Author Topic: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?  (Read 1030 times)

isaakthepirate

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How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« on: November 17, 2018, 06:20:51 PM »
Hi all! -
I own seven units (triplex/fourplex). I usually hire out major work (multi-day projects) but when I get smaller scope repairs, I've been doing it myself. For example, drywall repair, replacing a faucet, fixing leaking wash machine, dryer belt replacement, etc. Generally if I can YouTube it and do it in less than a day, I'll do it. And I usually succeed, however, because I'm learning as I go, it takes a lot of time and sometimes I make silly mistakes.

My question for Mustachian landlords - how Mustachian are you about repairs for your rental units? I don't want to do poor work for my tenants, and but I'm also never going to learn unless I stumble through the stuff I don't know.

nsmall

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #1 on: November 17, 2018, 07:29:55 PM »
I only do what I am VERY confident I can do.  Otherewise I hire someone.  Last thing I want is to do something half right, it fails, someone gets hurt, and being thrifty comes back to bite me.  Just my two cents. 

Practice on your own house, but if its not something that will hurt someone, you can give it a try.  In the end you may have to hire a pro regardless. 

rothwem

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #2 on: November 18, 2018, 06:30:27 AM »
Generally if I can YouTube it and do it in less than a day, I'll do it. And I usually succeed, however, because I'm learning as I go, it takes a lot of time and sometimes I make silly mistakes.

I have similar criteria, though I usually don’t mess with electrical stuff, due to the reasons mentioned earlier.  In a weird way, it’s kinda fun to do those types of DIY projects. I don’t want to have to do them all the time, but when you paint the exterior trim on your house or patch a hole in the drywall, it just looks so much better, the feeling of accomplishment is real.

waltworks

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #3 on: November 18, 2018, 08:05:20 AM »
I sold my last rental last year, but for me it's simple - if the repair will cost less for me to do (valuing my time at $100/hour, and adding $0.50/mile for depreciation and gas on the car) than calling a professional, I'll do it. Otherwise, I won't.

This basically means it's really only little stuff that I'll do (where the initial fee just to get the plumber to come out makes it expensive).

Also no electrical. That's just a dumb idea unless you *really* know what you're doing.

-W

APowers

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #4 on: November 18, 2018, 09:07:38 AM »
I generally do all my own stunts....if anyone's going to be making $75/hr, it should be me, lol.

My single-family rental is out of state, so I'm forced to hire out for that.

isaakthepirate

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #5 on: November 18, 2018, 12:12:58 PM »
I guess my debate is that I see the true MMM way to DIY as much as possible - not just to save money, but to learn the skills. But maybe that's more for personally use as others have mentioned than for business use like the rentals.

I understand about the time valuation, and if I were using that, would certainly hire out for the last few projects I took on that took 4-6 hours that a professional could've done in 1-2. But, I don't have something else that I'm doing that's worth $100/hr. If I weren't working on the properties, I would just have open time.



tralfamadorian

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #6 on: November 18, 2018, 12:27:55 PM »
I DIY almost nothing; my time has been better served by intentionally building up a queue of competent professionals who charge a fair price.

rothwem

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #7 on: November 18, 2018, 03:06:46 PM »
I sold my last rental last year, but for me it's simple - if the repair will cost less for me to do (valuing my time at $100/hour, and adding $0.50/mile for depreciation and gas on the car) than calling a professional, I'll do it. Otherwise, I won't.

This basically means it's really only little stuff that I'll do (where the initial fee just to get the plumber to come out makes it expensive).

Also no electrical. That's just a dumb idea unless you *really* know what you're doing.

-W

The issue I have with this approach is that I often have no idea how long something is going to take to do. Well, an idea maybe, probably about a day usually if I’m thinking about it. But if I value my time at 100/hour and something might take me 10 hours, it’s pretty easy to talk myself into paying someone to do just about everything.

isaakthepirate

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #8 on: November 18, 2018, 03:42:40 PM »
Quote
The issue I have with this approach is that I often have no idea how long something is going to take to do. Well, an idea maybe, probably about a day usually if Iím thinking about it. But if I value my time at 100/hour and something might take me 10 hours, itís pretty easy to talk myself into paying someone to do just about everything.

