Recently I presented on one of Microsoft’s latest technologies, Blazor, at our Southern Fried DNN User Group meeting. DNN, like many ASP.NET web applications, is looking for ways to get more modern and I believe that Blazor and Razor Components could play a big role in DNN’s journey to .NET Core. In this meeting I presented an introductory level session on Blazor.
Topics reviewed were the What, Why, & How followed by demos of each Blazor project type... client-side, ASP.NET Core hosted, & Server-Side. We looked at components, routing, parameters, parent-child components, and dependency injection throughout the demos. The group, which was in-person and online, consisted of some highly skilled developers in the DNN Community, DNN integrators, one of the DNN Co-Founders, and the former VP of Product at DNN. Everyone was intrigued by Blazor and we had some good dialog and conversation around the future. We are all excited to see where this goes!
I’ve recently been researching Splunk and have been impressed with its power, flexibility, and ease of use. This blog is not intended to be a step-by-step tutorial, but rather is aimed to show some initial findings, overview one way to integrate Splunk with DNN, and paint the picture of some potential use cases.
So What is Splunk?
If you don’t already know what Splunk is, Splunk is a software company based in San Francisco that produces software for searching, monitoring, and analyzing machine generated big data via a web style interface. Splunk’s software helps organizations with operational intelligence, log management, application management, enterprise security and compliance.
Installing Splunk was simple and after clicking around a little while it was evident that Splunk is an intuitive software. From a UI standpoint, it makes logical sense and the flow is easy to understand. And it didn’t take long to see and understand how powerful it is.
As you may imagine, I began to wonder if and how I could integrate Splunk with DNN.
DNN + Splunk: One Way to Connect the Two
One of Splunk’s powerful features is that it can literally suck in all types, styles, and formats of data. This data can be machine data, log files, or even data from a REST API. There are several mechanisms for getting data into Splunk, but for this scenario, DNN’s web API implementation makes this an easy fit. On the DNN side, a developer can easily create a custom module using web services to expose any DNN data on an endpoint, which Splunk can then access. If you’d like to go the custom module route, check out my other blog series on module development. However, I did not write a custom module to test the integration.
For my initial investigation into Splunk I chose to use DNN Sharp’s API Endpoint module as it allows easy configuration of end points. Splunk is architected to consume any type of data and then it makes that data extremely easy to search, create visualizations and/or alerts with. These searches, visualizations, and alerts can be very basic or very complex in nature.
Another thing to note is that Splunk is architected to do this at scale and can easily parse enormous amounts of data. For example, every time you drink from a Coca-Cola “Freestyle” machine at a fast food restaurant, the data from your drink selection is logged and Splunk helps analyze the data, denote trends, and sends alerts. So yes, those Coke machines (all across the world) are connected IOT devices and Coke is a Splunk customer. See how Coke is using Splunk in the Splunk Conf 2014 Keynote replay session. Imagine how much data that is on a global scaled --> Splunk is helping Coke make sense of it.
Side note: Check out the blog I wrote on using Particle & Splunk to monitor temperature
So, my first goal was simple: see if I could get data from DNN into Splunk.
Sticking along the thought process of “data logs” I figured why not expose the DNN event log on an endpoint and see what I could make happen. Obviously, the event log may not be the best use case as site administrators can clear logs or processes to automatically clear logs sometimes exist. However, for this initial test it is a good candidate. To get the event log data on an end point I used the DNN Sharp API Endpoint module to make a SQL query on the event log view and return it as JSON.
With the event log now sitting out there as JSON on a DNN end point now all I needed to do was get it into Splunk…
Getting REST Data Into Splunk
The Splunk side of this configuration only took a few minutes to configure and keep in mind I’m no Splunk guru (read, it’s easy!). Splunk is similar to DNN in that it’s extensible. Splunk extensions can be found on the Apps and Ad-Ons sections of the Splunk website. I tell you this because ultimately, I followed a blog by Damien Dallimore on getting REST data into Splunk which used a modular input extension and that was all it took. I simply completed the required fields in the Splunk REST Modular Input as shown below.
I chose to poll the data every 60 seconds. With this information inputted I clicked save and returned to the Data Inputs screen of Splunk and chose my newly created data source.
BOOM! I was seeing DNN event log info in Splunk!
Searching, Visualizations, & Alerts in Splunk
With data in Splunk now I needed to proceed to using Splunk to make sense of the data. Splunk’s searching functionality makes it very easy to search for, well... anything you'd like. I’m not yet knowledgeable enough to fully explain all the capabilities, but what I can easily see is that you can select your data source, click on keywords, add them to the source's search criteria and set your desired timeframe for the search. It’s feels as if you have a Google search bar and all your searches are performed on your data source and intellisense & syntax highlighting for your search are provided too!
Once you have a search returning data you can then create visualizations or alerts. And yes, there are tons of visualizations provided by Splunk. These visualizations can be saved as reports or live as “panels” that reside on dashboards. Dashboards can have as many panels as you want and you can have multiple dashboards if you like. Also, you can easily embed these panels into DNN or any other location by clicking the “convert to HTML” link that each panel has. Being able to display this info anywhere you like is a neat feature. Are your mental light bulbs turning on yet?
