Who Is Going To Do The Work On Your Flip House?

by | BiggerPockets.com

If you want to flip houses like on all of the reality flipping tv shows, you are going to have to fix those houses up. That should be obvious. If it is not, you might want to look for another way to invest.

So who is going to do that work? Are you qualified and capable of making the repairs? If you are, should you be doing the work yourself?

In this article I will be discussing several different approaches to having a house rehabbed so that you can sell it for a profit. I will even share which one I prefer and why, just in case you’re curious.

How to Analyze a Real Estate Deal

Deal analysis is one of the best ways to learn real estate investing and it comes down to fundamental comfort in estimating expenses, rents, and cash flow. This guide will give you the knowledge you need to begin analyzing properties with confidence.

Click Here For Your Free eBook

Option 1: Fix It Yourself

If you are knowledgeable in construction and home remodeling you have the option to do the rehab yourself. A lot of new investors are tempted to do this to ‘save a buck’, but I think they end up costing themselves money because they forgot that time is money and they just wasted a bunch of it.

When you do-it-yourself, you focus your time and energy on lower paying tasks. I’ve been taught that you should figure out how much your time is worth and hire other people to do the things that you can pay them cheaper than the amount you came up with. That’s sound advice.

Of course there are exceptions to this. There might be some things that you could hire someone else to do but shouldn’t because they won’t be able to do what you do as good as you. Say that fast.

But when it comes to rehabbing houses, you are probably better offer just hiring other people to do the work. That way you can manage them and spend your time finding more deals. The people that do the work themselves tend to do less deals than the ones that hire out the work. One of the reasons is the time spent working on the houses but the other is that they are not able to keep their marketing and deal finding going.

The leads and deals you are getting today are usually a product of the work you put into getting them over the last several months. So when you first start work on that rehab, you might still be getting leads. But this will likely soon end as you fail to keep up the work required to get those leads. This is a real problem as it will take time to ramp it up again once you start to work at finding more deals.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t stand spending hours making trips to Home Depot and Lowes.

I understand that for some people, fixing up the houses themselves is a passion and if that’s the case, go right ahead. Just be sure that it really is a passion of yours and not just an excuse to get out of your comfort zone and delegate jobs.

Option 2: Be The GC

Another option, and a very common one, is to be the GC (General Contractor). When you are the GC you hire subcontractors to do the work for you. You have to find and hire the different tradespeople to do the different jobs required for the rehab.

Your responsibilities also include scheduling all of these tradespeople so that they are not having conflicts and stepping all over each other on the job site. One of the fastest ways to piss off a busy contractor is to schedule them for a job that requires something else to be done first. If that something is done first, they cannot do the work they are supposed to do. When they are busy, their schedule is tight and cannot easily be changed. You will likely have to find someone else to do the work or wait until they are able to fit you back into their schedule.

This happened to me early on in my rehabbing career. I still had a mentor and he was none too pleased. We were wrapping up demo on a large fire-damaged property. The sheetrock had been removed from most of the house and the sheet rockers were scheduled to come in the next day to start hanging the drywall.

They gave us a great price but mentioned that they needed everything prepped properly or they would leave and we would have to reschedule. Being the prudent new rehabber, I stopped by the job site a couple days before hand (I think it was the weekend). To my disappointment, most of the nails from the original sheetrock were still in all of the studs. Either I failed to make it clear to the demo crew or they just forgot to remove them. Let’s say they forgot. That will make me look a little better. 🙂

I was getting nervous. What the heck was I going to do? Nobody would answer their phone from the demo crew (likely because it was a weekend) and I needed this done. Well, I’ll just have to do it myself. I started pulling thousands of nails out of the 2x4s. Talk about time consuming.

My mentor showed up at the house unexpectedly. I thought he would be proud that I was doing what I thought was necessary. He felt differently. He proceeded to tell me how stupid it was. My time was worth way more than that. While he was belittling me (Ok, it wasn’t that bad), I was just thinking, “la-la-la-la. Yeah. Ok. Whatever. I did try to find someone and this isn’t difficult work anyway.”