Agreed. If I'm looking at it in exchange of time, it's always better to hire someone more efficiently.
But it's always motivated me to take the MMM approach and say it's not about convenience. It's about badassity and having the skills, which I can only gain by doing.

And, since I don't have something else I'm doing that's earning $100/hr, it's just a hypothetical opportunity cost. That said, I asked because after a recent repair job where I definitely made more work than necessary, I'm considering just cutting into my take-home pay and hiring out more. Seeing the responses here, I guess I can do so guilt-free!

APowers

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #9 on: November 18, 2018, 08:10:13 PM »
Quote
The issue I have with this approach is that I often have no idea how long something is going to take to do. Well, an idea maybe, probably about a day usually if Iím thinking about it. But if I value my time at 100/hour and something might take me 10 hours, itís pretty easy to talk myself into paying someone to do just about everything.

Agreed. If I'm looking at it in exchange of time, it's always better to hire someone more efficiently.
But it's always motivated me to take the MMM approach and say it's not about convenience. It's about badassity and having the skills, which I can only gain by doing.

And, since I don't have something else I'm doing that's earning $100/hr, it's just a hypothetical opportunity cost. That said, I asked because after a recent repair job where I definitely made more work than necessary, I'm considering just cutting into my take-home pay and hiring out more. Seeing the responses here, I guess I can do so guilt-free!

I don't see it as just a hypothetical opportunity cost. I don't earn anywhere near $100/hr, but still the tradeoff is there: either I pay someone to do it and work my day job for that money, or I take time off my day job and do it myself. If my day job pays a net of $25/hr, I have to work three day-job-hours to pay for one hour of a $75/hr professional. If I do the thing I would hire the pro to do, at the same speed the pro would do it, I've tripled my net (via saving, rather than earning, but same diff). If I take twice as long to do the project than the pro, I STILL end up way ahead of hiring it out. AND I end up with new/improved skills and experience. And tools, depending on the project.

Jon Bon

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #10 on: November 19, 2018, 05:35:52 AM »
How do you guys handle access? How do you assess the problem?

Coordinate with tenants to let the guy in? Let them in yourself? Other? Often I am getting descriptions of the problems via text by tenants who have zero idea what is going on. So I often need to put my eyes on it.

I have keypads on some of my places that I would give the code to my trusted guys but often tenant and contractor are uncomfortable with that. So often I end up having to go over there to assess the situation, and again to let the guy in. So usually I just fix the drain/outlet/hole/etc myself.

Something I sometimes pay for is when I need it to be watertight the first time. Windows, and waste plumbing. If it is in a tricky place, and I dont want to have leaks in the ceiling below I will pay. Recently had the drain stopper in the tub rust off and get stuck on closed. It had to be taken apart in a tight spot right above the kitchen. That was $100 well spent.

thepuglife

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #11 on: November 26, 2018, 10:08:12 AM »
I own six units in SF and over the years, I have learned to do more and more minor repairs myself. I use a licensed property maintenance company for other tasks.

Because they always send the same guy and I have mostly long term tenants, the tenants have gotten to know him and are comfortable with him coming in to the units with a lockbox key. With the trip charge, it is not worth it to have him come over to fix something small like a loose doorknob. So, I now do those small jobs myself.

I think one advantage to this is that I get to do a walk through of the unit while I am there and I can see if anything weird is going on. Over the years, I have discovered things like illegal AirBnb, a large pot grow in a laundry room, smoke alarms that had been disabled or removed, extra roommates, etc.

isaakthepirate

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #12 on: November 26, 2018, 10:13:11 AM »

How do you guys handle access? How do you assess the problem?

Coordinate with tenants to let the guy in? Let them in yourself? Other? Often I am getting descriptions of the problems via text by tenants who have zero idea what is going on. So I often need to put my eyes on it.

I have keypads on some of my places that I would give the code to my trusted guys but often tenant and contractor are uncomfortable with that. So often I end up having to go over there to assess the situation, and again to let the guy in. So usually I just fix the drain/outlet/hole/etc myself.

