on Monday the 28th, so I assumed the meeting with the lawyers would take place after that point. Seems logical right? You see your house in it's "finished" state, you make a list of what needs fixing, then you hand over the money. Not quite. Bay West's lawyers (Thompson & Ball) called us today once our mortgage paperwork was in place and said they wanted to meet with us tomorrow morning! I'm still in the midst of getting the money in place, because we've opted to borrow some money from my grandmother instead of our line of credit (better rates of course!). We've asked to have the meeting with the lawyers on the Monday, after our walk through, but there's some concern that our paperwork won't be through land titles by the time the 31st rolls around. The whole thing is a little frustrating - the lawyers are saying we might not be able to take possession on the 31st if we meet on Monday, but I think it's unfair to ask us to hand over the money until after we've seen the house in it's final state. Although the money is held in trust, they're Bay West's lawyers, not our own, so I can't help but think they're not entire impartial. And to further complicate matters, Jeff Rust at Bay West said that if there is a delay in getting the money in place, we might be on the hook for paying an interest charge penalty. It's all quite confusing!

So, lesson learned: as my mother would say "Have all your ducks in a row".

In other news, we've sold our condo! That's the good news. The bad news is that they wanted a 90-day possession, so we're on the hook paying for three months of the mortgage and condo fees while simultaneously paying the mortgage on the new house. Can you say "painful"? I swear, I'll never buy another condo as long as I live - they're bad investments for the original buyer if you sell within a couple of years of purchase. I should have listened to my mother when she told me to buy a small house - they're all selling rapidly and with good profit for the seller. Oh well - another lesson learned!

Tuesday, January 22, 2002

Our kitchen is coming along really nicely, but one thing that both Ashley and I noticed when we first saw it was that our island counter top edge isn't perfectly rounded. It seems strange, because you'd think that it would be a perfectly even arc - yet when we saw it we noticed it's definitely not.

The photo above shows this, although it's hard to notice it in a picture. It's not off by much - just a few degrees - but they didn't continue the rounded edge far enough and cut to a straight line too soon. I don't know if this is a flaw or the way it's supposed to be. We'll see what they say in the walk through. And speaking of the walk through, I spoke to Jean at Bay West today about scheduling our walk through, and we're all set to go for Monday the 28th at 3 PM. That only leaves Bay West three days to address all the issues we're going to raise, so they must be really confident there aren't many issues. I wish I was that confident! We're noticing a lot of painting errors on sections of the walls and doors that need redoing, yet the painters have packed up and left as if their job was 100% complete. I'm not sure if that's the case or not, but we'll find out soon enough...

We were at the house on Sunday and took some more photos - the house is coming along nicely, but there are some things we're concerned about. But on to the photos!

The ridge our house is on is developing quite quickly - there's an open lot right next to us that hasn't been started at all, but other than that, most of the houses look like they'll be finished within a few weeks of each other (there's already someone at the end of the street that has moved in). Our house is the fourth one from the right - the white siding with the dark roof.

At Signature Lighting, our chosen supplier, we had a few choices for exterior lights. It took us a while to decide, but we opted to go with the style shown above. We felt they looked Japanese in style, which would fit with the general theme of our home. We were hesitant at first because we hadn't seen our garage stonework, but after the lights were installed we knew we made the proper choice.

They had finished putting the lino in our bathroom, and we're really pleased with the way it's turning out. The lino really complements the wall colour and countertop - although we put them all together in the Nu-Way showroom, the samples were small in size and it's difficult to visualize how it will all look together. I was really wishing for some sort of virtual reality display to help us see what it would look like, but everything so far on this journey has been very low-tech (much to my dismay in some cases). Speaking of interior colours, I was surprised that Nu-Way didn't have some sort of default "colour templates" that people could choose from. If you don't have a clear vision of what your home should look like, it's nice to fall back on the skills of an interior designer that can put together colour bundles (flooring, walls, countertops) to help make your choices easier. It seems like a logical thing to do, yet Nu-Way didn't offer it.

