A successful rental property is almost always judged on what the bottom line looks like. If there is cash flow every month and the value seems to be appreciating, the property is deemed a success. While things may appear to be running smoothly, all it takes is a leaky roof or a broken dishwasher to throw those numbers out of whack. When, and if, that happens, what you do next will tell a lot about you and how you run your business. Will you attempt to do the work yourself or will you immediately look to hire someone to do it?
The answer to this will largely be based on your experience level, knowledge of the work needed, portfolio and monthly cash flow. Most new investors do not allow much wiggle room for these problems and will try to save some money and attempt to do any work themselves. This is ok if you have a contractor background or you have a good idea of the work needed. Items like unclogging a toilet or changing a lock are certainly tasks that can be done by almost anyone with a little patience and the ability to work basic tools. It is when the tasks are a bit more expensive and a bit more specialized that you should consider spending the money and getting the job done right.
Even if you think you have solved the problem, you may just be covering it up and ultimately making it worse. If you do have a clogged toilet, you will start by spending money on a plunger and an auger. If this doesn’t work, you can try take off the toilet and see if there is something stuck. This will lead to having to put the toilet back just right when you are finished running the risk of breaking the wax ring or not putting it back flush. The point is that unless you know what you are doing, you will be opening a can of worms that you don’t want to deal with. Spending money on a plumber will seem worth it if you take apart the bathroom and still have to deal with the initial problem.
Anytime you have anything electrical or structural, you should consult a professional. Sure, these items can get pricey and can set your cash flow back a month or two, but the alternatives are much worse. If you attempt to do them, you run the risk of injuring yourself and doing damage to the property. The bottom line is important, but there are times when you need to look at the big picture and pay to have the job done right. If you don’t protect your investment it will end up costing you money and you will regret that you ever started a project that deep down you knew you shouldn’t do.
Having a basic set of property knowledge and repair skills can come in handy, but you need to know your limitations. If you can do the work, by all means, go for it. However, if you have any doubt, you should call someone that knows what they are doing. Don’t turn a small problem into a much bigger, more expensive one.