Choosing Kitchen Appliances, With No Help from the Internet

I have discovered that the internet is the worst place for Appliance reviews. Did you know that according to the internet, every dishwasher is “without hesitation, the worst dishwasher you will ever buy”? There are no good ones. None whatsoever. And if anyone ever tells you it’s a good one, they are being paid off by the manufacturer. It’s completely ridiculous.

So I really have no choice but to go with features and looks and roll the dice. My house builder is partnered with electrolux, so I am limited in that way. But I can pick any electrolux/frigidaire appliances that I want. This is what I have decided to go with:

Dishwasher: Electrolux 24” Built-In Dishwasher with IQ Controls (E124ID50QS)

EI24ID50QS_Dishwasher_391x399

I chose this dishwasher over the Frigidaire (FPID2497RF) for a few reasons. First, because of the third rack. I am in love with the idea of a third rack because where do you put all of the wooden spoons, spatulas, etc? Usually they end up crowding my glass space on the top row, but with a third rack, this becomes a problem of the past.

Second, true stainless steel. Frigidaire has a “feature” called smudge-proof stainless steel. The problem is that this is not the same color as actual stainless steel. So unless you plan on your entire kitchen being Frigidaire, your appliances won’t match. If you’re the type of person that reads that last sentence and thinks I’m crazy, then maybe you won’t care. Even as I write it, I find myself sounding a little crazy, but what I can I say. I’m a little obsessive about my future kitchen.

Now, according to the actual review on Reviewed.com, this dishwasher won dishwasher of the year in 2014. According to the comments on reviewed.com, this dishwasher is the worst on the planet. But then again, according to all comments online, every dishwasher is the worst on the planet. So just like every other first time appliance buyer out there, I am completely confused so I’m going to make a blind guess. Thanks a lot internet.

Double Wall Ovens: Electrolux 30” Electric Double Wall Oven with IQ-Touch Controls (EI30EW45PS)

feature_wo_PerfTasteConvect-Single_02401_th

I chose this dishwasher again over the Frigidaire (FGET3065PF), a much cheaper version of essentially the same thing. But there were a few features that won me over about the Electrolux:

1.) Easy glide oven racks. So with very little effort, you can glide the racks in and out. Sounds like a small thing, but with double ovens, the top oven is usually at a pretty awkward angle when you are trying to put things in or out. Or when you are trying to put a tester toothpick in a cake. If you bake a lot, this is a must have feature in my opinion.

2.) Blue interior. Yes this is irrational. I am aware of this. But the way I explain this irrational desire is that what I really wanted was the KitchenAid True Convection Double Oven (KODE507ESS) and it is also blue inside. These two ovens actually have a lot of similarities in features so I guess I’m trying to fool myself into thinking that I got my first choice.

(Kitchen aid pictured below, pretty close right?)

Feature_1175X1290_P150020_26

3.) Built in Temperature Probe. I’ve never used a meat thermometer before. I usually just follow the recipe and hope that whatever I am making doesn’t come out undercooked. Usually a fine approach for beef, possibly disastrous for poultry. So the built in temperature probe in the electrolux is my new must-have that I have never actually had.

Cooktop: Electrolux Icon 36” Gas Slide-In Cooktop

E36GC75PSS

Let me start by how I decided on what kind of Cooktop I wanted. I grew up using Gas. I suffered through Electric in college and in multiple apartments. I am ready to go back to Gas. For me, it is easier to control, easier to use, and much prettier. Also if you trust the judgement of chefs around the world, gas is the way to go. I also new that I wanted 36” or bigger. I recently had a glimpse of a 27” cooktop in a brand new kitchen and it looked like a toy. Aside of the aesthetics, I also cook a lot. I cook multiple things on the stove at the same time. So more space is better for me. The last requirement was professional style knobs on the front. Again, this is superficial, it was more about my vision for my kitchen. Those requirements led me to this particular cooktop which is the only one that electrolux/frigidaire has with those key features.

This is not a review of these appliances, as I have not bought them yet. This is a pre-view. You could read this and say “no! no! don’t choose those!”, but it’s too late. You are on the internet and I wouldn’t believe what you say anyway. It is decided.

