Being a Howard County landlord sometimes means dealing with narrow margins on your rental income.
When repairs need to be made, most landlords are tempted to do all of the repairs themselves.
But, sometimes making the repairs yourself is more expensive than simply hiring a professional to do the work.
When you are trying to decide if you should make the repair yourself or not, you need to consider your skill level, how much your time is worth, what your budget for repairs is, and what you can learn from the professionals.
Know Your Skills
Sometimes we are the worst ones at judging our own abilities. Often, we either underestimate our skills, or worse, we overestimate them.
Knowing your skills for a repair means more than just having a “sense” of your abilities as a handyman. You need to evaluate each task and decide if your abilities measure up to what needs to be done. You may be able to paint all the walls yourself, but is replacing the electrical outlet really in your wheelhouse?
When evaluating your skills consider the following questions:
- What kind of feedback do you get from your tenants? Do you get more compliments or complaints on your repairs?
- How often does your repair fail and have to be done again?
- What does your spouse or other family members say about your handyman skills?
- Do you have any training or experience doing repairs?
Getting feedback from others about your skills can be a humbling experience, but it can also save you considerable time and frustration.
Remember, you may not be overestimating your skills at all. You may be underestimating your ability to do many common repairs around the rental units. Things like painting, replacing screens, and even simple electrical repairs take some knowledge to do properly, but with a little research and time you can effectively master these skills and perform quality repairs yourself.
Your Time is Valuable
Even if you have all of the skills you need to make repairs, it doesn’t mean that you should undertake them.
Every hour you spend peeling wallpaper or pulling carpets is time you could be spending doing something else. You need to understand how much your time is worth and than decide if it makes sense to hire out even simple tasks you could easily do.
You may or may not be a full-time landlord. Either way, the time you invest in a project will have different returns, depending on the project.
If you spent the time marketing your property or seeking new real estate investment opportunities with the time you could be spending tiling the bathroom floor, which activity would make you more money? The answer to this question will be different for everyone.
What is true for Howard County landlords is true for everyone. You only have a limited amount of time. There are many ways to make more money, but there are no ways to make more time.
Consider the resources you have at your disposal. If you have a solid Howard County property management company, they can refer you to reasonably priced professionals that do high quality work.
Whenever you could be using the time spent making repairs to make more money than it would cost to pay a professional to do the task, hire the professional.
Budget for Repairs
Often, landlords feel under pressure to do repairs themselves because they haven’t budgeted properly. Before deciding what to charge for rent you need to have a repair budget. If you find that repair costs are putting you in the red, you need to reevaluate the rental repair budget.
If you have been a landlord for a while, look back at your records and see what your actual repair costs have been over the past several years. You will probably find you spent more than you thought on repairs and you need to increase your budget. Part of setting a repair budget should take into account any professional services you may need.
If you are a new landlord, talk to other landlords or property management companies in Howard County to determine what typical repair costs are like. Once you have a proper repair budget, it will be easier to decide if a repair is best done by you or by hiring out an expert. Your budget will be unique to you and your properties.
Learn From the Pros
Hiring an electrician or a plumber can be expensive.
While there may be no way to avoiding a service call, you can make the most of it by carefully observing what they are doing and asking questions. Many jobs you hire out may be easy enough for you to do yourself, if you take the time to learn.
Not only can you learn form the pros while they do the work on your property, but you can find any number of detailed, helpful tutorials on sites like YouTube. You don’t have to become an expert in every area of property repair. Just learning how to make a few of the more common repairs can be the difference between turning a profit and a loss.
The more you learn about how to make repairs yourself, the more money you will save, even if you end up not doing the repairs yourself. You will be better able to judge if the costs and time estimates you are given by contractors are reasonable or not.
However, be careful that you are learning from experts. There is no shortage of fast-paced DIY shows on that only hint at the actual work involved in some types of major repairs and renovations.
Deciding when to hire out repairs and when to do them yourself is about more than just looking at costs. Doing some repairs yourself may not only be costlier than hiring a professional, but doing so may put you or others in danger. Even if you do have the right skills, you also need to decide what your time is worth.
If you set an accurate budget for repairs and take the time to learn from the pros, you will be able to make educated choices about rental repairs and increase the profits you get form your rentals.