Should you do it yourself?
This week I got a call from my lead man Charles. He was changing out the galvanized plumbing under a flip house because the water pressure had become very reduced due to the buildup of corrosion in the pipes. All was looking good until he went to tie back into the main water line coming from the street.
Everything under the house, including the pipe that connected to the water main, was galvanized pipe. And Charles was hoping that if he went outside and dug down to the water main, we would find another pipe material to tie into so we could bypass any corrosion that may be hiding down the line and underground.
But once he dug the hole, he discovered the entire water main was galvanized and we were going to need to replace it — meaning we needed to dig a trench from the water meter to the house, install a new pipe, connect it to the water meter and then cover everything up.
This is something we have to do on a regular basis. And normally I can call my septic man to dig the trench for us pretty quickly. But on that day, he was tied up on an install that he needed to get done before the rain came in. That wasn’t good news for us because we also needed to get this job done before the rain came in that evening.
With such time constraints, the only option was for me to rent a machine and dig it myself.
This was not a big deal for me. I have experience working with skid steerers, excavators, tractors, and other machines. Now I’m not a pro or anything. But I can get the job done and have a lot of fun while I’m doing it.
So, I got a mini excavator delivered to the house. And Charles and I got it dug, laid, connected and covered in only a few hours. And that was with us having to wait on the utility company to show up.
Now, I have a blessing that can sometimes be a curse to investors. I have a construction background. My first job after high school was painting houses. That evolved from floor laying to general remodeling at first. And then I went to work for my brother in-law building custom houses from the slab up.
But when the market tanked in 2008 and we weren’t building anymore, I got a job working on a rehab crew for an investor in Atlanta. There we did everything on his rehabs that didn’t require a license, and some things that probably should have.
All those jobs gave me very valuable skills that I’ve been able to use in our real estate career to maintain our rentals as well as rehab our flips. And that has been a blessing.
The curse associated with this has to do with a mindset. And it goes like this, “If I know how to do something, why should I pay someone else to do it? I can save money if I just do everything myself.”
This is true. If you know how to do something, you can often save money doing it yourself. That being said, you normally don’t save time trying to do it yourself. That loss of time can often cost you more money than what you saved doing it yourself.
The other thing that can cost you here is called opportunity cost. You see, you can hire people to do most things on a house. But it’s hard to hire someone to go make deals happen for you. So if you’re on a jobsite working, instead of meeting with sellers, the money you saved by doing it yourself just cost you the profit of the next deal. In other words, you lost the opportunity to do another deal because you were busy saving money.
As a real estate investor, you have to decide when it’s worth it for you to do it yourself or to hire it out. For me, I have a great crew that does some of the best work in Northwest Georgia. Because of that, I only show up for emergencies like the one above, if it’s going to save us a lot of money or time if I do it, or if it’s a task that I intentionally chose where I can bring the kids along to teach them a skill so they know how to work with their hands.
Otherwise, I’m out looking for deals.
So the next time you start a project ask yourself, “Should you do it yourself?” You find that sometimes you need to be onsite and other times you’re just being cheap — and that will cost you if you aren’t careful.
Joe and Ashley English buy houses and mobile homes in Northwest Georgia. For more information or to ask a question, go to www.cashflowwithjoe.com or call Joe at 678-986-6813.