Worth the Money – Why DIY Maintenance Is for You
by Albert Fontenot
December 2, 2014
"It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project."
~Napoleon Hill, author of Think and Grow Rich
It's an age-old question for landlords – Should you be a "hands on" DIY landlord, or should you step back and let a property/maintenance manager take care of your properties?
There is no doubt that hiring a manager definitely has advantages, especially when it comes to saving time. If you don't live near your property, have a large number of properties, or if you also have a full-time job, you may not have the time to devote to either owner-level maintenance tasks, tenant issues, or the vetting and supervision of outside professionals.
But for many owners, there is an appeal to being actively involved with their properties. Part of it is pride, but part of it is also practicality. After all, who is better qualified to look after your properties – in other words, your interests and income – than YOU?
For owners who are considering becoming more involved with their properties as a DIY landlord, there are some distinct advantages to keep in mind –
Being a DIY Landlord Saves You Money in the Short Term
This is the major reason why most landlords who choose this route do so, and for some landlords, saving money is the only consideration. There is no question that doing-it-yourself can save you thousands of dollars, in a variety of ways.
A full-time property manager will cost you 8-10% of the gross rent per month, and that can add up to thousands of dollars a year. If you actually have the time to take on the necessary tasks, saving that kind of money makes for a powerful incentive.
If you also possess the requisite handyman skills, it also makes good sense to tackle as many DIY maintenance and repair tasks as you can. For example, an amazing 85% of the cost of a professionally-hired painting company is just for their labor, as reported by Home Advisor.
Being a DIY Landlord Ensures Your Property Is Well-Maintained
Although your maintenance/property manager might reassure you again and again about how well they are looking after your properties, the fact of the matter is, they are not invested the way that you are, either financially or as a matter of pride. To many individuals, the upkeep, care, and maintenance of your properties is only viewed as a job.
To you, however, taking care of your investment property means protecting your investment and safeguarding your future.
In practice, when you hire what turns out to be the wrong property/maintenance manager as caretaker, you run the risk of them letting basic yet important tasks slide from time to time. When proper maintenance protocols are neglected for too long, a vicious cycle is initiated –
Easy, relatively-inexpensive maintenance chores become time-consuming costly repairs that require a large expenditure of capital. While the property is being repaired or renovated, it is not available for rent, which interrupts the flow of rental income. The combination of repair costs and loss of income means that you have less overall profits to reinvest in your property. In turn, this means that you may have to put off some routine maintenance tasks for lack of money… And so on, and so on.
The reality is that no one is going to care about your property as much as you do. If you are as hands-on as possible, you are far more likely to keep your eyes on the larger plan, and you fully realize that the more beautifully maintained your property is, the more it will appreciate in value and continue to provide you with valuable rental income.
Being a DIY Landlord Builds a Relationship with Your Tenants
When you are hands-on landlord who has a visible and regular presence on your properties, you will have a much better opportunity to get to know your tenants, and vice versa. Why is this of benefit to you?
When you know your tenants and their lifestyles, you are able to more accurately determine the quality and condition of your renter demographic. This means you are able to take steps to attract renters of the highest quality – people who have a sense of pride and responsibility, and who will take care of their homes just as if they themselves were the owners.
This pride of residence by residents saves you money because you do not need to perform unnecessary repairs on properties that were abandoned or purposefully-damaged by tenants.
From the viewpoint of the tenants, if they see a hands-on DIY landlord who works hard to keep their properties and grounds well-maintained, they are more likely to stay long-term, rather than quickly moving as soon as their lease has expired.
This in turn saves you money, because it cuts down on vacancies, interruptions in rental income, refurbishment, and the costs incurred in finding new tenants. According to an excellent article for landlords entitled, Resident Retention – the True Cost of Turnover, it was calculated that the cost of a single incident of residence attrition can cost a landlord over $4000.
With that in mind, it is easy to see that the old real estate adage "location, location, location" needs to be changed to "rent, rent, rent". As important as it is to have a rental property in a desirable location, it is even more critical to keep that property occupied on a continual basis.
What You Need from Yourself to Be a Successful Do-It-Yourself Landlord
Being a DIY landlord isn't for everyone. Even if you have the aforementioned time and ability, it still takes the right mindset. If you're going to forgo most of the services of a property manager, you need to have a service-oriented personality, meaning that you legitimately don't mind dealing with the myriad tenant issues that come up on a daily basis.
You must also feel completely comfortable with vetting, hiring, and evaluating the work of those professional contractors who do the work that you don't.
Most of all, you need to be disciplined, diligent, and detailed when it comes to planning, implementation, and follow-up in order to make sure that you provide your tenants with the best properties possible, so you can in turn give yourself the best return on your rental property investment.