by Jamie Dickson
Jeff and Debbie Good stir different pots, so to speak.
When Jeff’s not managing restaurants or Debbie’s not teaching Latin, the couple find themselves managing the six rental properties they own in Fondren. Sixteen-year Fondren natives themselves, the Goods got into real estate a few years ago to help their retirement funds. Rather than shoveling money into an IRA, the Goods decided to make their investments more “active.”
The first house, on King’s Highway, needed paint and structural repairs. The second required more work–tile, new central air–but was still a reasonable business venture. This has been their pattern: find houses they could afford, invest in renovations, find tenants.
Jeff describes his goals for renovations as making the houses “easy move-ins with comfortable living spaces.”Â Debbie ribs him, saying that he really wants places “he would live in: the Taj Mahals of Fondren!”
Regardless, the formula seems to have worked. Since being purchased, the houses have never been vacant.Â Most of the advertising for the openings came about through word of mouth. “We’re good landlords,” Jeff says. “Good, normal, honest people.”
But, the money isn’t the only reason for the couple’s involvement in this area. “These houses deserve respect,” Jeff says. One of their properties required extensive foundation work. Another had a back wall splitting from the rest of the house, exposing the interior to the elements. The logic is simple: comfortable houses are filled with people and a populated neighborhood is filled with life.
The word renovate means “to make new again,” and that’s what Jennifer Baughn has done with her property on Meadowbrook Road. Baughn, an architectural historian for the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, says that she would drive past the Tudor house every morning on her way to work. “It’d been unoccupied for some time,” Baughn laments. “The most recent owners took some of the bricks from the faÃ§ade when they left, and I hated seeing the house like that.” So, she did what any architectural historian would: she bought it.
When asked if her profession had anything to do with the purchase, she laughs: “Without a doubt.”
After purchasing the house, termite damage was repaired and a mason called to repair the bricks. In September of this year, work halted when Baughn’s contractor fell ill. At this setback, Baughn and her husband Darrel began fixing what they could themselves. “I know how to glaze windows, so I figured, ‘Why not?’” she says.Â “Only, since I’m doing this after work, I’m moving a bit slower than a full-time window guy would.”
Aside from Jennifer’s vocational interest in preserving what she estimates was “one of the two oldest houses on Meadowbrook,” there were financial concerns. The Meadowbrook lot abuts their current residence. The initial intent was to flip the property. But, like all good love stories, romance was sneaky. Darrel, after his second visit to the house, coyly asked if it was bigger. “I knew he was hooked,” Jennifer chuckles, “just like I was.”