Are you purchasing a fixer upper and trying to determine which projects to do on your own or which ones you are better off outsourcing?
Well, you came to the right place. Through our past experiences, we’re going to break it all down for you on what we’d recommend to DIY or hire out.
Over the last five plus years we’ve done four full home investment properties of our own and within that time over 200 + remodels for clients.
And we’ve learned a thing or two within all those experiences.
What’s Your End Goal
First when going into any fixer upper, you need to know what your end goal is to be able to determine what to outsource vs. do yourself?
Is this a flip or are you creating your dream home?
Does details in the quality and craftsmanship matter?
Are you thinking resale value?
Are you thinking rental? Flip fast? Stay forever…
How much money do you need and want to make make?
How much skill do you have to truly DIY?
What’s your budget?
What’s your timeline?
Bottom line, what’s your end goal? What do you want to gain from this fixer upper?
This is YOUR fixer upper and before you embark on this journey YOU need to know what YOUR game plan is.
Knowing Your Game Plan
These questions are ones we’ve went through with every four investment properties we’ve embarked on and within every client project we’ve done.
This isn’t about us, it’s about you. And no one can tell you what your life goals are but yourself.
Here’s a quick run down on our game plan for the past four investment properties…
- Sell slow & but make the most profit! Jamie bought this first home during the (2012) recession. He bought it for under $100K, knowing it would be an investment property and one that he could make a good profit on if he did it right and waited to sell until the time was right. Being he bought it during the recession so he knew we had some time to work on it before it would sell for a good price so he had the time to DIY the entire home to be able to make his best profit, in which we did when we sold it 3 years later. Selling it for close to $200K, when we we able to DIY the entire home and spent maybe $30K.
- Stay for a bit & make it our own, but think resale. I was pregnant when we bought this home, but no one knew. We got it for a great price, beautiful home, but you could walk outside and fall off a cliff into the Mississippi…so not ideal for kids and we knew we’d move eventually soon-ish. We knew we were thinking resale yet, weren’t entirely sure when we would move and being we were going to welcome our first baby into this home knew we wanted to make it our own. We moved 3 years after we purchased and made another good profit. Again we had the time, Jamie had the skill so we took the time to mostly DIY this home, only hiring out the knockdown texture ceiling.
- Quick flip & make fast cash. Jamie and his parents bought a legit flip and determined where their time would be most well spent to DIY, and then hired out the rest, and were able to flip it within 6 months and make some good money. Being they knew they wanted to flip this quick, they knew they couldn’t do it all, even though they did most of it. They hired in a crew to help them get the majority of the basement done while they focused on the craftsmanship within the main level of the home.
- Our forever-ish home. We’re now in our hopefully final home, fingers crossed. We have two kids, are in a good school district, acres of land, and a pull barn shop for our construction business. We’re not thinking resale on this home and want to stay here for as long as we can. But we never say never… because you never know what the world might throw at you. Again, we’re DIY’ing most of it but also have limited time to work on our own home when we’re so busy with clients right now. We’ve hired out all the plumbing, electrical, drywall, our ceilings and have had a lot of help from our employee Topher. Time is money now that we’re in this home and our time is better served working on our clients projects vs. our own. Jamie also doesn’t enjoy all of the parts that go into a remodel so has hired those things now out.
So, what is your end goal?
Are you flipping it to try to make a profit on? Are you buying it to create your dream forever home within? Do you eventually want to rent it and have it as an investment property? Do you have the skills you need to get the job done?
I will say now that we’re in our forever-ish home and not thinking resale, it’s made me simpler happier just being at home being we’re designing it for us. We’re not creating resale for this home like we had been doing for so long. We’re creating it for ourselves, our family.
Often when we consult with clients, they’re always thinking about designing for someone else, not themselves but they don’t even know when they are moving. And I bet, they might not ever leave until their kids have grown and are gone. And by that time, a new trend will have come and gone too, ha!
Time is also money, so depending on how fast you’re trying to fix this home up is also key when determining what to outsource or what to do on your own.
You’ll want to really think about what your strengths are within home improvement and what you’re not so good at. The things you’re not so good at, you’ll probably be better at hiring out to get that quality and craftsmanship. Not only will it save you time, which is money, but probably a lot of headaches too. You also have to be careful not to hire too much out or it’ll eat away at your overall profit if you are trying to make a profit back. But if this is your forever-ish home, I would encourage you to not think about profit side and instead think about the craftsmanship and detail. You’ll want it to be high quality so that it can last a lifetime. And if you’re hiring someone out to remodel you’re entire home you probably won’t ever get that money back, depending on what you bought the home for.