Advertisements

Time for the Showroom

Does anybody remember Expo? Home Depot’s high-end kitchen and bath showrooms? How about the Great Indoors? What ever happened to those? After a recent google search, I discovered that in 2009, Home Depot closed 34 of their Expo stores, including the one in the Houston area. And the Great Indoors that I remember visiting as a child is also a thing of the past.

I did not let this deter me from finding the experience that I was looking for. After some research, I found a few showrooms in the area. None as epic or grand as the Expo, but my needs were minimal. All I wanted was to sit in an oversized bathtub that was in a row of other oversized bathtubs, or at least have the option to. So I found a few candidates and ended up choosing Ferguson. All the online browsing and Pinteresting in the world is not the same as seeing and feeling something in person.

IMG_8054

Upon entering the showroom I was ecstatic that this place was not letting me down. There were plenty of bathtubs, sinks, plumbing fixtures, and enough rain showerheads to last a lifetime. I was in heaven. They even had the Numi – the super smart and fancy Japanese style toilet by Kohler ( I would recommend watching this video. How do they make a toilet seem so elegant?).

The other side of seeing things for yourself is that you might discover that some things that you wanted just won’t work. For example, I had to see it to believe that my master bathroom floorplan was not conducive to a free standing bathtub. My husband already knew this and already warned me, but I wouldn’t accept it until I visited the showroom. Sad but true. But again, this was a necessary step in my home-building process.

IMG_8076

The highlight of my visit was the sighting of the Jenn-Air Obsidian in the wild (pictured here). Isn’t it BEAUTIFUL. After seeing it in a magazine from 2013, I thought it was only a thing of legend. But I finally got to see it in person and it was every bit as exquisite as I thought it would be. If you haven’t heard of Obsidian, it is the first fridge that has a black interior. With a dual evaporator system, this ten thousand dollar fridge is both functional and gorgeous.

IMG_8071

Perhaps secondary to the Obsidian was the GE Profile Series 30 in French Door Oven. In the flesh. Inspired by restaurant ovens, these doors are connected and swing open and closed together, making it easy to maneuver with one hand and also making food easily reachable with hopefully fewer forearm burns. Setting you back about $4000, this dream is slightly more attainable.

I’m also in the search for pendant lights, and though I did not find any that my husband and I could agree on, my trip was definitely worth it. Next showroom I am going to try is Morrison, stay tuned!

Haggling For Incentives

The incentive amount that a builder has offered me when I walk through the door has never been the final offer. Whether it’s 25k, 30k, or even 40k, you can always get more. Which is evident by the fact that they are throwing around tens of thousands of dollars. 25k sounds like a lot to you as an individual, 25k in design center options is nothing to a builder. You should always ask for more. And you know what? The worst they can do is say no and give you the original offer anyway. But usually they will say yes to another 5 or 10k. I got 45k in upgrades and I still think I could have taken more.

Another thing about incentives is to find out where you can apply them. Can you apply them to structural upgrades? Or just design center upgrades? Can you apply them to the lot premium? Can you apply them to elevation upgrades? This is important. When you are buying/building a house, you probably want to know the all-in price right? Well if you sign the contract and later find out that you can’t apply your credit to anything but the design center, the lot premium and elevation alone can be tens of thousands, not to mention any structural changes that have caught your fancy.

If you are considering a certain house with a certain builder, ask if you can price out your options. They should let you do this, and if they don’t, then you know there is trouble. We priced our options at about 4 builders and it educated us so much on the whole process. The first builder gave separate incentives for structural and design and you could not use those towards lot premium or elevation. So that added another minimum of 7k onto the base price. This builder had an extremely interactive online pricing system where you could price out all of your options per the floorplan. For example, you could see how much it would cost to upgrade the flooring for the family room and master bedroom to wood. You could see how much it would cost to upgrade the granite to a Level 2 or 3. This gave us a really good idea of how the whole options process was going to work.