Looking back though, I understand it wasn’t the immediate work that I was getting a talking to about. It was the idea that I should not be doing all of those things. If I was willing to do that, what else would I be focusing my energy on that I shouldn’t be? The lesson was bigger than just about me spending the time to pull nails out of 2x4s.

We only have so much time in a day. As the years go by, it seems that that amount of time is constantly shrinking.

Be careful how much time you spend on this

You could end up spending too much time handling all of the subs. I’ve heard of some investors that will hire each separate person through craigslist for each job. For instance, they will post a job for painting the inside of a house for $400 or something crazy and hire someone that responds to the ad to paint the interior of the house. They do this for all of the things that need to be done for the rehab.


I cringe just thinking about it. Especially because whenever I’ve tried to hire someone from craigslist, they were just junkies trying to get an advance on the job to get their smack.

Meeting that many different contractors at the job site and trying to figure out whether they will do the job correctly and on time must be very painful. How much could they really be saving? Are they actually getting references and looking at what other work they’ve done. I doubt it.

Of course, once you find some great subcontractors that consistently give you professional work at reasonable prices, your life becomes a lot easier.

Option 3:Hire a GC

You could also just go out and find a general contractor (GC) to manage the whole job for you. This is the option I prefer. When you don’t have much experience or knowledge of construction, you should start with this option.

A good GC is worth their weight in gold. When you find a good GC to handle your jobs, your life becomes so much easier. You are free to spend your time doing the things that generate the most return (finding deals, getting houses sold, etc.).

A good GC will be able to learn exactly what you expect and make sure that it happens consistently. You will no longer need to check on job sites every day or every other day. When I have a good GC, I check on the jobs about once a week.

A good GC will communicate with you when necessary. When someone comes up that needs your input, they won’t hesitate to get in touch with you and give you your options. I really don’t like when contractors do extra work and then tell me about it. Usually they don’t do what I would have wanted done. That’s a problem.

There are two types of GC’s. There are the ones that just manage their crews. They don’t do the work themselves. These are great but they are more expensive because they tack on their fee to the cost of the job. Some are pretty outrageous and some are reasonable and can easily be worth it.

I prefer the GC’s that work with their crew. They are always at the job site making sure the job is being done correctly and to your specifications. If a contractor is not always on the job site and he is not good at managing his crews, you could get shoddy work that takes longer than expected. They might then try to convince you that there are extras so that they can cover the added expense of the subs taking longer and wanting more pay. Basically, passing the buck on to you…

These tend to be the smaller operators. The guys with the big ads in the yellow pages usually aren’t these type of contractors. These guys are usually found by seeing their work truck driving down the highway with their company name and phone number on the side. You can also find some of them by driving through neighborhoods where lots of rehabs are taking place. Stop in and get a card from them. If the GC is on the job working, your will want to keep their card.

Conclusion – Extra Tips

Regardless of which option you choose to use, be sure to be as specific as possible with what work you want done. Make sure to have the finish materials specified as clearly as possible. You should have SKU’s for fixtures and other materials, paint color codes and sheen to use, etc.

In addition to that, make sure any hired contractors understand what you expect. You expect professional work, deadlines be met, the job site kept clean and secured, extras agreed to in writing before being done, and draws be made ONLY when the work has been done that warrants each draw.

So there are some of the options when it comes to having work done on a fix and flip.

Do you have another option? I’d love to hear about how you approach the fix up on a flip. Please share in the comments below.

Photo: Cindy Cornett Seigle

About Author

Danny Johnson (G+) is a real estate investor in San Antonio, TX. Visit his blog: Flipping Junkie - A House Flipping Blog to follow along with him as he shows, in detail, the marketing he is doing, the leads being generated, the lead and deal analysis, the rehabs and really, just about everything. He also provides real estate investor websites at LeadPropeller.com.


  1. Nice tips. I feel finding a workable GC for an investor is very difficult. Even at the local REIAs I don’t hear of any GCs being refereed. There maybe a few but I don’t hear about them.