Our main living room area is turning out beautifully - the hardwood floor looks excellent so far, and it compliments the fireplace and mantle nicely. The ceiling fan fits right in, although for some odd reason only the light works - not the fan. We've asked Bay West for an explanation.

Another thing we chose at Nu-Way was the kitchen tiling for the back splash - we had originally talked about going with an Asian pattern, but in the end we felt it was a little too green and opted for this one instead. It's clear we made the right choice - the tile looks beautiful, although I noticed it's a little crooked in some places. I'll be interested to see what Bay West says when we do our walk through on issues like this - will they agree with us that it needs correcting, or will they think it's good enough?

The image above is of a wall near our back entry way. We checked our blueprints, and there's no switch that's supposed to be there. It looks really odd because it's up quite high on the wall (nearly six feet up), far higher than a normal light switch would be. We've asked for an explanation as to what this is, along with the huge cable beneath it (we still don't have a thermostat installed, but that cable looks really thick to be a thermostat cable). That's one thing we're finding frustrating at this stage of the process - we're seeing things that no one told us about, and we're not being given any explanation. Why make the customer ask what the strange switch is for? Why not tell us that there's something going in that wasn't on the blueprint, along with an explanation of why it's there.

It's funny the things you notice when you're looking around. The image above is from the basement ceiling - someone was putting in a nail to secure two pieces of wood together, picked a bad angle, but hammered it anyway.

Here's another odd "fix" - a chunk of wood jammed into the closet frame. I don't know if it's temporary or not - I guess we'll see if it's there for the walk through.

Monday, January 21, 2002

Just a quick reminder to all you new home builders to make sure you order your blinds WELL in advance of your possession date. We waited, and will end up being with blinds for about a week after we move in. Another addition to your list of things to do prior to moving in!

Friday, January 18, 2002

We sent another long list of issues to Bay West yesterday, so we'll see how they respond to this one. The leak in the basement from our first list is still there, so that was a little frustrating to see that they hadn't fixed it yet. Less than two weeks until we take possession - things are starting to get exciting!

Andy from HeatCraft called us back today to discuss the furnace warranty, and apparently while it does specify in the warranty that the furnace isn't supposed to be used for temporary heating, he said that every builder in Calgary does it anyway and HeatCraft will still provide full warranty service. It's a little odd that they know it's against the manufacturers warranty, but as long as they support the product in our new home, that's fine with me.

Thursday, January 17, 2002

We went to the house yesterday afternoon to see how the flooring install was coming along, but nothing was happening with the floor. The install date must have been moved and no one told us - more on this later!

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Ashley mentioned the stonework on our fireplace yesterday, so I thought I'd upload a recent picture that we took of how it looks so far.

I'm really pleased with how it's turning out - the stonework is beautiful, and from what I can tell, very professionally installed. The new mantle is looking great as well!

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

As Jason mentioned a couple of days ago, we went and took a quick peek at the house on Monday evening. WOW! When those guys put their minds to it, they sure can get a lot done in a day! The stonework around our fireplace was installed, the walls were painted, along with all the window and door frames. The lights were dropped off, and installed today, and the flooring is scheduled to begin being installed tomorrow! Things sure are going fast. Looks as though they're still aiming for the 31st as our possession date. We're keeping our fingers crossed, for sure!

Well, today was yet another day full of learning experiences, and a sore ear after holding the phone to it for nearly an hour! We figured it'd be good of us to inform all you out there who are building, of a few little technicalities that (thank goodness we thought about them when we did) really need to be done early in the process! The wonderful task of calling all the electrical, gas, phone, etc. companies and updating your address with them. I had a class from 9-11 this morning, and was kinda hoping to come home and have a little nap before returning for my second class of the day at 5pm, but instead, Jason and I spent the majority of the afternoon on the phone with companies like Enmax, Telus, Shaw and ATCO Gas. Of course, our scenario was even more exciting as we had to add my name to all the accounts.

