So the monkey has been away for awhile. It’s nothing serious (or maybe it is). There’s been way too much business travel for the past few months and the Kongos are now in the midst of looking for a new treehouse in a jungle far, far away. At least far away from America’s Finest City. All the way across the continent to what locals call the “First Coast.” Kongo is moving to Florida.
Loyal followers will recall that the monkey regularly commutes to Florida on business. Regular means just about every week. He’s been shuttling between the East and West Coasts for several years now and has to admit that it’s getting old. So when Kongo’s company began putting pressure on him to relocate it came time for a big decision. Should we pack up and leave wonderful San Diego and move to a RED STATE where there are occasional hurricanes and people drink iced tea with sugar in it? Big decision. Alternatives were maybe launching a full time blogging career (this would probably be a charitable endeavor as nobody is stepping up to actually pay Kongo to write travel blogs), become a professional photographer (Kongo has sold almost $400 in images on Dreamtime in …. wait for it….six months!) Or maybe be a grand girl minder, drive a Meals-on-Wheels delivery truck, or settle down and write that great American novel about coming of age in a monkey troop. Decisions, decisions. When the coin was flipped it went up in the air, got fumbled when the monkey caught it, then he dropped it, and it rolled around and went under the nightstand and then got dragged out with two dust bunnies and tails — the side of the coin designated for Florida.
So that’s how Mrs. Kongo ended up joining the monkey last Friday on short notice for a 9-day house hunting marathon in Jacksonville, Florida. Mrs. Kongo is a trooper.
So in nine days the monkeys have looked at just about every new home, old home, homes under constructions, and homes yet to be built between Jacksonville Beach and Atlantic Beach. Some basic requirements are be within walking distance to the ocean (if you’re living in Florida like, why not?), have enough room so that if all the family ever shows up at one time again there is a bedroom and bathroom for each family, and not bust the Kongo’s retirement fund. Mrs. Kongo apparently had a bunch of other requirements but I’ll get to those later.
The monkey has bought and sold houses all over the country for many years. He’s an experienced negotiator, understands economics, and can calculate a mortgage payment with a certain percent down in a heartbeat. Still, this was hard.
A few examples, and yes these are actual quotes we’ve recorded:
“I can’t see you two in Jacksonville Beach. You belong in Atlantic Beach.”
“You belong in Jacksonville Beach.”
“You should really consider Neptune Beach.”
“Why aren’t you looking in Ponte Vedra?”
“There’s always a nice sea breeze here.”
“Don’t worry, the intercoastal (as in Intercoastal Waterway) pushes the thunderstorms back.”
“Of course there are bugs here, this is the south.” (This is NOT a smart thing to say to Mrs. Kongo.)
“You won’t hear the freeway (or the A1A) when the rest of the houses are built.
“Lots of people think the water tower is scenic.”
“Future landscaping will hide those homes. Don’t worry.”
“Everything is included.”
“Sweetened or unsweetened?”
We’ve learned a lot about flood zones, overhead utility lines, which neighborhoods have natural gas and those that require you to bury a propane tank in your yard, tax rates, flood insurance, and construction loans.
Kongo has learned to be patient. Mrs. Kongo is a gatherer of information and this is a process that cannot be rushed. The hotel suite is piled high with brochures, topo maps, floor plans, price sheets, option lists, and MLS listings. Mrs. Kongo will NOT settle for a new home until she first visits the design center and personally interviews everyone who she will be working with over the next six to ten months. Pity the newly graduated interior design person who told her she couldn’t have an air gap on/off switch on the garbage disposal or who implied that installing her built-in coffee maker might be “too hard.” And what were they thinking anyway when they put the microwave OVER the range for Monkey’s sake??!! (Mrs. Kongo is adamant that this configuration is not in line with ABA standards and it’s a safety hazard. Particularly for height challenged monkeys like Mrs. Kongo). These are serious issues for Mrs. Kongo. And we’re not even mentioning the tongue-in-groove ceiling styles, shiplap accents, and backsplash upgrades. Kongo is afraid that soon all of the beach community stores that provide appliances, tiles or air gap garbage disposal switches will soon have Mrs. Kongo’s picture up in the salesroom warning new employees to get a manager when she enters the store.
For Kongo, life is much simpler. He created a spreadsheet full of macros to instantly calculate and compare payments against square footage and includes a color coded ranking system based on distance to the beach, commute time, and option prices to immediately determine the best deal. Obviously, this isn’t sufficient because it doesn’t take into account coffered ceilings, baseboard height, stairway spindle styles, and cabinet upper extension options.
So, throughout the week the “potential” list grew and shrank as Mrs. Kongo plowed through the possibilities with her ever-patient realtor in tow. Every evening was a recap of battles won and lost but each morning brought a whole new range of possibilities and off she was again to fact check them all. There was the new build down in Jax Beach that reminded her of Bermuda and an HGTV smart home was there so that meant it was always going to be a contender. (HGTV is Mrs. Kongo’s best friend when the monkey is away on travels). There was the Big Yellow House that came and went and finally fell off for good. There were a couple that got away. There were the dueling new construction options in the country club so naturally the Kongos put money down to reserve BOTH of them while Mrs. Kongo interviewed design centers. There was the “OMG we should buy this today” beauty two block from the beach that was sold out from under her. There was the new build down in Jax Beach that Kongo thought was too close to the AIA but Mrs. Kongo kept quoting the sales agent who said, (she really said this) “You won’t see that freeway entrance sign when the house next door is built. It will block some of the noise too.” Kongo threw that one under the bus after humoring Mrs. Kongo for three days by keeping it on even when a corner of the lot was actually in the bad flood zone. And it goes on.
So, last night, for a brief minute or two Kongo happily realized that they had finally got the list down to two and conceded to Mrs. Kongo that one of them had amateurs in the design center that she really didn’t want to work with (even though Kongo liked that floor plan better) which would cause any normal person to think that WE HAD FINALLY MADE A DECISION. The Kongos had a nice diner to celebrate and Kongo sipped his unsweetened iced tea and secretly congratulated himself on letting Mrs. Kongo work through her house hunting demons without hitting her over the head with an overripe banana when she pined about quartz countertops. The only thing left to do was go close the deal on the lucky home with the best design center in the morning and maybe Kongo could go take some pictures of something.
Then Mrs. Kongo comes back to the hotel room, checks her Email and surprise, surprise, the realtor has sent another message. Mrs. Kongo eagerly pulls her computer over to where Kongo was trying to learn the latest on World War I as he was nearing the end of “Guns of August” (who was going to win that war anyway and would the French be able to save Paris? It was a thriller.) and says, (I’m not making this up).
“Oh look honey, Wade (the realtor) has found these ten listings that have expired. He wants to call them and see if they’re still interested in selling. Can we go look at these tomorrow?”
Just shoot me now. Please.
The plane leaves Sunday and Kongo is once again seriously reconsidering his future life as full time blogger.
Sweetened or unsweetened?
Travel safe. Have fun.