Hiring vs fixing your own repairs on low budget/income

18 Replies

It depends on the repair/job and your skill level.  If you don't know what you are doing (and sometimes even if you think you do know), leave electrical and plumbing to the experts.  I'm not talking about unplugging a drain.

Simple things like yard work, cleaning gutters, definitely do it yourself.

This is a very personal question.

If you're a heart surgeon or attorney earning $300 an hour, it makes sense to earn money doing your primary job and hiring the plumber at $80 an hour to fix the leaking sink or the $45 carpenter to install a new door. If you're earning $20 an hour in your primary job, installing a door yourself may be a small savings.

What's your skill level? You may be able to paint a B-class home but perhaps an A-class investment should have a professional that can cut neat lines. We can all learn how to install vinyl plank flooring, but how long will it take us and how good will the finished product look? When you calculate the value of your time and the quality of the finished job, you may discover you didn't save much and you have an inferior finish.

I know a lot of people that start off doing their own work to improve their return. Most of them do a decent job, but not the same quality as a professional. Savings aren't as much as they expect because they take at least twice as long and don't consider that their time has value. Many of them do terrible work and it shows. I bought a property from a guy that had done his own maintenance for almost 20 years; some of it was good and some had to be completely redone because he did a terrible job.

You have a lot to consider.

@Reginald A. Shelby II

Working on your own property gives you increased familiarity and confidence in the product of Real Estate. Your sweat equity is also an investment. Once your time becomes more valuable than hiring the repair then it is economically more efficient to hire it out with a GOOD QUALITY contractor. You can repair it if you enjoy doing it, and contract it out if you don't.

The big cons: the time you spend learning and the time you spend doing. It's also often hard, physically demanding work. And then there are the dangers involved. This isn't an office job, where the worst your have to worry about is a jagged paper cut. The more you do, the more likely it is that you'll eventually hurt yourself badly.

The big pro: you develop an invaluable fund of knowledge and technical ability that can be leveraged in many ways.

@Reginald A. Shelby II

YouTube university is awesome for learning, additionally, once you know how much effort something takes, you can get a good feel for what you should pay. That said, there are several things to consider:

  1. Do your repairs require permitting? I know in some places you have to be licensed to pull permits and have the repairs inspected. This is significant if flipping. 
  2. Do you have the time? This could mean, you don't mind paying holding costs for 9 months for you to do the work versus 3 months if you paid someone.
  3. Can you do a decent job? Learning to drywall and paint are straight forward, but if you are in a better area and you can't match wall texture or cut in a straight line, you may hurt yourself significantly and draw attention that makes people say "what other corners were cut?"
  4. Will your "learning experiences" cause death or disaster. Plumbing is easy. But if you screw it up you have a flooded house. Find a plumber that will teach you the basics on the job so you can be successful. Use him/her for the big stuff, but then you can handle all of the toilet changes, faucet hookups, etc. with confidence. On the other hand, upgrading electric service can kill you. Always hire a professional. Again, want to change a ceiling fan? Pay an electrician to spend a day with you and make sure your YouTube learning is safe and accurate. The one thing YouTube doesn't do is teach you when a video with 100,000 likes is against building code and could cause a fire. 
  5. Pick up a quick reference sheet to building codes. These come in a variety of formats from 8x14 laminated sheets to mini books to the full references. This can give you a quick reference when doing work. I keep a couple old Black and Decker plumbing and wiring books around as a side reference too. The Home Depot 1-2-3 books are good for this as well. Unlike YouTube, misrepresentation in these legacy formats could get someone in a lawsuit, so generally they are a little more reliable on basic rules to follow.

I do much of my own work that isn't on a roof or in an breaker box and the one thing that you don't get handing over a check is pride of ownership. If that is important to you, which it is to me, it can help make the decision for you. 

Originally posted by @Reginald A. Shelby II :

What are the pros and cons to hiring some one to fix your repairs vs learning to fix them yourself?

I believe everyone starting out should be the property manager / handy man.

-This teaches you the ins and outs of the business 

- You save some initial money

-you learn invaluable skills and trades

-you have a greater appreciation for your workers

Overall you'll be much wiser when you go to hire out the work, and you'll be educated.