I’d also encourage you to talk to your realtor and have them get comps of other homes in the area so you can determine just how much money you have to spend if you are thinking resale someday and don’t want to invest too much money that you’ll never get back.
We’ve bought and sold four investment properties and within each investment we hired more and more out.
Within each of our investment properties we profited anywhere from $40-90K. All of which our realtor told us how much wiggle room we had to invest into the home and what the potential for resale was. Now within our forever-ish home, we’ve already put more money into it than the home is worth, but we’re ok with that because we want to invest in the finishings and pieces that we want to live with.
Even though as we started subbing out more and the financial take on was greater which makes our profits less, it’s resulted in better quality and designs.
Today we’re going to share with you what we’d recommend to DIY and which to hire out…and when and what is worth the costs, in our opinion.
If you’re purchasing a fixer upper, I have a feeling you have an eye for design, so you can probably take this task on. Again, just be careful on what you’re putting into the space, depending on your end goals and gains.
But if you’re not confident on your design decisions, layouts, options and possibilities, we’d encourage you to hire a designer.
With all of our investment properties, we never really did splurge on finishing selections and tried to up-cycle as much as we could to save on costs. However, the area you are flipping in is also key. If you’re in a high-end or sought after neighborhood, you probably need to take the risk at putting well designed selections into the space if you want to be able to sell it within the high end price point you’re going after. And visa versa.
For our investment properties, we always did middle class, so usually stuck to the safe “subway tile” from Home Depot. However, now that we’re in our forever home, we took some design risks, are spicing it up, and adding character. We are taking some bold risks that probably don’t cater to the majority of people buying a home. I also know if we ever do re-sell, I won’t get this money back, but the life and happiness it’s already given me, that’s all we need for now.
Again for the design planning we’d recommend working with your realtor to get comps. Through these comps you’ll know what homes in the area are selling and what the appeal is. For example, if they’re 3/4 bedrooms or bathrooms, adding in a powder bath might not take a lot of costs on your end to be able to get you into that next price point when it comes to sell.
For demo, we’d also recommend doing yourself if you’re handy. If you’re not handy, you will want to hire this out. We’ve had clients that thought they were handy, took on the demo, and then when it came for us to come in realized they demo’d too much and it ended up costing them more for us to then put up new drywall, etc. when they didn’t need to be demo’d out.
So, if you don’t know what you’re doing, DIY the demo could also lead to a lot of expensive mistakes. If you’re comfortable, DIY. And if you’re a one man show, you might also want to recruit a couple more hands for help. And demo’ing is something that you can find for inexpensive labor. Or you can always just round up your friends!
Depending on how much framing there needs to be done will determine whether you will need to hire it out of not. If you are finishing an unfinished space and have never framed before, we would highly recommend hiring someone to do the framing. If you are just switching up the layout of an area, such as adding a wall in a kitchen to separate it from another room, framing it can be a very manageable thing to do. You also don’t need to have a framing nailer to do this. Using an impact drill along with 3 inch construction screws will work just fine.
Along with framing, if you are finishing a space such as a basement, we would definitely say you should hire a company to do the drywall. Often times, there will be 3 separate companies or people that will do the job. First someone to hang it, next someone to tape and mud it, and last someone to sand it. This can truly make or break a space if you don’t know what you are doing. Patching holes is one thing, but a big space is no easy task to make look pretty. Even for small bathrooms, maybe 3 new sheets total that we added, we will almost always have our drywall guys come in and finish it for us.
If you are having things moved or capped for your plumbing, we would advise you to hire a licensed and professional plumber. Even for us, in all jobs we do we hire a professional so that it’s done right.
This is not worth doing wrong and then having problems down the road. This is a very specific and unique trade. If you are switching things in and out like new appliances and fixtures, the plumbing can be a manageable thing to DIY. If you are switching out your old faucet for a new one, be sure to locate your water shut off before unhooking anything so you can shut it off and drain your lines.
Like most of the trades, if you are having major work done, we would recommend hiring out a professional and licensed electrician. This is also a very specific and unique trade that takes a lot of schooling and skill. There are a lot of codes that need to be met when it comes to electrical work, so not knowing what you are doing can cost ya big time! If you have a smaller project and just need some fixtures swapped out and switches changed we would say DIY. Electrical work can be a very rewarding thing to learn how to do. Remember to turn off your breaker before doing any work.