Since we were married, we've slowly been changing all my cards, accounts, etc. to have my new last name on them, and this was yet another step in the right direction! Enmax was great, but needed Jason's permission to have me added to the account, ATCO was really great too. With the condo we're in now, part of the condo fees we pay include our gas & water bills, so we've never actually seen a statement from ATCO. Well, instead of telling me to jump through dozens of hoops, the kind lady at the call centre for ATCO simply opened a new account for us, took down our new address, and proceeded to fill me in as to what kind of service they provide, what we should expect to start seeing on our bills, and other assorted tidbits of information! Telus took a while, as for some reason, the street we're moving onto isn't in Telus' directory yet! Strange though it may seem, as there are people who have already moved in to their homes on our street. Anyway, the gentleman I spoke with was very gracious, and sought out the listing elsewhere, and proceeded to update our information, and we added a second line so that we can dedicate our current number to Jason's business. The most frustrating part in all of this, however, is the fact that because we waited until two weeks till our possession, Telus is so booked we can't get our lines installed until Feb. 8th. As you know, our possession is January 31st! We're postponing the move to the 1st and 2nd for school and availability reasons, but still - a week without phones! CRAZY! Thank goodness for cell phones, I guess!

Shaw was really easy too. Jason bought me a DELL computer for Christmas, and with it came 3 months of free Shaw service, so we arranged a time for Shaw to come out and run a cable (we'll miss our DSL!! :-( ), and the good news is that they'll be out on the evening of the 2nd, ensuring that we're not totally cut off from the world, and we will still have email and Instant Messaging services available to us!

All in all, the advice we would send out to those of you who are building, and your possession dates are drawing near, make sure you don't wait to start changing addresses over, and especially phone service. Telus seems to be unusually busy these days, and the earlier you book your appointment to have them come out and install your phone lines, the better chance you have of ensuring you're not without phone service for more than a few hours!

When we were at the house on Sunday, we found a new water leak in the wall! The one we had on our list had been fixed, but a new one had sprung up just below it. A little disappointing to see a "fix" that isn't really a fix.

And here's something I'm investigating: a friend of ours works for ARPI's in Calgary, and he spends his days installing air conditioning, furnaces, etc. He said that we should check with our furnace company (HeatCraft) about our furnace being activated before we take possession (he called it "Temporary Heating"). From what he said, turning on the furnace while all the interior construction is going on is potentially very damaging to it - the furnace will intake a tremendous amount of dust & debris during that time - and as a result, many companies simply won't offer a warranty on the furnace if it was used in this way. That's a little scary! It makes sense, so I have a call in to HeatCraft to see if this is true. Bay West has already told is that while they will clean out the vents, it's "not their policy" to clean the furnace - we're expected to pay for that after we take possession.

I wasn't exactly pleased with this, because I find it ridiculous that we're paying $200,000+ for a house that will require immediate maintenance. It's like buying a new car and as soon as you drive it off the lot you need to turn around and go back for an oil change. Something that is NEW should be in NEW condition. Sure, I know we'll need to put money into the house right away to buy everything we need, but should we need to clean the carpets right after possession too?

We went in on Sunday to vacuum the floors in the house before the put the flooring down. Why you ask? Well, we were told by several people that when the installers put the flooring in, they'll quickly clean the floor, but it will often still be really dusty, especially around the edges of the room under the baseboards, in closets, etc. With my dust allergies, the thought of having all that garbage trapped under the carpet and hardwood, slowly seeping up through the cracks, was worrying. So Ashley and I went to the house on Sunday with a "Shop Vac" and got to work cleaning. There was a painter there doing some sanding on our railing, and there was equipment everywhere!