So, I created a few visualizations based on event log data that was available. I created a number-based-visualization to show a large number that represented a count of 404 errors, a line graph showing the number of failed logins, and a chart showing the 404’s over time. So, in just minutes Splunk was already helping me understand that I have some issues going on with one of my sites. I believe one reason for the 404's is that I've renamed some pages that I think bots are targeting trying to register. Anyways, I've got work to do... don't judge!
Opening Up Possibilities
Now you may be looking at this and thinking to yourself, yeah this is neat, but I could create a custom module to make something similar to this happen. And you would be correct, but keep in mind the potential use cases, flexibility, and scalability of Splunk in comparison to a custom module. You could easily have all your customers as data sources and create dashboards to help you (and your customers) quickly understand what’s going on with your customer's applications. You could also do data mashups of data from a DNN website/web app, some IOT device out in space, and any other data source you can think of to provide valuable insight. And again, Splunk has no problem doing this with massive amounts of data.
With just a little research into Splunk it didn’t take long to get my mind spinning with all the possibilities within DNN and beyond. Think about your current DNN use cases, requirements of your customers, and the exploding IOT market and you’ll soon see the light.
Here are some ideas I had right off the bat:
As you can see the power and flexibility Splunk provides is really nice. I believe Splunk could be a game-changer especially for those with large amounts of data to parse, anybody in the IOT space, and much more. I hope this blog has provided you with an introductory glimpse into some of the capabilities of Splunk and even got you thinking of potential ways to integrate Splunk into your applications or customer's environments. I am still learning about it and hope you will too. I know that I'm just scratching the surface here in my initial findings.
Find out more about Splunk at http://www.Splunk.com
We were recently approached for assistance by a South Carolina farmer with hog problems. He’d heard we had a night vision setup and that we could potentially help him with hog control. It took us a while to get a hog on the ground and this blog is the lead up to accomplishing the goal.
Hunting Coyotes Leads to Hunting Hogs
If you’ve been keeping up with the blog here then you’ll know that we recently upgraded to a night vision setup to better hunt coyotes. One of the locations where we hunt coyotes is near a farm and recently the farmer told us that hogs were really giving him problems. They were rooting up his land so much that he’s also hired a guy to trap the hog. Nobody on our team is a hog expert but we wanted to do our best to help and we were up for learning!
The trapper was regularly catching hogs in the pen and we figured we’d put out a game camera to get a feel for what was going on. In 3 days we had 600 pictures and there was a large pack of hogs that were coming in all throughout the night starting shortly after sundown. It was hard to tell exactly how many, but we guessed 10-15. We got a pattern for when they were coming and we threw out a little corn and planned a date to try out first hog hunt.
The First Hunt
Gavin and I were excited to try and get a hog. Neither of us had shot a hog before because we don’t have them around our hunting leases. It would be a first for us and that helped make it a good challenge. I guess I should also add here that our first hog hunt also occurred during the same time frame where we were having issues sighting in the thermal scope!
On our way to the farm we talked about waiting until the whole group got there so we could have better chances for multiple hogs and we could pick out the biggest one. They were coming out in groups, per the recon from the game camera. We had a plan and were ready to rock.
We arrived to the farm around 9 and got setup. We’d been there about 35 minutes when we started to see some heat signatures coming through the woods. At first it was one big hog, walking solo and I was whispering to Gavin “Shoot that big rascal!” but Gavin held off. I was all excited and Gavin was actually doing what we’d discussed on the way over there… and I was glad he did. Just a few minutes later the woods lit up. It was a sight to see. 12 hogs all came from the same direction and headed out to the corn. Having never seen a hog before I didn’t really know what to expect. The first thing I noticed was how quickly they moved around. I figured they’d be slow, sluggish, and hold still for long periods of time, but that was not the case. They can move pretty quickly. Once the whole group got out there Gavin picked one out and shot. The whole group scattered and he shot again. We went down and walked and looked for blood… nothing anywhere to be found. We’d missed. Another trip to the shooting range was to come.
More Trips to the Farm
After missing the hog we were again frustrated. We re-sighted the gun in and waited until the next weekend. All the while we’re putting out corn and the farmer is filling us in on when the hogs are back. On the next weekend that we could line things up we headed back. This time as we approached the field we saw the hogs entering the field from a different location. It was about to be the quickest hunt ever. Just when we started looking in the scope we heard coyotes howling very close to us. We stood there trying to figure out what to do. As we watched the hogs in the monocular the coyotes continued to howl and to our amazement the hogs turned around and exited the field. Looking back on it we think the hogs left to protect their young ones. They had 3 little hogs with them and leaving was probably the best bet for them with the coyotes howling like crazy on the edge of the field. After this happened we stayed there for a while and waited. We felt sure the hogs would return. They didn’t. So, we broke out the coyote call and stared calling coyotes. That’s the night I shot 2 coyotes on video as seen in this video.
