Tuesday, July 19, 2022

One Year in the New House

It's been a little more than a year since I closed on the house. This was a custom-ish new build through a national, publicly traded homebuilder and a very different experience than my first home purchase (which was a new build with a boutique builder). I could write a novel on the experience, but want to start by jotting down some summary notes.
  • Why move when I loved my first house? 
    • My first house was centrally located in a desirable neighborhood, but small enough that it had only one garage space. FiancĂ© wanted a four (!) car garage so we could each have a parking space and he could have room for projects. To achieve that in the neighborhood where my first house was located, we would have been looking at a price tag >$2MM, likely $3MM (which was not doable).
  • What do I miss about my old house? 
    • The central location and smaller size of the house. Keeping up with chores and errands was a relative breeze when everything I needed (outside the house) was nearby and the spaces I needed to keep clean and organized were small and manageable. 
    • The excellent build quality. When I sold my old house, the buyer's inspector wasn't able to identify a single required repair. I get some credit for being a good steward of the house, but the lion's share of the credit goes to my builder. I didn't know just how good my experience with him had been until I started working with the national builder on construction of the new build.
  • What do I like about the new house?
    • Quiet neighborhood.
    • I have an office! (I spent most of COVID working at the kitchen table in the old house.)
    • Locked in pricing just before construction prices soared.
    • Locked in a sweet mortgage rate of 2.1%.
    • Friendly neighbors.
  • What do I dislike about the new house?
    • Poor process management and customer service provided by national builder. There is an extraordinary amount to say on this topic, but in short, building this house has been the worst customer experience of my lifetime. At every stage--from the sales process to the warranty process--I have been shocked by poor performance of the builder. Of course, COVID delays made the build challenging, but COVID isn't an excuse for massive communication failures as between the builder and its prospective homeowners. More than a year post-closing we have approximately 50 open warranty items.
    • Remote location. We traded location for a larger house, which seemed like a good idea because I was pregnant at the time that I signed the purchase contract. But then I miscarried and being in a big/mostly empty house in a very suburban neighborhood surrounded by families with children and retirees (when we are neither of those things) has been a bit tough on the psyche.
As I wrap up the warranty process with the builder, I hope my memories of the build process and first few months in the house (when we had neither a refrigerator nor couch) fade and I enjoy living here more and more. This house is beautiful, but I've often wished I had just stayed put in the old house. 

Saturday, February 5, 2022

Never Say Never

 I quit my low key government attorney job to go back to a law firm at the beginning of December.

There is so much to say (that I will say eventually), but for now I'll keep it simple: I am happy.

When the pandemic caused the abrupt cancellation of major life milestones (ahem, our wedding), slowed others (the new home build that never ends), and stripped away so many day-to-day joys, there were no distractions left and I had to admit that the slow and steady government job that would be a dream for many transactional lawyers was not working for me.

This led to a new job. And a new puppy. More on both to follow.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Wedding that Didn't Happen

We had planned to get married Saturday, March 21st, but cancelled due to coronavirus, specifically, our concern for the older members of our family (fortunately, there are many of them) and the various recommendations, orders, etc., requiring seniors to stay at home in California, advising Americans not to gather in groups larger than ten, and requiring restaurants to close.

The transactional attorney in me had seen the likely need to cancel on the horizon and reviewed each of our vendor contracts in advance so as to understand whether we should preemptively cancel or allow the government's action to force the vendor to cancel on us. In almost all cases, the termination provisions in the contracts worked such that waiting for the vendor to cancel minimized our financial loss. So we waited. Here are the results:

  • Chapel and chair rental: full refund of our deposit
  • Officiant: no fee involved since the officiant-to-be was the groom's brother
  • Photographer: no charge*
  • Musician: full refund of deposit (contract explicitly provided for cancellation and refund in the event of an epidemic)
  • Restaurant: no charge (contract provided that restaurant would charge us $2,500 if we cancelled our dinner for 20, but because they cancelled first due to a government order that shut down the restaurant, there was no charge)**
  • Flowers: we ordered a bouquet and boutonniere from Farmgirl Flowers, who wasn't able to process our order cancellation because the company chose to staff customer service with a skeleton crew after San Francisco issued its shelter in place order; customer service was not taking any phone calls; by the time customer service replied to my cancellation request by email a few days later, they indicated our bouquet and boutonniere had already shipped and therefore we would not receive a refund, but a credit for a future purchase
  • Wedding license: our application fee was just $21 since we had completed a marriage counseling class at M's church, but it looks like we will need to re-apply because you only have 90 days to get married from the date that you file your application and pick up your certificate
  • Invitations: we used Paperless Post because we planned the wedding quickly, so we're only out of pocket $10.50 on invitations
  • Wedding bands: we'll hold on to M's wedding band for use when we eventually marry; at my insistence, I'm not getting a wedding band because I discovered M is making payments on the engagement ring
  • Groom's updated dress uniform and shoe rental: we're out of pocket here as M had to buy an updated set of medals and a new dress shirt and pants, and his rental shoes arrived at the house before the wedding was cancelled, however, we assume we'll use all of this when we eventually marry and he'll just need to re-rent the shoes
  • Bride's dress and shoes: we're out of pocket here as my dress (which I don't like, but chose as the best of the available options given that we planned the wedding so quickly) cannot be returned because it had been hemmed
* Our photographer didn't collect a deposit from us because we were booking her for just two hours. I asked whether we could make an arrangement to pay her some amount now for photos to be taken later and she declined because she has a day job that will keep her afloat. Still, if the world is still upside down in two weeks, I plan to circle back to her and make the offer again just in case she needs help.

** We understand that many restaurants are struggling to survive and plan to eat our first meal out post-pandemic at this particular restaurant.

We are one of a great many couples that have had to cancel or postpone a wedding this week. I use the word "cancel" here because, at this moment--after planning and unwinding a wedding all in the span of less than 30 days--I have no appetite to plan another wedding. Seems more likely we'll just get married at a courthouse. Time will tell.