On the flip side, if you make $200/hr at your day job, you'll be loosing some serious money.

in my opinion, there are some things you can do yourself like demo, clearing landscaping, and throughout the job you can spot small areas to contribute, but any finish work that'll be visible to buyer should be done with skilled, trained hands.  I have attempted tile jobs in bathroom renovations, kitchen walls, and entryways, and have attempted carpeting areas, and painting jobs, among other finishing touches, and in almost all cases, the slightest imperfections are easily seen and have defeated the purpose of trying to save money by doing the work myself

Originally posted by @Jason Denoncourt :

in my opinion, there are some things you can do yourself like demo, clearing landscaping, and throughout the job you can spot small areas to contribute, but any finish work that'll be visible to buyer should be done with skilled, trained hands.  I have attempted tile jobs in bathroom renovations, kitchen walls, and entryways, and have attempted carpeting areas, and painting jobs, among other finishing touches, and in almost all cases, the slightest imperfections are easily seen and have defeated the purpose of trying to save money by doing the work myself

 I am actually the opposite. The unskilled labor jobs can be hired cheap and anyone can do it. Dirty manual labor jobs will beat up your body over time. So you save fifty bucks and have a bad back when you are 60 years old, no thanks... I prefer doing higher value jobs, because you can save way more money. I can save thousands on a tile job doing it myself. I agree there is less room for imperfection, but I guess I have never had problems doing a quality job. I would tell people to give it a try and see how good you are. It is like anything, the more you do it, the better you get.

as an investor you should learn at least the basics of all maintenance and repairs of a property, even if you never plan on doing the work yourself.

Doesn't pay to DIY IMO. Most things costs $15-$40/hr. You should be making more than that. But you should know what to do and how it should be done, so you know it's done properly. 

One BIG key to the "hire it out" plan..... you have to have a good contractor/handyman/worker you trust to do good work....... just because you pay someone else doesn't mean they are going to do a good jo or better than you. I've seen plenty of jobs cost tons more due to horrible work. I've hired guys where afterwards I was " if I wanted to F this up or do a crap job, I would have done it myself"!!!!....... now its junk AND I paid someone else to do it....

If you have a trusted contractor/company/worker etc, it often pays to hire stuff out and use your time to do something else

I do most of the work I feel comfortable with and hire out stuff I don't or just don't have the time......... I know enough to be comfortable with what the job entails and what is a reasonable quality level of work I can expect. 

Does my work often take longer than a pro?..... Yes..... but I'm ok with that, since I'm in control and dont run the risk of getting screwed

Does the quality of my work compare to a pro?.... depends....... if I dont think it will, I hire out

@Reginald A. Shelby II

I would never have rentals if I couldn’t maintain them. And my rehabs cost a ton less because I do them all myself.

As for other investors.. 75% of my contracting business is working For other investors. They love to tell me how to do my job, but don’t own a screwdriver. Half the time I don’t know how they’re making any money with these houses. But.. the work is steady, the money is good, and they pay.

We do all our own work but man I can tell you stories about poor workmanship I've encountered multiple times on properties we've acquired. Not only ugly but dangerous stuff too. And who doesn't know that drain pipes need to be in harmony with gravity? ie, they shouldn't go uphill... And the scary electrical work I've seen...
So, all that to say, if you do it yourself please have a clue.

Read the forums for long and you'll see two primary concerns with property investing. One is getting the rent paid and the other is finding skilled, reliable contractors. By doing your own work, it solves part of the problem.

If you have the skills then you can do the repair on your own. But if you do not have, it would be wiser to hire skilled people to do the job. 

If your goal is to be a handyman,  then do it. 

if you're trying to build a business, driving 30 min to your rental to fix a leaky toilet is a freaking waste of your time. 

Buy houses that are good deals to avoid being a contractor.

@Reginald A. Shelby II

The pros to diy is it cost much less

The con is it takes more time.

Other pros is you gain knowledge and experience.

Often when we are first starting out we don’t have enough $ to hire out all the work. So this debate is moot.

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