Shooting the coyotes proved that the scope was indeed zero’d in and we had more confidence. The next weekend came around and we returned yet again. This time the hogs were there when we arrived! We got into position and it was Gavin’s turn on the gun again. He put the dot on the hog and let the hammer drop. We both could see in the monocular and scope that when he shot the hog he was aiming at jumped up in the air. We knew he’d hit it! We went down and found blood. We trailed blood for 2 hours through some very thick briars and ultimately the blood trail stopped and we never found the hog. Frustrating again, but we were inching closer.
Going From 223 to 300 Black Out
We reviewed the footage and it was evident that Gavin made a good shot. With this we discussed and researched and decided to make some changes. We worked with the team at Reel Determined Outdoors to change out the upper on the Anderson Rifles AR=15 from a 223 to a 300 black out. This is a unique capability of the AR that gives hunters flexibility. In this scenario, it allowed us to shoot a bigger bullet, one that most hog hunters use.
The next weekend we went back and stayed out there for 3 hours and never saw a hog, but did hear a bunch of coyotes and I missed a coyote! This time we knew the scope was dialed in, I’d just made a bad shot.
Interested in our setup?
We shoot an Anderson Arms AR-15 with RF-85 technology. (You never have to oil the gun). On top of the gun we have a Pulsar Thermal Scope + video recorder. Any Anderson gun and any Pulsar Thermal Scope will be great setup for you too!
The Hunt We Finally Got It Done
You may be reading and wondering “How many weekend is it going to take for things to line up for these guys?” … and that’s exactly what we were wondering too. Our luck would be changing soon though.
The farmer reached out to us about mid-week and said “The hogs are back big time”. He’d seen more and more evidence of the hogs rooting and they had wiped out all the corn that we had out. (Side note: trying to keep a pack of hogs fed with corn gets expensive quickly!) So we planned our hunt.
Again this time the hogs were out in the field as soon as we got to the field. Gavin and I quietly got into position. The whole time we could hear the hogs grunting and snorting down near the pen. From the look of the monocular it seemed like one hog was actually trapped in the pen, but we’d later see that it wasn’t.
It was Gavin’s “redemption hog” turn on the gun. I’ve got him trained not to be shooting anything until I’ve got video rolling too 😉 Anyways, we were in position, gun was sighted in very nicely, video was rolling and I gave Gavin the greenlight. We were whispering to each other about which one he was going to shoot. I was watching in the monocular while Gavin was in the scope. Gavin asked me if I was ready and I said yes… then there was a long pause. Gavin giggled… he said “I didn’t take the safety off!” Yes it sounds crazy, but we were so worked up and ready to get it done that our hearts were beating and we were both breathing heavy! Then he said “Aight, I’m shooting the big one” and moments later the first shot rang out. As they ran off Gavin continued to unload on the big boy, which we’d also discussed on the way to the farm. At the shot there was no sign of hitting the hog. It did not jump, flinch, or move awkwardly. With the 223 we tried for head shots, but with the 300 black out we put it on the shoulder. Gavin and I talked as we tried to calm down. He said he felt he made a good shot.
Minutes later we went down to the area where the hogs were. No blood. What! He made a good shoot, the gun was sighted in, we’d upgraded to a bigger bullet… why did it not work out! We were already making plans to go back, yet again, to the shooting range. We decided to walk over in the direction where the hogs ran. There was no blood anywhere to be found. We scanned in the thermal looking for heat signatures in the field and didn’t see anything. The only thing we saw were a few wet spots that looks like slobber or something in the dirt, but it definitely wasn’t blood. We were growing frustrated as you can imagine.
This farm is in an area with lots of hills. As you can see in the video the hogs were just behind a small hill when we shot. As we talked and walked the edge of the field you could just tell there was a vibe of frustration, an energy of we-didn’t-get-it-done-yet-again going on. Then Gavin said “What is that?” And I said “What?” He pulled out the thermal scope and said “That’s the freaking hog right there!” and I looked and man it was huge laying right there on the edge of the field. What happened was the hog did not bleed at all and ran about 60 yards around a corner and laid down on the edge of the woods just behind a hill of dirt. This is why we could not see it in the thermal. Instantly we got all excited and the vibe changed from one of dejection and frustration to one of celebration and excitement! We’d finally accomplished the goal and got a hog on the ground. And yes the 300 blackout really put it on the hog. We high-fived and drug the hog out to take some pics. When we grabbed the hog to drag it and take pics we had to re-grip the legs because it was so big. I’ve drug a lot of deer in my life and this thing was heavier than any deer I’ve ever drug. I’m guessing it went around 220 lbs. It was a healthy female hog and yes it stunk!
After multiple attempts at getting a hog we finally succeeded and it felt good to get in the end zone for once! We finally had proof to the farmer that we could help him out. We’ve finally got things dialed in and set up and guess what… the farmer has already let us know that the hogs are back again so we will be heading back out sooner than later.
Do you have problems with hogs or know a farmer who does?
We are now ready to help! Just reach out to us here on the website via the Contact Us form or contact Gavin Jackson at 843.517.9920.