That made it a little difficult to clean, but we focused mostly on the corners and picked up the big chunks of garbage. I spent quite a while cleaning out the garbage under our jacuzzi, because I was told that most of the time they just seal it up without cleaning out the garbage and dust. "Out of sight, out of mind" seems to be the motto for a lot of what goes on in this industry.

That's Ashley above, hard at work cleaning the main floor.

One of the great things that Bay West did was take down the wood mantle we mentioned earlier and replace it with a wall out-cropping. It will look excellent when painted the wall colour, and it will fit in with the look of our interior much better. You'll notice the NO SMOKING signs we added...

The photo above is taken from our bonus room above the garage, and it gives you an idea of just how "under construction" our area is. The house to the left of us (not shown) is being built quickly, but the builder has no buyer for it yet (I believe it's a CARDEL home). On the right of us, there's just a chunk of land - no digging has begun yet. Know what that means?

That means that at some point after we've moved in, there will be large construction vehicles digging into the ground, framers hammering together the wooden frame, and a lot of noise in general - all happening outside my basement window where I'll be trying to work from home. I went through the same thing when I first moved into my condo - hammers and drills going at 7 AM on a Saturday morning, dust and dirt flying into my windows, etc. I know it's unavoidable, but I was secretly hoping that the lot would at least be dug by the time we took possession. Looks like it wasn't meant to be!

Saturday, January 12, 2002

Gosh we've had a lot of showings lately! One yesterday, one today (supposed to be two, but one cancelled), and another two tomorrow! Things are really picking up with the house showings, but not a single offer yet. We took my mom's advice and took down most of my sword collection that was hanging on the wall - I thought they added a little jazz to the joint, but I suppose some people might consider them threatening. We'll see if the offers come rolling in now that the house is almost completely "sword free".

Tomorrow we go to see the house again, and we're looking forward to seeing their process. Expect more photos tomorrow evening!

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

I forgot to mention this rather important news: we finally received our official possession date letter! We take possession on January 31st. One week later than estimated, but we're ok with that. We're still not quite ready anyway. :-)

Selling our condo has been quite a challenge - we've had nineteen showings, and no offers. It's been a really busy month so far, four showings in nine days, but we don't get any feedback about why there are no offers. The entire "realtor thing" is a mystery to me. Excuse me while I rant...

When I'm selling something, I SELL it. I'll work hard to communicate with the buyer, find out what their needs are, and highlight the features of the product that will meet their needs. Ads that I write up for ebay typically get a good response because I know why someone would be interested in that product.

Now when it comes to the condo, here's how it goes: I tell my realtor the features, and "sell" him on it. He writes it all down and creates a nice summary sheet that tries to "sell" it to the person reading. But then that's it - as far as I know, the realtor doesn't do anything more. My realtor doesn't show the condo to the prospective buyer - it's just the other realtor with their client. It's like me trying to sell the condo via a double proxy. The worst part is that we never get any feedback about the showing - what they liked, what they didn't like, etc. That makes is hard to improve the condo for the next prospective buyer - if there's something simple we can alter inside the condo to make it more attractive to a buyer, we would certainly try. This condo has some great features and upgrades that we've done to it, but I never know if those things get mentioned when the condo is shown. Frustrating!

Tuesday afternoon we went to Coast Appliances and paid for our kitchen appliances. The number was quite shocking, but it's worth it. I think. :-) Here's some of what we bought - you decide if it's worth it. We wanted to go for the stainless steel kitchen, but we didn't want to spend $20,000 doing it. Thankfully, many of the appliance manufacturers have realized that people like the look of black and stainless steel appliances, and have started offering them in a variety of lines, not all of which are painfully expensive.

First up, our lovely dishwasher. It was an upgrade above the regular dishwasher, but we felt it was worth it. It is extremely quiet when operating, far more so than the basic model. We have a fairly noisy dishwasher in our condo now, so having a quiet unit was important. And of course, we paid a little extra for the stainless steel (a theme you'll see repeated over and over here).