You can do it! For any snap-in or tongue-in-groove flooring, we would say go for it. This can be a big money saver as most flooring companies will charge per square foot, so in big spaces this can add up quickly. Take your time when doing this. Do your prep work on the underlayment as well as determining your starting point. The last thing you want is to get to the end and realize that your floor isn’t square to the wall. If you want an easy install floor, find flooring that doesn’t need any nailing or glue. As far as carpet goes, you should most definitely hire someone to install this. The professionals will do it much better and in 1/2 the time.
We have lots of tile tutorials on our website so if you are a person that is very detailed oriented and handy, you got this! If not, you might not got this.
Tackling tile is totally doable and can save you a bunch of money. Often times, people think that the tile itself is what costs so much, but it turns out that most of the labor for install is what costs so much. In our opinion you need to be a perfectionist to DIY tile or else it could turn into a quick mess and also be an expensive mistake to have someone re-do.
Tools is another big factor when deciding what to DIY vs. outsource because tools are expensive. But most of the tools for tiling are rentable as well.
Along with flooring, make sure you take your time and do your prep work beforehand. Tile is the centerpiece to a lot of bathrooms and kitchens. This can make or break the room for a potential buyer. Do your research and make sure you have all the correct materials before starting.
Well, countertops are a part of most projects so we figured we would include it in this post, but there are not many ways to get around hiring out someone for countertops when it comes to quartz, granite, or marble.
A great DIY countertop idea would be doing concrete countertops in which you would pour and set the countertops yourself or doing a butcher-block.
For most spaces, if you aren’t doing a concrete countertop you will most likely have to hire someone. Although a cheap alternative may be to go to a local home improvement store and find a pre-sized countertop and use one of those. For any custom size/style countertops, simply call a company and they will come out to measure as well as install. If you’re not sure what countertop material to go with, check out Countertops Options 101.
This really depends on the project and if a lot has changed from the original space to the new space, it may be a good idea to hire someone to come hook up the appliances. But if you’re simply unplugging a fridge and plugging a new one in, I think you got that!
Again, this can lead you down a a dangerous road if the appliances are not hooked up correctly. Gas leaks and water leaks are going to cost you a lot more after the fact than if you were to have someone come hook them up initially. If nothing has changed or you are simply swapping out appliances, this can be a very manageable thing. We would just advise you to be careful and make sure that all your gas and water connections are sealed tightly.
Do it yourself. No excuses. You can totally do this yourself and you totally should. It’s a great bonding experience if you are married or want to have some buddies over to help. One thing we would say is that you should always take your time with prep work. Whether it’s taping trim or covering the floors. The last thing you want to see is paint splatter all over your brand new floors or trim. Plan for 2 coats, always. We usually cut in everywhere, back roll, cut again and back roll one more time. But as far as labor goes, you should almost always do it yourself.
If you’re looking for what color paint to use, we put together a guide to 25 of our favorite paint colors for home interiors.
This will most likely be in the same bill as the drywall given the drywall guys will most likely be the ones doing anything with the ceiling.
However, this is also a simple project to DIY. We usually DIY and scrape the ceilings and then hire a professional to come out and do our knockdown. We’ve done the knockdown a handful of times, but the drywall guys are professionals and can usually get it done in 1/2 the time we can, since they do this day in and day out, they are perfectionists too and it doesn’t cost a whole lot.
But first, determine what you would like done with the ceilings. If its popcorn and you want to scrape it, we would say that you should DIY. It’s easy, inexpensive and very satisfying.
As far as what to do after whether you are doing flat or knockdown, you should hire that out. The drywall guys will be much more experienced in that field and will give you a much more desirable outcome. Once the ceiling is finished you should roll over it with a white ceiling paint. Make sure you cover your floors because this WILL go everywhere.
Hire this one out. If you want to set them yourself DIY taking them down is easy enough to do, but the building of the actual cabinets you should most definitely pay money for.
You can also find good quality prefab cabinetry at local home improvement stores if you didn’t want to pay for custom made cabinets.
First you’ll want to determine your layout, so you know how many you will need. Hanging/setting the cabinetry is a fairly simple task if you have a level, stud finder and a drill. But most times, the cabinet makers include install within their price and can hang all the cabinetry within a days time.
If you plan on painting your current cabinetry, check out 8 mistakes to avoid when painting cabinets.
Hope this post helps when it comes to what projects you should outsource or do yourself within your own fixer upper! And at the end of the day all it comes down to is what is worth your money. With all things comes lots of time and if you’re trying to flip something fast and don’t have a lot of experience, then we’d recommend subbing most all things out so you can move fast! But if you have the time, since time is money, then it’s worth it to DIY as much as you can to save on costs and profit more.
Any other questions you’re wondering about what to DIY or outsource? Leave us a comment below!