Do You “Do It Yourself?”


Well, that’s somewhat of a personal question to ask – isn’t it?  But, we are all a close family here at BiggerPockets after all, so what the heck…  Do you do it yourself?

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Look at this Guy –>

The tee-shirt, the over-alls, the heavy-duty construction boots; the only thing missing is the checkered flannel shirt.  This guy is definitely rugged and sturdy.  You can almost smell the strong, stubborn, I can do this Irish flavor radiating from the page.

Now – you know this dude does it all himself.  Can you see him with a hammer or a reciprocating saw in his hands?  I can!  I bet he spent two whole days last week laying carpet in one of his rentals.  In fact, if you ask him he’ll tell you that he got it done in one day…  Kinda sexy actually if you are into that kind of thing.

But, Then There’s This Guy:

Ben Leybovich

Fine suit, nice shirt, a tie, dark hair, dark skin, dark eyes – the refined European type, wouldn’t you say?  If you guessed that this guy wouldn’t know the working end of a hammer – you’d be wrong, but not by much.  For the most part, the few things those hands are accustomed to handling are his kids, his violin, and his cell phone.  While he also owns rentals, I would not be lying to you if I said that the last time he touched a piece of construction equipment was about 4 years ago; trust me – I was there!

Necessity and Practicality

I don’t mind telling you that this guy actually loves wood-working – he told me so.  As a child, in Russia, he used to slip out of the house when his parents thought he was practicing the violin, and run to the shed instead to make spears, swords, shields, boats – you name it.  So, why does he shy away from doing labor now days? After all, he could save himself so much money by doing it himself.

Two reasons – necessity, and practicality.


You may know that when in college this guy – let’s just call him Billy-Bob, seems appropriate.  But, anyway, when in college he was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, which is very likely going to impede his capacity to function physiologically as time moves on.  The very essence of his involvement in real estate was to solve the problem of income-generation when the time comes and he is not able to punch the clock.

Thus, Billy-Bob views real estate investing as a passive income sport – as much as possible anyway.  With this in mind, he made a decision early on that if it were not possible to succeed in this business without being in the middle of working construction equipment, then this business was not what he was looking for.  Thankfully, it is very possible…


All of us define that which we would consider success.  For this guy, success in real estate is defined as 100 units, fully leveraged, with $130 – $150 of monthly cash flow per door.  As some of the leverage is amortized the cash flow would go to $200/door, which would constitute $20,000+ per month – this is the goal.  He may not stop there, but this is the 1st point of reference for this guy.

Now – is it wise or practical to hope to take care of 100 units on your own?  No – it is not; this requires a manager and a well-functioning team.  Thus, this guy made a choice from the get-go to outsource everything, which frees his time to manage and build systems that will accommodate the growth of his business.  This is what he deems as practical…

Besides, if the idea of income-producing real estate is PASSIVE CASH FLOW, passive being the operative word, that working for money doesn’t quite fit the bill!


I know a lot of hugely successful real estate investors who involve themselves in the construction/maintenance work on a daily basis, and therefore I will never judge that one way is better than the other.  In the end, our decision-making process is driven by the realities on the ground, both in terms of our financial position, health, time, and more…

But, before you decide to do it yourself, I encourage you to consider the long-term ramifications of this decision.  What kind of a business do you see yourself on top of 20 years from now?

Thanks so much for reading and please leave a comment 🙂
Photo Credit: Marsum

About Author

Ben Leybovich

Ben Leybovich has been investing in multifamily residential real estate since 2006. His area of expertise is creative finance. Ben works extensively with private as well as institutional financing. Ben is a licensed Realtor with YOCUM Realty in Lima, Ohio. He is also the author of Cash Flow Freedom University and creator of a cash flow analysis software CFFU Cash Flow Analyzer.


  1. My parents have owned rental apartments for about 20 years. Currently they have 19 units. About 2 years ago I began to help them with the day to day operations, and now I do much of the management. My parents have always been do it yourself owners. Depending on how evil a past tenant was it could take 3 weeks to make it rent ready. I am not sure that it saved any money except for the fact that 9 out 10 professionals that they called on have either done poor work, charged above competitor prices, or charged for work never done. Rarely have any of them stood behind their work. I have a different management style, and so far so good. Their past experiences have colored my view, but I have one trump card. I am computer literate and screen carefully. I have been satisfied with all of the companies with which I have worked. Screening companies is as important as screening potential tenants. I don’t doubt that I will choose poorly on occasion. So far this year I have spent more money on maintenance and rehab than my parents ever did. However, I have rented 5 units, all of which have good tenants. Sure, a more attractive complex still attracts lousy tenants, but also good tenants, of which, to this day, I have not been able to convince my Dad. Time will tell whether or not I am as successful as they have been.

    • Thanks for you thoughts Cheryl!

      This is for another time, but I turned over 14 units in the space of 5 months. There is no way I could do it by myself – period. I don’t really have anything more to add to that 🙂

      Thanks so much!

  2. Douglas Dowell on

    Great post Ben,

    I have to agree with you that creating the system from word go is the true smart call. Deal making for the real estate investor is probably the highest value use of our time either analyzing deals or meeting with money partners. We spend all this time getting good at those two functions seems a waste to me to spend time painting or swinging a hammer.

