Thanks for the info! The builder won't do anything else on this house. I already had him pay all my closing cost ($5800.00), install a fence, tile the front porch, install garage door opener & add the wood faux blinds. New construction homes in my area go for about $103 sq/ft & I got this one for $94 sq/ft plus all the extra's. Plus our housing market is not that bad over here. Original price of the house was $180,000 & I got it for $160,000I have no experience with rubber mulch and I think that material is better suited for a playground. Stone, the size of 3/4 to 1-1/2 would look much better. Make a visit to a quarry or stone supplier or visit them online to see more pictures of homes with stone landscaping.
It appears your builder is cutting corners. That slab in front of the step should begin at the outside corner of the pillars. I would complain about it and say its not acceptable and see if he will replace it.
If you go with organic mulch, it may become attractive to dogs and cats.
The idea of the container Japanese Maples is nice but I think the OP has more of a plant it and forget it plan in mind.All I want is something simple but nice