Next, our stove. We looked at a few models, and it's really easy to spend $2000+ on a stove. We wanted something that looked nice, but didn't break the bank. We opted for this model - it's a flat-top model, looks good, and isn't overly expensive. It has some cool features too, although I completely forget them at the moment.

This ultra-cool looking microwave is a heavy-duty unit that should serve us well. There were other units that had a 100% stainless steel front, and one even had a LCD touch screen, but the cost was getting out of control. I think this one has a cool, retro look to it. It also has the removable rack, which should come in handy.

Ah yes, the central part of any kitchen - this fridge is awesome! The photo really doesn't do it justice. It looks beautiful - the style and design is killer, and the interior is really well designed.

Since it's not the kitchen, we had a hard time finding a washer and dryer that were stainless steel. :-) We gave up and picked a set that is very energy efficient, and also doesn't cost too much. Brandon swears this is the best set on the market for the money, and we believe it.

We also purchased a water filter system from Coast. After years of using a Brita jug, we wanted something a little more high-tech, so we opted for this water filtration system. It filters out bacteria like e-coli, takes out the heavy metals in the water, etc. This set was roughly $250, which is 1/3rd the price of any offering from Canyon Plumbing. Brandon installed one of these in his own home, and he swears by it - so once again, we're trusting you Brandon. :-)

Other things on our shopping list include the vacuum system, extended 5 year warranties on everything, and of course the delivery.

I forgot to mention this earlier, but we had a good meeting with Shelly on Sunday - he cleared up some of the questions and issues we had. He said that we were the subject of the Monday sales meeting, so I'm not sure if that's a good thing or a bad thing. :-) We still haven't heard back on the big issues like the basement heating, but hopefully we'll find out what's going on soon.

We picked a new mantle, and it's going to look great! Rather than bolting on a piece of wood, we're going to have a built-out box that will be painted the same colour as the wall, essentially making it look like it's a continuous piece of the wall. I think this will look excellent - subtle, but visible enough to add impact. It was really nice of Bay West to offer us this option instead of forcing us to stay with what was installed. And, according to Shelly, it's not an upgrade cost! (what a shock!)

I have some older photos that I meant to post earlier, so here are a couple...

The above image is the front of our house, showing the stonework we chose. It was a little difficult choosing the stonework because Bay West had a colour brochure, but that's it. The best thing we found was to actually drive around the neighbourhood and look at what other houses had done - that gave us a feel for what sorts of stonework we liked and didn't like. Once we knew what different styles looked like in "real life", looking at the brochure and picking one was easier.

This is an image of the house from further away - it was taken in December 23rd, but things have remained essentially unchanged on the outside of the house since then (because it's done, more or less).

Our lovely cupboards! We were immensely pleased when we chose these and found out that they weren't an upgrade! I can't tell you how often we looked at something, decided we liked it, and then found out it was an upgrade. Most of the suppliers we talked to said Bay West had good building allowances (meaning they offered decent quality selections) but with the vision we had for our house, it was very rare to be able to select something that wasn't an upgrade. I wish the builders and suppliers would offer a wider selection of products at the basic level - we don't all want to be rustic, early 19th century houses, but the selection offered at most places seemed to think we did.

We were really excited to see our wrought iron rails going in! We had a few options for the rails, but opted for a straight, flat look instead of any complicated swirls. Once everything is painted, I think it's going to look incredibly nice.

Picking the right counter top was very difficult, because there were so many options. This is what it looks like installed, and once there's a sink in there and we clean off the counters, I think it will look nice.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

Things are moving along with all the suppliers now - today Ashley and I went to Signature Lighting and paid our bill there, then we went to a bedroom store to order a new bed. We had originally ordered a king-size bed from Sleep Country (a $1999 bed on for $1288) and a nice-looking headboard/foot board ($765), but we decided to do a bit of price shopping just to be on the safe side. I'm glad we did! There's a place on 58th Avenue in Calgary called the Bedroom Store, and while we had a bit of a hard time finding help, once we did the sales manager (Chris) showed us to a Serta PerfectSleeper that was basically identical to the one we ordered from Sleep Country. The difference? The headboard/foot board at the Bedroom Store was nicer, and we had a choice of colour as well. Oh, and the $1800 deal (with GST) that saved us $396 was even better! I had always assumed that Sleep Country would have the best prices in town, but it appears they spend most of their money on radio ads building brand awareness instead of cutting the prices on their mattresses.