    I’ve done rental rehabs in Atlanta, a hot town for rehabbing. I can’t get a $15k rehab done via a GC, for one there’s not enough profit in it. I got a quote for $30k from a GC when I was curious about going this route.

    I’ve ended up using the same sub’s over and over and my wife (who’s very good at crew chiefing) and I end up doing the “GC” role. For a $15k to 25kk rehab this is the best we’ve been able to figure out.

    I wish GCs would go to their REIAs and market themselves so I don’t have to do the door knobs and light switches. :>


    • Hi, Curt.

      GC’s can be found outside of REIA’s. All of mine have. They also don’t typically call themselves GC’s, for the most part. They are contractors that are willing to do the job for a better price if it means steady work. I like to find mine by calling the phone numbers on the trucks I see on the road or at home depot.

  2. Michael Woodward on

    Thanks for the article Danny. I’ve worked through every scenario you mentioned and I agree completely that doing the work yourself is a huge mistake (…unless of course your a diehard that just likes doing it). I was eventually able to find a GC with very good prices that can do literally everything (…and he works with his crew). I’m grateful everyday for the high quality, quick, and reasonably priced work he does for me. I work a full-time engineering job so I don’t have time to pull up the slack for anyone on my team. If my team members can’t (or won’t) make working with them easy, I have to let them go.

    My advice for anyone looking for good team members is to start with someone you trust that has exposure to the kind of work you’re doing (Realtors, subcontractors, etc) and ask them if they can refer someone. It took several months of this before I found my GC but I couldn’t be more happy that I did it. It literally makes the difference between being in the business or not.

    Thanks again for your contribution.

    • Great advice, Michael.

      Taking that time to find the right person is well worth it. It might take longer and require more effort to find them, but you will save so much time, frustration, money, etc. than if you just went with one of the first people you made contact with.

      Glad you have someone that makes your life easier. Treat them well.

  3. I totally disagree with you on not doing the rehab yourself, Option #1. If you’re buying 10 plus homes a month, yes, get a GC otherwise learn how to rehab yourself. Been buying SFH for over 45 years usually at 50 cents on the dollar and rehabbing them. When done, they appraise for 100-125% more than purchase price, that gives me 35% plus in profit. NO contractors disputes, NO miss scheduling and NO “I thought that’s what you wanted” stuff. I just paid a plumber $135 to clean out a p-trap, something I could have done in five minutes. My realtors will notify me if there’s another good deal to buy. The last four properties I bought were purchase by “wannabee investors” who ran out of money hiring “so-called contractors”. Bad for them, great for me. Each took about a week and a couple of hundred dollars to finish.

    • Hi, Jim.

      That’s great that you enjoy doing the fix up yourself and end up saving some money. If I did my own rehabs, it would be a nightmare. I probably wouldn’t save enough to justify the time I would be spending.

      Thanks for sharing your perspective.

  4. My first foray into real estate investing had me buying a decent SFH in a nice neighborhood just outside of town. It was dated and I knew that I could make it a lot better looking. Hey I’ve watched 100 episodes on HGTV about remodeling and you know I’ve got this handyman just dying to get out. Well fortunately I had a new tenant in the day after I closed and he said he liked it just the way it was. All I did for four years was pay the water bill twice a year and collect the rent checks. When he moved away I finally was ready to make all the updates. Well you don’t realize how tiring updating a home completely is on you until you take on the job yourself. In the end, the house set vacant almost a year while we worked on it here and there and ate up all the profits from the previous four years. We then sold it and put cash in the bank, but next time, I’ll be hiring out more. Learned a lot in the process though…Great post Danny, Thanks


    • Thanks, Paul.

      I really think you have to have a passion for remodeling yourself (without overdoing it for a house you are not going to be living in) to have the discipline to get the job done quickly.

      Thanks for commenting.