We’ve hunted in the WeHuntSC.com Predator Challenge for 7 years. We’ve hunted hard and have yielded minimal results other than being frustrated. Lately we’ve heard a lot of people telling us how effective they have been with hunting coyotes with night vision. This year we aimed to reduce frustration and get more coyotes on the ground by upgrading to a night vision setup. This journey would lead to many lessons learned, which I’ll share in the below blog entry.
After doing some research it seems most hunters are using AR’s for their choice of weapon when coyote hunting. The AR model frees hunters from having to manually chamber another shell as this is done by the gun. This allows more rapid fire at targets which is beneficial when hoping to shoot multiple coyotes … if you can get multiple to come in.
I’d recently heard about Anderson Arms having a unique AR setup. Anderson uses a nanotechnology called RF-85 on their guns that makes it to where you never have to oil the gun. It’s pretty sweet technology. I went with the Anderson Arms AM15 optic ready. If you haven’t checked it out, head on over to https://www.andersonrifles.com.
With the gun selection done it was time to move on to the scope. This meant I had to learn about night vision. It seems in the night vision world there are 2 routes one can go – infrared or thermal. I’m sure you can get into religious debates about the advantages & disadvantages of each, but in the end I chose thermal. Once I decided on thermal I needed to pick out a brand. I had previously purchased a FLIR monocular for spotting scope which I use for tracking wounded animals and ensuring I’m not spooking deer on my way in or out of the woods. It’s very handy, but not very clear. I wanted to try a different brand to see if it was any different. PULSAR seemed to be a popular brand based on the research I had done. I ended up going with the PULSAR Apex XD38.
I worked with the crew at Reel Determined Outdoors to get this rig set up. If you haven’t checked out Reel Determined or the team up there you should give them a shout.
One initial note about night-vision gear. I was surprised at how expensive these technologies are so if you’re looking for a cheap night vision solution get ready to be surprised. However, I can tell you that once you use a night vision setup for coyotes you will never go back.
Sighting In a Thermal Scope
With the gun in hand and scope mounted on it we were ready to venture into the world of thermal night vision. Before we got to shoot at any coyotes however, we needed to sight it in. This is where we really started learning some stuff.
When you take a thermal scope out and look at a target you don’t see the lines on the target. This is because the scope is responding to heat signatures and, as you would imagine, the lines on the target aren’t putting out any heat. Yes, this would seem obvious, but to some rookies we didn’t think ahead about this too much. On our first attempts at sighting this thing in we ended up cutting the center of the target out and putting up some tin foil as the tin foil maintained different temperatures and we could *vaguely see the contrast in the scope. It was all we needed to get excited and get started though.
Once inside the scope I realized that we’d have to learn the menu systems inside of the PULSAR scope. At first sight it was a little overwhelming because I had no idea what all the icons represented. Yes there is a book that comes with it explaining it and yes we didn’t really read it before getting started! In retrospect the best thing I did was watch some YouTube videos of people talking through the menu items.
The menus are not difficult to understand I was just in initial shock of trying to understand them all. The icons make sense and there are 2 menus inside of the software. Yes, software… the thermal scope is essentially a computer system on your gun that’s giving you a screen with information on it and view into the dark. As such, it does require some time to boot up when you press the on button.
The thing that is important to understand about the menu is that you zero the sights in in the menu, that it can hold “sight-ins” for 3 different weapons, and there is a reset button. Sometimes I got lost in the menus and didn’t know what I was clicking and changed the weapon number and even clicked reset. This did indeed make for a frustrating time sighting in the weapon. Once I learned what buttons not to click things got easier.
Gavin and I ended up sighting this gun in about 3 or 4 times as we learned more, messed things up, saw that our scope wasn’t tight on the gun, and figured out the menu items. Once you understand how it works sighting it in is fairly easy. Another trick that made sense was to use hot-hands hands on the middle of your target. If you want to go the extra mile, soak a pizza pan in ice-water and then put it behind the hot-hands on the target. This creates a cool circle encompassing a hot center, which in the scope creates a good contrast for you to aim at.
After several times out with the gun and sighting it in we finally started hitting the target where we wanted to… in the bullseye.
Videoing with a Pulsar Recorder
One neat thing about digital night vision is the ability to record the footage from inside your scope. Since it’s a computer, why not right? PULSAR has different models and with the more recent models the video recording capabilities are getting even better and more user friendly. Our experience with the video recorder left some to be desired and required some learning on our behalf.
The video recorder for the model scope I have is the CVR 640 and it mounts on the weaver/picatinny rail… that is it can be attached to anywhere you see the grooved sections on the gun. In my scenario this meant I could attach the recorder on the side of the scope or on the front of the gun. I initially attached it on the front of the gun because this made ergonomic sense. The recorder holds an SD card and you simply pop the SD card out to download the footage. The recorder plugs into the base of the scope and screws in tightly. The odd thing about this is that your gun literally has cables running down & around it (however you handle your cable management that is).
