So Kongo has a condo for rent. He bought this one a little over a year ago for a great price and thought he could fix it up for not too many bananas and then have a little extra cash flow while waiting for the property to appreciate. Not complicated, right? This is pretty much what anybody who wants to have an investment property does, right? Kongo’s investment advisor thought it was a good idea so what could go wrong? There’s more to the story.
So the beginnings of this story go way back to 2005 when the Kongos moved back to California from the East Coast and went through a yearlong remodeling project on their home in San Diego while they camped out in a nearby apartment. Mrs. Kongo pretty much ran the whole project and she has a very good eye. Somewhere in the midst of demolition when there wasn’t much left of the house except stucco and studs, she found out she really liked this kind of thing and got busy making lists of lists, found the best deals on just about everything, and built a network of people to call for just about everything from plumbing to painting. When the contractor finally hauled away the dumpster and porta-potty from the front driveway Mrs. Kongo went through withdrawal. It was like all her new best friends were leaving.
Now the house did turn out wonderfully. Kongo got his Koi Pond in the front courtyard and a media corner with built-in wine storage, a wet bar, and custom sound system and Mrs. Kongo got everything else. The house even won a national award for a whole house remodel and was a favorite on the San Diego Home Tour.
Still, the itch that Mrs. Kongo acquired during this process remained unscratched and she had to assuage her anguish by redecorating and replacing all the furniture that had been in storage for a year.
“This East Coast furniture just won’t work here…” she said with finality and went off to meet new best friends at furniture stores across San Diego. She also met new best friend custom painters who did faux this and faux that along with best friends who did custom window treatments and what not. All in all an excellent piece of work and she really does have a good eye, but Kongo was starting to wonder where all this was leading.
Finally, thankfully, the contractor who did the remodel figured out that Mrs. Kongo really was pretty good at all this and they offered her a job working for their design director. So for the next several years Mrs. Kongo happily helped the director design things and had fun spending other people’s money on design upgrades. She also went back to school and traded in a BS in Accounting for an Interior Design degree so she would have “credentials.” She got to go to the Viking store in Memphis and conventions in Las Vegas and her company gave terrific Christmas parties. Then the designer director went off to do his own thing and she followed along but that design itch kept growing.
Which brings us to the condo. About 18 months ago Kongo decided he needed to buy condos. The market was hot, the prices were right, Kongo had the money, and Mrs. Kongo agreed so they went shopping.
The first condo the Kongo’s bought was a dump. Actually the complex was wonderful it’s just that the unit’s 1970s pressboard cabinets with stick-on plastic wood-grain sheets that were peeling off, missing doors, orange Formica countertops, original carpet, a questionable stove and dishwasher, and a bathroom that screamed “a bachelor lived here for 25 years” (which was in fact who lived there for 25 years) meant that only those with vision and courage would buy it. Courage and vision being in abundance, particularly with Mrs. Kongo, they made an offer immediately and soon had the condo.
Now Kongo thought a few thousand could turn this place around. What was he thinking? Not only was he way, way off the mark on what the renovation would cost, he seriously underestimated the fact that Ms. Interior Designer now had a genuine project to sink her teeth into. A real design project. This was a project that demanded vision not budgets. Vision is her middle name.
So Mrs. Kongo got her “crew” together that included painters, scrapers, floor layers, installers, tile layers, plumbers, designers, color consultants, and attacked that condo with passion and vision. Of course it came out wonderfully. It just came out costing about 10 times what Kongo thought it was going to cost but who cares about budgets when visions are required.
So our first tenant was easy. Mrs. Kongo’s sister needed a space and the timing was right so that worked okay for about a year until the sister decided to move in with another sister and move to Riverside.
Which brings us to Super Bowl Sunday, which the Kongo’s spent showing the condo to prospective tenants. Kongo had rented his house before when he was on the East Coast but he’d sort of forgotten the process you must go through to get a tenant.
Screening tenants is interesting and meeting them and answering their questions is something that every monkey should go through at least once in their life.
“Do you allow pets?”
Kongo is not a pet fan. Cats are ok but dogs are iffy. Very iffy. But he wants a good tenant so he responds, “Well, what kind of pet do you have?”
“A gecko.” Huh? (We’re not making this up) Well, that’s not so bad. Geckos are all over Southern California. “And a tarantula, but it’s never gotten out.” What? Now seriously, what kind of person has a Gecko AND a tarantula for pets? What kind of pet deposit should you seek here? Kongo did a Google search on personality profiles of people who have geckos and tarantulas for pets and came up blank.
Another said she had a fat cat and a “little” husky. Little husky? Like is it a dwarf husky? Don’t they belong up in Canada or Alaska or someplace where a polar vortex is and not San Diego? Huskies pull dog sleds. And oh by the way, her husband, who isn’t here right now, has some credit problems. Hmm.
Another caller said she would be living there but had a boyfriend with a bag. What does that mean? Is the boyfriend a casual sleepover or has he got his bags packed because she’s about to toss him out. Do we put him and the bag on the lease or what?
Kongo’s ideal tenant is a single woman of independent means, well past childbearing years, with a pleasing personality, a cleaning fetish, and is allergic to all pets. She hasn’t called yet.
There is the nice young man who is a physical therapist with a girlfriend who manages a store in La Jolla that Mrs. Kongo frequents. He came with his mother and this would be their first apartment but he didn’t bring his wallet so couldn’t pay for the application fee so he took one with him and could he bring the girl friend back about 3:30? (The Super Bowl starts at 3:30!!)
So soon enough this will all work out. Kongo is on a plane to Florida in the morning and Mrs. Kongo will have things well in hand but the monkey is a bit worried. After her sister moved out a month ago Mrs. Kongo scratched that itch a bit more and had the lights changed out in the kitchen to different spots (she never really liked the others), added a light over a door (isn’t that much better, isn’t it?), and of course she had to have her crew back in to do some more painting. As they were leaving the condo today (not for the last time, evidently if we’re going to meet the girlfriend who works in La Jolla), Mrs. Kongo kept looking at the ceiling. “I think I’ll just have (insert just about any name here…someone on her crew) come and repaint the ceiling.”
What is more fun, doing upgrades or collecting rent? This is a quandary for Mrs. Kongo. Not so much for the monkey.
And when they got home, another call:
Pause. Babies screaming in the background.
“Can I help you?”
“Yeah. Is this the place with the house for rent?”
“Do you mean a condo? We have a condo for rent.”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“Did you have some questions about it?”
“Yeah. I mean, like could you rent it or something?”
“Sorry, we already rented it. Good luck to you.”
Sometimes you have to tell little monkey lies.
Travel safe. Have fun.
UPDATE! So the nice young man comes back with his girlfriend and they turn out to be a super great couple, he found $25 for his application fee, their background check came back with flying colors and ta-da!! the condo is rented within 24 hours of placing the first ad. And Kongo got to see half of the super bowl, but of course it was already over at that point. Naturally, as Mrs. Kongo was driving the monkey to the airport this morning she did go on and on about getting the ceiling painted again…maybe a lighter hue. Kongo puts his simian lips together and presses firmly while checking the weather in Jacksonville. 80 with a chance of rain.