One thing we just clued into today was the lack of a vacuum outlook in the basement. We have two on the main floor, and two on the upper floor, but none in the basement. Oddly enough, no one at Bay West mentioned that it might be good idea. I wish I had done all of this before so I would have known! :-) I don't know how hard it is to add one in after the fact, but I guess I'll find out eventually!

Saturday, January 05, 2002

We're going to skip back in time a bit here with some photos. We'll start with our jacuzzi tub, cause I'm really excited about it! Here's a photo of it. It's big, sits right under our block glass window, and has jets in it!

Next I'll show you what our loftiest dreams entailed in terms of sink taps. The main colours throughout our home are very soft, warm colours, and we've got black accents with towels and other small accessories. Well, we really wanted to try and integrate some black into our sink taps...until we found out the price! So, these onyx taps were our dream taps - very VERY nice looking hardware!

We decided after finding out the price of these taps that we'd rather go on a vacation than purchase onyx taps, and these are the ones we chose instead. We refer to them as the "Pokemon" taps, as that was the first thing Jason said when he saw them! They do, however, match our style very nicely, and the brushed chrome is the style of hardware we've chosen for all our handles, door knobs and hinges.

All in all, picking our hardware, appliances and other assorted fixtures has been an adventure. Albeit an expensive one, it's been a lot of fun! We can hardly wait to see the finished product. As Jason mentioned earlier, the flooring is schedule to go in early next week, which means we'll be borrowing my dad's ShopVac to spend next weekend vacuuming out our house to eliminate as much dust as possible. It's hard to believe it's almost time to move in! I was talking with a friend of mine earlier today who moved into a new home her and her husband built a couple of months ago. She said by this time in their building process, they wanted nothing more than to just be into their home, with no more delays, walk throughs, or waiting!

It'll be very rewarding to finally move in, and begin sorting out where we want things. Although knowing us, we'll want to put the furniture in and nothing else, to keep it looking as clean as possible! :-)

I was browsing through the Bay West web site today, and came across this page that had the "Bay West Committment" on it. Pretty lofty statements in it, but so far they've been good at living up to them.

"At BayWest Homes, we will achieve your goal of creating a house, which you can call home. From the initial contact with our sales people, through to the design stages, we work together to personalize your home. To begin the BayWest process, our professional sales staff helps you find a floor plan and a lot location that best suits your family's needs. Next, our knowledgeable office staff reviews the designs and details with you and we answer any questions that you may have. This insures that all the information gathered is correct so that our skilled craftsmen can construct your home. The BayWest process extends well beyond your possession date, as our award winning service department will continue our commitment to you and your home. Our ongoing relationship with you is built on trust with a personal touch. BayWest Homes... Welcoming you home for 15 years"

The history page that talks about Harry Denger starting the company says before starting Bay West he managed the construction of 3000+ houses. That's a lot of homes!

And here's something else that's kind of neat - this is a drawing of what the house will look like (not OUR house, but the Aspen model)

Our house will look much cooler. :-)

We haven't heard back from our salespeople yet on the issues list we faxed in, but we received a nice email from Jeff Rust, the Operations Manager for Bay West. He said they'd look at all the issues, and regarding the mantle, he said that they could have it replaced if we had a decision made by Monday. So on Sunday we'll stop in at the show home and pick out a new mantle. Hooray! Jeff also had some good advice I thought I'd pass along:

"When dealing with such a massive undertaking as building a house, it is always best to document everything you are doing no matter how small, this helps for two reasons: 1. It helps to organize your thoughts and concerns on paper in a physical list. And gives you the ability to track, reference and follow up the same."