I was very excited to video all the coyotes we would be busting in the near future! Sure enough it wasn’t long before we had coyotes in the scope and started pulling triggers. The first time I was sure that I was recording when I shot. I looked at the video box and noticed the blue light wasn’t on anymore. How terrible luck was it for the batteries to die right before the shot! So I got new batteries.
A few hunts later the same thing happened. Did I have a bad batch of batteries or what? After 8 live-action shots that were recording, but yet failed to record I had had enough. I’d put in numerous new batteries and nothing worked… I was going to get to the bottom of this. We had some hunts coming up and I left the gun with Gavin during one of our re-sight-in attempts. Gavin and I were both doing research on this issue. Gavin noticed that even though the recorder has a weaver rail and mounts to the gun it was NOT rated for recoil. I told Gavin to remove the video recorder from the gun, put it in his pocket and record himself sighting the gun in and see if the video stopped recording. BINGO! We’d found the culprit. Gavin said the video recorder continued to record during the shots when not attached to the gun. This let us know that the video recorder will record if it wasn’t attached to the gun when shooting.
The First Coyote on The Ground With Night Vision
With multiple times to the range figuring out the sighting in process and now with the video issue out of the way we were ready to rock and actually get some footage. We had been bummed about previous footage attempts because we had some great encounters. We were about to change that.
Gavin and I were requested to help a local farmer out who has a hog problem. We had indeed gotten hogs on camera at the location and were headed in to assist. When we arrived to the location we went in to the field scanning with the monocular as we walked toward our stand. Gavin saw that hogs were already in the field. So we dropped down to a knee and just watched. Right then a coyote started howling very close to us. To our surprise the coyote howl startled the hogs and they exited the field that they had just entered. I was surprised that hogs would be intimidated by coyotes, but thinking back on it the hogs has some young ones with them and maybe their leaving the field was to protect the young ones.
I told Gavin we should go to the area on the other side of the field where there is a deer stand and just be patient. I was sure the hogs would return. We agreed and slowly retreated to the other area of the field. We were just sitting there talking letting time pass when coyotes started howling very loudly again. This time there were more than one howling. We were hog hunting, but we did have the coyote call in the truck. Frustrated at the situation Gavin said “I’m going to the truck to get the call”.
After returning back from the truck Gavin set the call up and said “Get in the gun because when I hit this call they are going to come in”. So I did as Gavin instructed and turned the scope on.
If you’re wondering why my scope would even be off… night vision and thermal optics flat eat batteries. If you’re going thermal do yourself a favor and order the extended battery pack so that you are not like me and have to carry around packs of batteries in your pockets and constantly replace them.
Back to the story... Gavin told me to get in the scope and I did just that. Gavin played some coyote whimpers and a coyote duet, new sounds we’d just downloaded to the FoxPro before leaving. I was scanning left and Gavin was scanning right. We stopped the calls and it was quiet, crisp, and clear out. Nothing responded… no howl backs, no barks, nothing. Then all of a sudden Gavin whispered “There he is” and at that I turned to the right and saw a coyote crossing my face from right to left. I followed this coyote waiting on it to pause so that I could squeeze the trigger. Gavin said “What are you doing turn right turn right”. What we didn’t know until afterwards was that Gavin didn’t see the coyote I saw. He had seen another one, a bigger one, to our right. I told Gavin “Shut up” and he said “There’s a big one here on the right”. I said “Make him stop, say something, bark” and he responded “A big one on the right”. It was not easy to pull the scope off the one I was following and turn right, but I did. What I saw was indeed a larger coyote on our right. I put the crosshairs on him and squeezed off. I could tell from the video that I hit him! I then swiveled back left and got back on the coyote that I had seen earlier. It paused just enough and I dropped it on the spot.
It all happened so fast. My heart was pumping and adrenaline was racing, but one thing was for sure. We definitely had the scope sighted in correctly this time. And when I pulled the video recorder out of my pocket it was still recording! We had footage to review!
We looked and looked for the first coyote, but could not find it. We think it ran off and died somewhere, but we did recover the second coyote and got some pics. Man it was a fun hunt.
And now you can re-live the hunt with us in the below video:
Tips For Hunting With Thermal Night Vision
Throughout this process we’ve learned a good deal about AR-15’s, night vision scopes, PULSAR, and recording video. Here’s a list of things we’ve learned and hopefully they are helpful to you in some way:
My wife and I recently sold our townhome and set out to buy a new home. We spent a good deal of time researching, driving out to communities, and looking at floor plans. We finally settled on a new-construction development that was a Lennar community.
As we looked at the different floor plans we had a few that we liked, but ended up settling on a plan called the “Westley”. We chose a lot that was having the foundation laid so that we could still pick floor colors and have a little control over some features. We were excited to watch the home as it went up.
Of course once we sold the townhome we were displaced and without a home while the new home was being constructed. Based on the word Lennar gave us we would close on June 26th. Since we sold the townhome on June 5th that would give us about 3 weeks where we would shack up with my mom. This was where the “fun” began.