  5. Danny, thanks for the post. This really hit home with me. I am in the middle of a SFH rehab that was purchased at approx 65% ARV. I am currently working full time and doing the rehab myself…was laying tile til midnight, again…Anyway, are you able to offer any advice on making the transition from doing the work yourself to working with a contractor. My inital plan is to complete two of these rehab’s myself and utilize the profit to invest in my next project. Thanks in advance.

  6. I think it could go either way depending on the scale of what you are doing. Certainly if you have 10-15+ houses going/you are doing flips full time you have to hire out. If you just have one house, are doing it on the side or are eventually flipping your own residence, doing the work yourself is OK, IF you have the passion – and skill – to do so (I’ve seen some badly done flips). I like doing work on my own personal houses or for family members, but if I chose to do it full time I’d get a team involved and streamline as what Danny suggests, there is more money to be made in finding more deals than in fixing drywall. And yes, it can definitely be hard to find good workers, lots of horror stories there, I do think the key is building a good team that you can come back to repetitively.

    • Hey, Amie.

      Yeah, finding that team that makes your life easier and gives you the ability to work on the things you enjoy and/or allow you to do more can be the difference in being miserable and staying motivated, excited and pumped to go out and work hard.

  7. Great article! I definitely agree with using a GC over anything else. It frees up your time to concentrate on other aspects of your business. Having a background in designing and managing projects, I couldn’t imagine doing that and trying to find deals all at the same time.

    This is great knowledge for newbies like myself that may not have my background. This is especially important for those that are rehabbing a multi-unit property to live in and rent out. If your mortgage payments depend on other tenants, having a great GC that can be “in and out” will help you rent the units faster.

    Thanks again for a great read and the knowledge!

  8. Great article Danny! When I bought my SFR it needed some updating and my realtor (also a friend) referred a GC she had used on a flip. It worked out perfectly for me, he was done in two weeks, his cost was extremely reasonable, and it was no stress for me (I work a full time job). I would totally go that same route again and use the same GC. I, fortunately, had a great experience right out of the chute.

  9. I have a question concerning the time value of your own time put into doing the reconstruction.

    Is there a standard rate to use for adding to the cost basis of the house for calculating your gain? Or are you not allowed to use your own time at all?


  10. Sound advice. Thank you for this article. Getting ready to make an offer on a rehab deal. I work full time at a J.O.B. and wondered how I would get the rehab done with no extra time on my hands. In the past I would do the work myself with friends and family helping. I may consider the GC route on the next one.

    Thank you!

    • Hey David.

      It would hurt to talk to some and get idea as to the cost. I recommend hiring a professional to do it (not that you wouldn’t do a professional job) because of the speed they can usually do it. That way you can keep your holding costs down. Besides, it also allows you to have the time to really ‘oversee’ the job. It’s kind of hard to keep an eye on the ‘big picture’ if you have your head down hammering nails…


  11. Hello Danny,

    I own and run a small GC business and we are interested in getting on the “flipping bandwagon”
    (We are the guys with the truck lettered up with a logo and phone number you see at Home Depot/Lowes parking lots and driving around town.) My partner and I discussed how to get into this market and came up with what I am sure is not an original idea. We would offer our expertise at a discounted contracting rate in return for a percentage of the profit on the final sale of the property. This would get us steady work and… should the “flipper” break even (or takes a loss for whatever reason), we as the GC are not out all that much. It’s a risk we are willing to take because with our knowledge and experience in construction, we would play a pivotal role in helping the “flipper” choose a property where a generous profit is highly likely.

    Your thoughts on this?
    Any advice you can provide is highly regarded and greatly appreciated. 🙂



    • Tom,

      I am an investor – I would love to hire you to be my GC. What part of the country are you in? If you happen to be in Cincinnati I will hire you yesterday……

      Let me know,


  12. Ronnie f Pompa

    i see alot of these flippers on tv, and make some major mistakes, when it would have saved them alot of money and headaches if they would have taken a GC to see the house to let them know all the things that are bad on that house and. then they would have not overpaid for that house. its just common sense, JS .

Leave A Reply

Pair a profile with your post!

Create a Free Account


Log In Here