Smithfield Herald

Smithfield neighborhood getting a welcome facelift

Bill and Kay Kennedy are renovating five houses on West Davis Street and South Vermont Street. This is one of the finished products.
Bill and Kay Kennedy are renovating five houses on West Davis Street and South Vermont Street. This is one of the finished products. tknopf@newsobserver.com

Bill and Kay Kennedy love their neighborhood and want others to love it too.

So when some houses in the neighborhood became rundown from wear and tear and element exposure, the Kennedys took action. As houses went on the market, the Kennedys bought them and are renovating them for tenants.

“We wanted to build up the neighborhood,” Bill said.

The end product is incredibly nice, Kay said. “I want it to look like a little magazine picture,” she said.

Kay said she has really enjoyed redesigning the five houses she and her husband bought last year on West Davis and South Vermont streets.

Kay said she redesigns the houses by imagining what she would want if she was living there. “That’s how I design the kitchen: Now where would I put the stove?” she said. “I try to make it cute and pretty.”

“It’s become a fun project,” Kay said. “I watch ‘This Old House’ and ‘Flip This House.’ 

The Kennedys have had to fully gut some of the houses, even removing floors because of water or termite damage. Kay said she’s getting better at finding the best spaces to add closets, as many of the older houses didn’t have them. The houses needed new appliances, windows, doors and occasionally additional rooms too.

The Kennedys try to hire mostly local businesses to do the renovations. They have a carpenter, plumber, electrician, and heat and air people they’ve worked with for a long time.

“We have such a good group of people down here,” Kay said. “You don’t have to put up with somebody not doing what they say they are going to do. When they do it, they do it right. It’s just not a problem.”

“We don’t have much property,” Bill added, “but we are kind of important to them because we give them a lot of work.”

Neighbors have expressed to the Kennedys how much they like the new and improved houses. One even contacted the Smithfield Herald to say how much he appreciated their work, which is how the newspaper became aware of the renovations.

“People up here who own some of the neighboring houses think it’s so nice because it will help their houses rent,” Bill said.

The couple first started buying rental property in 1994, when a West Davis Street apartment complex came on the market. The complex, next to the Kennedys’ home, has some nice woods behind it, so in an effort to preserve the trees, they bought the complex and began figuring out what it took to be landlords.

“We got familiar with remodeling with the apartments,” Bill said. “It cost us a lot more than anticipated at first. These projects we are putting a lot of money in. We hope that it will be appreciated out.”

Bill, who works in the wine-distribution business, said it’s better to invest in real estate than collect interest from the bank, and the monthly rent for the houses helps pay for them too, he said.

One of the five houses is rented. Two others will be open for renters soon, and the final two are undergoing renovations. The Kennedys own three other houses on the same block and said they have great tenants in all of them. They lease out about 55 units in all, including the apartments.

“We hope Smithfield grows because there is a lot of property on the market here,” Kay said. “People are not moving to Smithfield like we hoped. But maybe having some cuter houses and better looking places to rent, we might get some people in.”

Knopf: 919-829-8955

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