While the home was being constructed we made a few trips to the community to meet with the builder and to fill out paperwork regarding the loan. On one trip the home seemed to be a long way from “closing” and I asked the supervisor if he thought he was still on track to close on the 26th. He responded “Oh yeah, shoot if this good weather keeps up we may close early”. With the house still having a lot of work that needed to be done it was difficult to believe that timeline, but I am obviously not a builder and so I leaned on the supervisor’s expertise.
The day finally came for the walkthrough. As you can imagine, my wife and I were excited to go and review our soon-to-be new home. I had recently been to the home and had a list of items that I wanted to ensure were completed while we reviewed the home. At this meeting there were 2 building supervisors present, my wife and I, plus our real estate agent team members.
When we arrived at home we learned that the electricity had not been turned on. Translation: there was no air conditioning on and it was in the dead of the humid South Carolina summer. As all the windows were closed in the home it was like an oven and it didn’t take long before we all were sweating. The Lennar representatives told us that we would go through the home with blue tape and mark every item that needed to be touched up or corrected. They also indicated that this would be our only chance at creating a “punch list” and that moving forward only items on the list would be worked on. So this was our only opportunity to find items that were not done correctly – during the middle of a work day, in a house with no air condition, during the heat of the summer, and with a scheduled hour for the meeting. As you can imagine, the conditions were not the best for the walkthrough.
We started in the garage and I started asking about things and marking things up. The supervisors told me that the garage was “still a work in progress” and that a lot of work still needed to be done. I thought to myself that it wasn’t really fair to tell us that this was our only chance to make a punch list, but then to turn around and say that this area was still “in progress”. What were we supposed to do other than just trust them? We couldn’t really call out items that technically were not through or finished. That was the first of several red flags throughout the failed process.
As we went through the house we found several items that were not as they should be. There were door casings with no paint at all, door casings with large splinters, several areas that should have caulk that did not have caulk (such as the bathroom sinks), a noticeable bend in the metal in the front door’s casing, thin and uneven paint throughout the house, a metal awning over the bay window that looked terribly crafted, a crawl space door that had sprayed foam through 2 of the 5 gaps in the wood, and the main thing we noticed was a pretty nice hump in the dining room floor and in the kitchen pantry closet that was along the same seam in the floor. The uneven floor signaled a foundation that wasn’t level and that really concerned us.
By the end of the first walkthrough everyone was completely soaked in sweat, hot, and we had gone through 2 and a half rolls of blue tape. Every room in the house literally had blue tape all over it. In short, the home was a long ways from being ready and there was still a lot of work to be done. The following week our real estate agent spoke with a representative from Lennar who guaranteed our real estate agent that “Your clients won’t close until they are 100% happy".
As any home buyer would do we hired a home inspection company to inspect the house. A week or so later we met the home inspector at the house to review his report. He had been there 3 hours inspecting the house by the time we arrived. The good news was that in order to inspect the house the electricity had to be turned on, which meant this time we wouldn’t leave soaked in sweat. The home inspector found several of the items that we had blue-taped but he also found several more items that we hadn’t. He indicated that the vertical seams in the outer trim work needed to be caulked, an item which I had already raised to the supervisor in the first walkthrough and that they told me didn’t need caulk. He also identified areas where the bay windows & fireplace met the roof where there was clearly exposed wood beneath the flared edges. The inspector pointed it out to us and said “If I can see that wood and you can see it then you know that moisture can enter as well as bugs”. Needless to say you don’t need any wood exposed to the elements. The exposed wood was due to a technique Lennar uses in scenarios where bay windows connect back to fascia boards near the roof. This exposed wood scenario was present in several areas of the house’s roof. And since the air condition was on the inspector was able to identify a whistling sound in the air conditioning. The whistling sound represented air either coming through or getting out of somewhere that it shouldn’t and it could result in an increased bill to heat or cool the home.
In the end the Home Inspector created a staggering 85 page report filled with images and lists of issues with the house. I’ve included several images from the report in this blog entry. While we were glad that the home inspector found these issues it didn’t make us feel any better about the home.
By this time the builder had reviewed our punch list and had also received the inspector’s 85 page report. We worked with Lennar to accommodate their request to push back the closing by a week. A week later, when I arrived to this walkthrough I saw the entire front door being removed and there were several vehicles at the home. When I entered the house I learned that we now had a new supervisor. I’m not sure if the old one was fired, transferred, or what happened, but we would be dealing with a new supervisor going forward. There was also a Lennar representative there who appeared to be the manager of the supervisors. He maintained his distance throughout the walkthrough, but I saw him through the windows outside of the house just walking around and shaking his head as if here were saying “No” when looking at the craftsmanship of the home.
In our initial conversations with the construction supervisors our real estate agent let them know that we shouldn’t have even done the 1st walk through when we did. She told them that the house wasn’t nearly in the shape it should have been for a walkthrough. The Lennar team seemed apologetic and the new supervisor seemed to recognize that he was thrown into a difficult situation. While we were there talking one of the supervisors told us “We really do want to deliver a quality product to you all”. He seemed sincere and at the sight of seeing the front door being replaced and then hearing the reassurance from the Lennar crew I felt somewhat better initially.
