Professional versus DIY

A simple painting job to tidy up one of our rentals.

A simple painting job to tidy up one of our rentals.

There is always a toss-up about whether to do something yourself, and potentially save some money, against getting a professional in to do the job.

We have completed a fair bit of cosmetic renovation work over the years. I am a mean hand with the paint sprayer, painting the inside of a house in a couple of hours and husband extraordinaire has learnt many tricks over the years in hanging doors and finishing those fiddly corners of the skirting boards so they sit neatly. In the past we have always done the majority of the work ourselves. It has been enjoyable and saved us money at a time when we weren’t earning a lot and had more spare time. Lately however, we have found there are other things we would prefer to do rather than spend our weekends painting and tiling.

This latest project is vastly different to others we have tackled, those past projects were cosmetic renovations, where we focused on improving the look of a place by painting, replacing floor coverings and tidying the gardens. Over time, we have took on more complex renovations, employing tradesmen to install new kitchens, revamp bathrooms or polish the floors in some of our rental houses. The more we have used outside tradesmen, the less profit there is in the deal, or at least that is what it looks like.

Our property investment strategy was to purchase daggy looking houses in areas where there was a good rental demand. You know the ones – they have pink walls or ugly, peeling facades and tired, overgrown gardens. Our transformations usually cost us well under the $10,000 mark and probably added around $30,000 to $50,000 in value to the property. With the cost of buying and selling, as well as the holding costs though, we would probably have made only around $10,000 to $20,000 profit if we had sold the properties. This is still not bad considering most renovations took us less than a month to complete, however our focus was on developing a rental portfolio and our cosmetic renovation strategy certainly increased the rental returns significantly.

I look at all the elements involved in this renovation and am glad it is someone else's responsibility.

I look at all the elements involved in this renovation and am glad it is someone else’s responsibility.

Fast forward to today. Hubby and I are busy running a business and working full-time. We don’t have enough hours in the day to devote to a full-blown renovation. Sure, one of us could perhaps stop working at our day job and focus solely on the reno. But in reality, we would lose more money by not working for five or six months doing the reno, than if we both continued working full-time and hired other people to do the renovation for us.

In addition, our current project is a lot more complicated than any others we have previously done. I have been monitoring a couple of properties in the area where the owners are obviously planning on completing the renovation themselves. The house gets raised then sits on spindly stumps for a year or two (or even three!) while the owners try to find time on weekends and after work to finish the renovation. We didn’t want that.

We had originally planned on completing the painting and the fit-out ourselves, however my workload has increased and hubby is having to deal with night shifts. Yes, it is costing more for us to get the professionals in, but we are getting the job done faster and the standard is much higher than if we had done it ourselves. Also, instead of having to continue to rent, we should be back in the renovated house by the end of next month. This of course is a saving in itself, plus we will have a lovely place to live and work.

So what have I done for this reno? Well, I talk to the builder a lot. He has been able to put us onto a lot of his trusted tradesmen and I have found when getting second, and sometimes third, quotes I can’t get better prices. I have been out and chosen the light fittings, items such as toilets and baths, tiles, the doors and the floor coverings. This is where I have been able to have some input into the end result and save us money. Also, sourcing and commissioning the kitchen designer to rework the old kitchen and build the vanities has saved us thousands. Of course, all this has taken up a lot of my time since we returned from our holiday and has to be fitted in between the paid work I need to do. I also have to make sure that everything I have ordered is on-site and ready for the tradesmen when required. It’s been a bit of a juggling act but we’re getting there and I’m looking forward to the fast approaching day when we can move back in – and start the process all over again with the new build!

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2 thoughts on “Professional versus DIY

  • February 25, 2015 at 9:03 am

    Now I know who to call next time I need to spray paint my house 🙂 Painting is the thing I hate to do the most – don’t ask me why. I’ll tile and do gyprock all day long but please don’t ask me to paint.

    • February 25, 2015 at 6:21 pm

      I love my paint sprayer, it’s a bit of work taping plastic over the windows, but I have the hang of how to cut in without getting too much overspray and learnt the best way to handle this is to paint everything the same colour, just use different levels of gloss or matt. I’m not hauling it all the way to America though!

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