Should I Work on my Own Home by Doing DIY Projects or Hire a Professional Contractor?

LOCAL RECORDS OFFICE – You don’t need the construction skills of Bob Vila to start working on your own home, yet it’s no secret that you can save money if you do some of the work yourself, of course not all projects could be done by a rookie DIY’er. As a general rule, estimates from contractors in our area run 1/3 for materials and 2/3’s for labor. So theoretically, we save 66% by doing the project ourselves, right?

Doing it Yourself Projects Has It’s Benefits but it Also Has it’s Downside

To decide, consider:

  • Cost of materials: Can materials be purchased at contractor cost or will you pay a hefty up-charge? Is it possible to find materials at salvage or a Habitat-type store to increase your margin of profit?
  • Cost of time: How much longer will this take to DIY? And in real dollars, how much will this add to holding costs? Holding costs include but are not limited to mortgage payments, insurance (generally higher when property is empty and/or under construction), utility bills, and lost rent. If it takes 2 weeks working nights and weekends to complete a project your contractor can finish in 2 days, add 10 days of holding costs.

Great DIY Example

The decision to DIY should be a simple mathematical equation where you:

  • Price materials
  • Estimate the time needed to complete the project
  • Multiply the number of days/weeks by the daily/weekly rate for holding costs, then
  • Subtract that amount from the contractor bid

Of course it’s not that easy… how much fun would that be?

For starters, you may not be delaying completion of the project if other work is going on anyway. Contractor delays are a common problem and if yours has a history of putting off your projects for another day, you might be able to finish sooner than he can anyway. But besides that, there’s value hidden away in DIY projects that can only be mined by rolling up the sleeves and getting your nails encrusted with something icky.

Learning New Skill Will Help You on the Long Run

By learning a new skill, you increase both ability and confidence. You’re also learning to identify quality work, the amount and difficulty of labor, special tools needed for the job, and reasonable time estimates for completion. If you decide to hire someone next time, you’ll have a much better idea what’s involved in the project and if bids are reasonable. That type of knowledge is invaluable to the rehab professional, paying dividends with every new project.

Just Another Opinion

Consider taking on at least one new project with each rehab, even if it’s as simple as replacing a light switch or changing out a doorknob. With experience, you’ll learn which repairs save the most and which are best left to others. During your first few houses, try to be as hands-on as possible and consider it part of your rehab education.

You Don’t Have to be a Professional Handy-Man to do Great DIY Projects

If you have no handy-man skills whatsoever, you might try working alongside your contractor (if he’ll have you). He may tell you to pound sand (politely of course), but if you have a good working relationship, it’s worth a shot. Later, you may find that hiring reputable contractors for most (if not all) of the work will save enough in holding costs to justify the expense.

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