As we re-walked through the home we again put blue tape on areas that needed to be updated. There were still several of the same areas that needed work. We just, again, put tape back on the same areas where we previously put tape. At one point the new supervisor said that we should just stop the walkthrough and let them revisit the entire house themselves. It was as if he recognized all the general theme of the issues and knew the house wasn’t ready for a walkthrough. Though, after making that comment they continued walking through with us. It was a little odd.
Upon walking into the dining room area it was apparent that nothing had been done with the hump in the floor. This was one of our major concerns that we had voiced to them several times. We called it out to them and continued the re-walk through. When we got to the attic we still heard the AC whistling. We again cited that to them along with the areas outside the needed caulking + the exposed wood above the windows. On this walkthrough the garage doors were up and we were able to see that the “stud” boards that the garage door was bolted to were bowing inward toward the door.
At the end of walkthrough we were in the garage talking with the Lennar representatives and our real estate agents. This time the corporate guy or the supervisor of the construction managers joined us. We again expressed concern over the hump in the floor and the most senior guy piped up saying that the hump in the floor was normal. I questioned him about that and he said that the hump in the floor was within their “tolerance” and that they wouldn’t be doing anything about it. My thought was that if something is within your tolerance then we shouldn’t be able to see it with a naked eye. My wife then spoke up saying that it was unfortunate to hear that Lennar was essentially drawing the line and not going to do anything to make the floor right. Her comment apparently got to the guy’s ego a bit because he puffed his chest out and said started telling us that he had been building houses for over 18 years and that this kind of thing is expected. I laughed out loud at him because he took my wife’s comment personally and tried to tell us how much of a building legend he was. I had never seen this guy before. All I knew was that he showed up, stood around, and was on his cell phone a lot. He could have been our neighbor for all I knew. I guess he wanted instant credibility because he wore work boots. I asked him to get his level and let’s go look at the floor. We went back into the dining room and found that the wall was also bowed. The level we used was a 6 foot level and was long enough to get from one hump to the next so to me it didn’t accurately represent the hump in the floor. They again stated that they would work on the wall, but not the floor.
By the time walkthrough #3 got here we were 3 weeks past schedule on the house. The lender was forced to extend the interest “rate-lock” agreement for the 2nd time and it was costing Lennar money each time. I had also started a new job and had been gone for 10 days which gave the builder plenty of time to fix the items that remained. I figured with me being gone so long Lennar should have no excuse for not having the items taken care of.
This walkthrough was unlike any other and was odd from the onset. We again showed up with our real estate agents and it became very clear that the Lennar sales representative + the construction manager were rushing us through the walkthrough. Why did they want to rush us? We had a punch list and before even addressing all items in one room, the Lennar reps were saying “Ok, what’s in the next room?” For much of the walkthrough I was lagging behind actually spending time looking at the issues they were supposed to fix.
When we continuously called out the thin paint the Lennar sales representative told us that in a walkthrough home buyers are supposed to stand 5 feet away from a wall and look rather then get up close to the wall. This puzzled us. If were are going to make a significant investment in a home I don’t care if I lay down on my back and look upside down. If something is supposed to have paint on it, then it should have paint on it. This goes back to a conversation I had one evening with a painter, but more on that later.
By the time we had gotten upstairs we had noticed the hump still in the floor downstairs + newly scratched up wood in the den area. When the lady told my wife to stand 5 feet away from the wall to review the thin paint it kind of put a line in the sand. We just all stood there in this one room and had an awkward moment of silence. I asked the question “So you’ve known about the punch list for over a month now and there are still issues. Are you going to fix these issues?” At this point the construction manager responded “The house is what it is and we are not making any more updates” and that essentially sealed the deal. At this point we were half-way through the walkthrough and we knew where we were headed. Though we continued walking through the rest of the house.
As we continued upstairs to the 3rd floor the building supervisor accused my wife of “creating new items” that were not on the initial punch list. As you may imagine that comment didn’t go over well. My wife responded “That’s interesting because I have video of all the items from both previous walkthroughs and if you want me to go downstairs and get my phone I can show you the video.” The supervisor responded “No you don’t have to do that” because he knew he’d been caught in a lie. After being pegged the supervisor commented, with a voice of frustration “I can’t be here all day watching people, I have other projects going on as well”. It seems like Lennar either has their supervisors on too many projects or that this guy didn’t really care about providing us a quality home.
As we reached the outside of the house I asked the supervisor about the mud that was on the fascia board above the garage. I called this out to them on the very first walkthrough over a month ago. The supervisor said they weren’t able to get it off. While we were going through the walkthrough a painter had arrived. The painter was Hispanic and I asked him in Spanish if it was possible to get the mud off. He went and grabbed his ladder, climbed it, and took 3 minutes to wipe the mud off. It was that simple. This action essentially meant that in 2 weeks’ time the supervisor hadn’t even attempted to wipe the mud off or had anyone see about it and then lied about it. That was at least 2 lies within an hour from the Lennar crew.