Access can be tricky. In my Class C property, almost all my tenants prefer to be home during access. They don't like it if I come in, even with notice. Sometimes it has to happen, but I try to keep the peace and give them enough notice so they can be there. My Class B+ property, tenants are fine with me or others entering. I have a lockbox. For my Class C property, I hide a key in a padlocked laundry room, but as stated, usually tenants are there. I had a lockbox, but stopped doing that after someone broke off the doorknob, broke into the storage closet, and stole my lockbox of keys for every apartment (with labels).

bacchi

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #13 on: November 26, 2018, 09:02:08 PM »
If it's interior work, and I can finish it in less than a day, I generally do it. I don't do HVAC or anything to do with gas (though I'll do some of this for my own place). Basic electrical, such as replacing a ceiling fan or garage door opener or disposal, is also doable. Low voltage work, too, of course.

It's fun, I enjoy it, and it saves money.

When I had shitty tenants, and the rental was a decent drive away, I hated it and would hire out most of it.

Fishingmn

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #14 on: November 27, 2018, 11:33:56 AM »
I try to do smaller stuff and leave the rest to contractors.

Garbage disposals, storm door or garage door openers I will do. Being semi-retired its more about giving me something to do for the day.

Lan Mandragoran

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #15 on: November 27, 2018, 02:43:59 PM »
I only do what I am VERY confident I can do.  Otherewise I hire someone.  Last thing I want is to do something half right, it fails, someone gets hurt, and being thrifty comes back to bite me.  Just my two cents. 

Practice on your own house, but if its not something that will hurt someone, you can give it a try.  In the end you may have to hire a pro regardless.

Amen.

Put in my own roof. Water leaked, ceiling fell in. $$$$ later, and multiple smaller incidents I've decided unless it's mowing the lawn or painting or something I'm not professional enough at it for it to be worth my time. Obviously that last part is the key, imo just don't do stuff you cant do if it's high/medium risk for low reward.


Megma

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #16 on: November 28, 2018, 02:31:16 PM »
I only do what I am VERY confident I can do.  Otherewise I hire someone.  Last thing I want is to do something half right, it fails, someone gets hurt, and being thrifty comes back to bite me.  Just my two cents. 

Practice on your own house, but if its not something that will hurt someone, you can give it a try.  In the end you may have to hire a pro regardless.

Amen.

Put in my own roof. Water leaked, ceiling fell in. $$$$ later, and multiple smaller incidents I've decided unless it's mowing the lawn or painting or something I'm not professional enough at it for it to be worth my time. Obviously that last part is the key, imo just don't do stuff you cant do if it's high/medium risk for low reward.

Yep. Not only are we like the LEAST handy people in the world but we also have other jobs and limited time. I will paint a little, install a towel bar, etc.

Like Jon Bon said though, I will definitely go over and check out the problem myself before calling someone because even though tenants live there, they usually have no clue what the real problem is.

Story time: my tenants had been living in the house for 3 months and one weekend they text me to say there is no hot water. I sprang into worry and action, "The hot water heater broke!?! Crap! What do we do? How much will it cost??" I called one of the tenants to ask them if we could come look at it the next day (Sunday) and then we'd call someone to look at it on Monday. I felt bad making them wait until Monday with no hot water but also didn't want to pay an emergency weekend fee. We go over on Sunday, and there was literally nothing wrong with the hot water heater, it was just turned down really low from when the house was empty. Moreover, I found out that it had been turned down the whole time they'd been living in the house and never brought up that there wasn't really very hot water, basically ever. Yeah tenants don't know what is wrong and don't really tell you the key details, such as the water has always been lukewarm, which is very different than "suddenly no hot water." Yeah, I always go check myself.

clifp

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Re: How much rental unit repair work do you DIY?
« Reply #17 on: November 29, 2018, 12:12:53 AM »
One benefit of being 2500 miles from my nearest rental and 4,000 miles from my furthest rental, is I never DIY my own repair work.

In ideal world, I think it would very valuable to have done a lot of handyman work before becoming a landlord.  Not because, I think it necessarily makes sense to do your own repair work, but because you'll have a better idea when the contractors/handyman is bullshitting you.

Also before DIY on your rental properties make sure you've done the work on your own house.  You can't deduct labor cost on your primary residence but you can on rental properties.