    I am glad for that too…I built a bird house in wood shop in high school. City of Raytown, MO came in and condemned it.

  3. Great article. I really take this to heart. I am currently finishing up my first single family rehab and have done almost all the work my self. I did this for two reasons.1) I knew very little about construction and wanted to learn the processes and the way that things should be done. 2.) I had no extra money for labor!

    I am going on my 15th month of rehab and have learned that it is not possible to build the business i wish to create if i am doing the labor my self. A great read for people on the fence if they should DIY or hire labor is “The E-myth” by Michael Gerber.

    Thanks for the great article, Ben!

    • Hey Duron – yeah The E Myth is a good read indeed.

      Leaning is a thing that doesn’t happen until we are ready. 15 months ago you weren’t ready to accept certain realities – today you are. Business is about systems; if not, then it’s not a business but self-employment; personal service. Nothing wrong with personal service, it’s just never going to be passive…you are finding this out.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

  4. Awesome article. I’m in the process of learning how DIY can be fun, but takes a TON of time. I’m completing what I call a UFUO (Unique-Fixer-Upper-Opportunity). The project was extensive and certainly cost me time, but I’ve found it’s one way to super charge my returns on my investments. I don’t have the cash or connections (yet) to pay someone to complete the work, but by using some elbow grease, I can actually ‘earn’ more than I do at my day job (time to question the day job?).

    Ben, what are your thoughts on investors just getting started, like me (a little over one year experience with three properties (five total units))? I don’t have much available cash, and I want to work towards passive income; should I abandon the elbow grease-and-hold approach for a slightly slower but more passive approach?

    • Hey Liam,

      First of all, if you like it, don’t stop doing it yourself. We live once – do what you like. I gave a friend who owns 560 units and has always been hands on – he hasn’t been diagnosed with MS though…

      A very personal question indeed 🙂

      Thanks so much for you comment!

  5. Hey Ben, I’ll help you get your hands dirty. It’s fun.. sometimes. But some I leave to the real professionals such as plumbing, roofing, heating and cooling and electrical… ha ha ha…

    Wow doesn’t leave much left does it… LOL

      • Im working towards that myself. No more painting, blinds, drywall… cleaning!!! I will be there soon. Time is money and if the price is right, I would much rather be with my family than working on a property right now since I still work a full time job.

        I hope you don’t take this as an insult, it’s not meant to be.. but my son loves the movie despicable me. And after hearing your podcast I kept picturing Gru from the movie because of your accent. I think that is what caught my initial attention of the podcast and pulled me into it deeper.

        I look forward to reading more of your posts.

        • Haha – I’ve heard the name of that movie, but I’ve never seen it. I’m just happy you didn’t say Burat or whatever his name was in that movie from a couple yeas back lol

          Thanks for listening and reading Aaron! Good luck!

  6. Well unless you have big plans of steeling the moon, the only thing in common is the accent… ha ha ha.. But I bet you could use all Gru’s minions to work on your properties… I know I could.. ha ha ha..

  7. Excellent advice. I just don’t have the time, so I hire a friend who is a contractor. You have to figure in the opportunity cost.

    BTW, when I saw the title of this piece, I immediately thought of the movie “40-Year Old Virgin”.

  8. Ben, I connect so closely with you here! 100 leveraged doors at $130 – $150 / month is congruent with my goal. I currently have 20 leveraged, cash-flowing units in two geographic markets. Having a trusted professional manager handling things is how I fly and it is the most sustainable system.

    That’s the only way it’s “passive”. It’s “mailbox money”.

    My wife & I would rather vacation in Hawaii, Belize, NYC, or the Philippines and know that it’s all handled. We even value living our everyday lives at home knowing it’s all handled. I just walk my local buildings once a month to see how it’s going.

    At 41-years-old and very able-bodied, I sure I could manage myself. But what would remain would be a significantly diminished quality of life.

    For me, some choices are just easy. Like living well.

  9. Ben
    It has taken me almost 5 years to learn this lesson. Like others, I did my first and second flips DYI with very little outsourcing of labor. Both of them took over a year a piece spending every spare moment and weekend while holding down a full time job. I outsourced most of the labor on the third; it only took 3 months. I like that much better. Due to some cashflow problems, I haven’t tackeled anything in the last year. But, my finances are restructured and we are on “Go” with a whole team to tackel the most time consuming stuff. I will reserve a couple of days for me to do some Light/fan hanging or sink installing. I call this hands on time my “quite time”. I dearly love to do it all my self. But, that is not the way to pay the bills. Great artical and some good stuff for new comers to ponder.

  10. There is never a cleat cut right and wrong answer to any of these kinds of questions.

    It depends on your situation, your goals and what you are good at and enjoy.
    If you love doing hands on work and have the skills then do your own stuff and enjoy it. As long as you don’t think you can do all the labor and do a huge volume then you are fine.

    If you want to own 100+ units it will be damn hard to do all your own rehabs, maintenance and turnovers. Similarly since people are talking about doing their own flips you can’t do any volume there without outsourcing. If you like spending every waking moment you aren’t working for 6-18 months working on the house and only want to do 1-2 a year then it is a pretty profitable hobby for you!

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