At the “end” of the walkthrough the supervisor asked me “Well what do you think?” What I thought was that the fact that they rushed us through the walkthrough, told us to stand 5 feet away from walls, got caught in multiple lies, and didn’t seem to care about the things that concerned us represented a surface level signal to a much more deeply rooted problem. And that problem was that Lennar wasn’t serious about not closing until we were happy and they weren’t serious about fixing the house. Ultimately they Lennar team knew we wouldn’t buy the house with the issues it had and they also knew they weren’t going to fix them. Consequently any time they spent with us was wasted time and wasted money. It was as if they wanted to hurry and get us through the process so they could start over a new buyer.
By this point in time we had already put down earnest money on the house and even transferred the down payment to the lawyer’s office. We were supposed to do the walkthrough in the morning, sign a release accepting the condition of the house, and close on the home the next day. It was down to the wire. We left without signing papers and told the Lennar reps we needed to think about some things. Of course everyone knew what was happening. The Lennar reps told our agents that they would refund us back the earnest money should we decide to withdraw the offer. This was a sign that they knew they were in the wrong.
We thought long and hard about the home. It was a nice floor plan, in a nice area, and a seemingly nice community in the making. However, we just didn’t feel good about things. You know that uneasy feeling you get in your stomach that’s always an indicator that you’re fixing to mess up… yeah that’s the one we had. The main things that led to our decision to withdraw were the poor quality home (the hump in the floor being number one), Lennar personnel rushing us through the walkthrough, and also getting mixed messages from Lennar throughout the process. They didn’t do a good job at building credibility and good will with us throughout the process.
At least for us, when considering making a large investment such as this, we wanted to feel good about it and have a sense of trust in the company with which we’d be doing business. We didn’t have that feeling and felt that we’d lost faith in Lennar by the time we got to the end of the process. As you just read it had not been easy to get the builder to take care of the items they guaranteed us they would take care of before buying the house… so needless to say, we didn’t have much faith in them coming back to fix things after they had our money.
I will give Lennar credit on the refund. They did refund us the earnest money we had put down on the house. By their paper work, which was heavily slanted towards them, they didn’t have to technically give us our money back. Though, I feel like they knew the house was not quality and thus they instantly agreed to refund us the earnest money. This was one of the few areas in which I’ll say they did right by us.
While my mom was a flexible and gracious host (thanks mom!), her home is about 50 miles from where we planned to live and where my wife works. The logistics were difficult to manage in this stressful time, so we decided to rent an apartment closer to the area we hope to live. As we looked for apartments we visited 3 apartment complexes that were brand new and still being built. This area of town is rapidly growing and thus there are houses, communities, and apartments going up everywhere. As my wife and I visited these apartment complexes I still had the flaws in the home we just backed out of in my mind. As we walked around I wasn’t so much paying the apartment representative attention as I was more so examining door casings, hardiplank implementations, observing where there was and wasn’t caulk, paint consistency, and the overall quality and craftsmanship of the buildings. And as you would imagine, there were things that were done differently than what we had just experienced with Lennar. For example, the caulking of vertical seams of the hardiplank, the same areas that the Lennar builders had just told us that didn’t need caulk. There also were no whistling air conditions, dents in door casings, door casings left completely without paint, paint in the carpet, stair “skirt” boards with dents in them, etc. The list could go on, but the point is that the quality was much better in the apartments we were reviewing than the house we’d just backed out of. After the apartment reviews I knew we had made the right the decision even though it was going to cause us more stress in the short term.
During this process we incurred several costs. We had to pay for the home inspection, movers, I’m still paying on the storage, we had nice gas tabs for our commutes, now we’re paying on an apartment, and the major cost was the inconvenience in time. Rescheduling furniture deliveries with multiple furniture companies, with movers, and with the internet installer all added up to make this a “fun” process.
The experience was unfortunate for both my wife and I and I believe for Lennar as well. We really did like the community, the floor plan, the lot, and the area of town. I believe that Lennar knew the specific house wasn’t well managed from the start and they knew the hump in the floor was an item they weren’t willing to fix because it would eat into their profit margins. I think once they recognized that we wanted something structurally updated with the house they just wanted us to hurry and withdraw our offer because they knew they weren’t going to get down to the foundation and fix it. The longer they kept us around the more money they were losing. In taking this stance they showed their true colors and literally left money on the table. I’m sure they will sell the house, but I’m also sure that house will have problems down the road.
So the process has been unpleasant, but tucked away in the frustrations and disappointments are great lessons to be learned. We learned what “problem areas” to look for when buying a house. We learned the signals and body language from home builders when things aren’t quite right. We learned about the core principals, ethics, and organizational character with which Lennar operates. We learned more about the house buying process in general and are better off for it in the long run. It was like a 3 month education on house buying. I would rather be displaced and incur stress in the short term in exchange for having a problematic house in the long run. Sure it’s not fun, but it would be even worse a few years from now if we had purchased that house.
The Lennar reps statement of “You won’t close until you’re 100% happy” still holds true and it is true because we will close on another house, with a different builder, in a community just up the road when we are 100% happy.