The second builder sent us a price sheet for all of these same options. However they did not allow you to use any of your incentive money on structural. The third builder had an online tool that had to be operated by an employee so we sat in her office and filled out the whole options list. This is where we discovered that with this particular builder, you had to pay extra to get full gutters (standard was only the front half of the house) and only two fans came included in the house.

The builder we eventually selected is a smaller family owned builder and therefore had no such fancy computer system. However they did provide the pricing sheets of some of their inventory homes so that we could compare those options to the ones we wanted. Also, full gutters were included in the house, along with five fans, a sprinkler system, and blinds for all of the windows. All of these things were expensive options for builder #3. As I said, we ended up with $45K in options and were able to apply this to lot premium, elevation, design center, and structural upgrades however we wanted. Options are a huge part of building a house so you want to make sure that you understand how it all works and that you get as much as you possibly can.

A Lot to Consider

The lot is not the most important thing. There are many nice lots and if you are in a well planned community, you will probably be happy wherever you are. However, some lots are nicer than others, which is why there are lot premiums. A premium could be put on the lot because it’s in a cul-de-sac or because it’s bigger or because it’s on the lake or golf course. The range for these premiums is huge. For our particular development, lots ranged from 0 to $40k.

There are also standard lot sizes. When you are building, the section you build in will have a specific lot size which is the measurement of the front of the lot which can be something like 50’ 60’ 70’ 80’ and so on and so forth and everything in between. In a suburban master-planned community, they will usually only build a certain size house  on each sized lot. For example, you can’t build a small 1800 sq ft house on a 80’ lot just because you want to have a massive backyard. Therefore, your backyard size is going to matter based on the plan that you put on the lot and which lot size you build on. Another reason cul-de-sacs and larger lots are at a premium is that you will be able to build the same size house and end up with a bigger back yard.

Also consider traffic. Cul-de-sacs are considered the best because you won’t get much traffic. The only people driving on that road will be your neighbors and people who are lost. So you’ll have much less noise AND your lot will probably be larger because the lots fan out in the back.

Open view fences, wood fences, and brick walls. These are a few examples of what you might be stuck with when you buy a lot. If you are moving into a master-planned community like we did, you will have no say in this matter whatsoever except by which lot you pick. Some communities like to have corner lots open to public view. Some communities like to have all fences that are facing public areas like roads, parks, or lakes, open to public view. So if you have a dog that can get through wrought iron fences or can jump them, or you just prefer your privacy, you are going to want to ask your builder about this.

Easements. In master planned communities, your property is most likely applicable to some kind of easement which means there will be a portion of your yard that you cannot build any permanent structures on. This is mostly relevant if you ever consider building a pool.

So while the lot is not the most important thing, there is still a lot to consider. We ended up with a cul-de-sac lot where we only have a neighbor on one side and our lot premium was only $4k. And one of our walls is a brick wall maintained by the development! Score!

IMG_7060

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

You started out going to one model park and looking at five houses. Maybe you visited a few other communities, a few other houses. You looked at a few below your price range and too many above. Feel like you looked at enough to make a choice? WRONG. Look more. If I learned anything from my house hunting excursion, it was that there are MANY beautiful houses out there. This is not like human relationships, you will fall in love many times. Over and over again, you will think to yourself “THIS IS THE ONE”. I don’t want to be a cynic, but this isn’t like that. There are plenty of fish in the sea, and there is no one soulmate of a house. Builders are good at building houses. That’s why they are builders. That means you are going to fall in love with lots of floor plans. And just when you think you’ve found the one with the perfect kitchen island and the high ceilings that you love, you’re gonna find an even better one with an even bigger kitchen island and even higher ceilings.

So, what I’m saying, is that you can never do enough research. Obviously there is a point to call it quits. But more often than not, you could stand to do one more viewing, even if to eliminate an option from your mind. In the end, the perfect house is not just going to be a floor plan. The perfect house is going to be the perfect floor plan, the perfect incentive package, good building quality, good customer service, a good neighborhood, a great lot, and the right price. I would advise that you don’t settle on any of these things. If you ever consider settling think about how you will be paying for this for the next 30 years of your life.