Jeff also told us that the flooring will be started on the 14th or 16th. Once we have a floor in our house I'm sure it will seem even more "real". I can't wait!

Friday, January 04, 2002

Last night I faxed over a list of our issues, so we're waiting to hear back from Bay West on them. Some of them are what I mentioned last night (the plumbing and the heating errors), and some are assorted issues like Bay West contractors smoking in our house...

Then there's the cracked siding...

...and the cracked windows, creaking stairs, a leaking waterline in the basement, and a loose window pane in the deck door. A lot of relatively minor things that will no doubt be fixed before we take possession. Some of the things are a little harder to figure out, like this fireplace mantle:

We've been extremely selective about every aspect of our house, always opting for straight lines and a very minimalist look. And somehow we end up with this "pretty" Victorian-era bevelled thing over our fireplace! We selected some really nice stonework to go around the fireplace, but we were never offered an option for the mantle. I naively assumed that meant that we wouldn't have a mantle, but you know what they say about assumptions.

So now we wait to see what Bay West says about the issues we raised. More on this later, along with the thrilling story of our pantry door. Guess what the moral of that story is? I'll give you a hint: it has the words "extra" and "sheet" in it. :-)

Thursday, January 03, 2002

Wow, have things ever been busy! Things on our house are rocketing along, but the ride hasn't exactly been smooth lately.

If I can give any of your advice on building your new home, with Bay West or with anyone else, it's this: extra sheets are what build your house. It's not the contractors, the salespeople, the site managers, or anyone else. It doesn't matter who you talk to, what you ask, or how many smiles and handshakes you might get from the builder. None of that matters: if it's not on an extra sheet, it doesn't get added to your house. We're now learning this the painful way....

I'm frustrated with myself because I KNEW this. When I was building the condo I'm currently in, exactly the same thing happened. I went and met with the salesperson, told him what I wanted (at the time it was a specific pattern of cable/telephone/power jacks for my office room), and he smiled as he scribbled it down on a piece of paper, got me to draw what I wanted, and said "Sure!". No problem, I thought, the nice salesperson will pass the information along to the guys who are actually building my condo, and it will get done. Well guess what happened? When I finally moved in a couple of months later, I find that the cable and telephone jacks are all wrong - they never did what I asked. When I confronted the salesperson, he said "I don't have any record of that". Sure enough, he had lost the piece of paper where I outlined what I wanted. I never asked for a copy of it (mistake #1), I never saw it transferred onto an actual extra sheet (mistake #2), and trusted that he would care as much about the details in my condo as I did (mistake #3). After I moved into the condo I tried to get it changed, but ultimately it came down to being "no one's fault" because I couldn't prove that I requested the changes, and the salesman couldn't find the piece of paper with the details on it.

And now, here we are again, same scenario. From the very beginning of this house purchase, I've been telling Kimerie and Shelly that I wanted to develop the basement, and therefore needed roughed-in plumbing for a half-bath, an extra heat vent added to the basement, and all the heat vents brought from the ceiling to the floor. Considering that hot air rises, it seems rather odd to place basement vents on the ceiling, wouldn't you say? At any rate, these things were discussed numerous times from the beginning. They were on a pricing sheet we got in July, but somehow they didn't make it onto an extra sheet, and I didn't realize it until I saw the house. AUGH! Imagine my shock and dismay as I looked up and saw them in the basement ceiling instead of on the floor like I wanted them to be. Very frustrating.

What's strange is that 100% of the rest of the items on the pricing sheet made it onto extra sheets, except for the roughed-in plumbing, and the heating vent issue mentioned above. So we got most of the extras we wanted, but somehow these three things slipped through the cracks.

So once again, accurate extra sheets are the single most critical element in building your new house. Possibly more important than getting your mortgage. ;-)