Did you know that millionaires, or those likely to become wealthy, are NOT do-it-yourselfers?
They are very frugal. They clip coupons and live below their means. They stay out of debt.
But what they DON’T do is just as important.
Millionaires and those who are likely to become wealthy are not penny-wise and pound-foolish*. They are always thinking long term. If something cost more upfront but gives them the quality & resources they need for decades, they are willing to part with their hard-earned money.
What Are You Doing Wrong If You DIY?
Saving money was probably your intent when you decided to take on that home project.
And a professional? They cost too much.
Let’s look at that a little closer. Chances are, it’s going to cost you more money to do it yourself.
Sure, as Thomas J. Stanley states “you may have saved $150 by doing the plumbing yourself, but the figure is very deceptive”*.
Look at it this way: if you decide to install the water heater yourself, you have to shop for the unit, which takes time and energy. You could be using this time and energy to enhance your professional skills or study investments. It is time you could be using to shop for new clients–acquiring one new client would be worth much more than $150. Then you have to study water-heater installation techniques and acquire the proper tools. Whether you rent tools or buy them, it still takes time and money. Finally, how many other hot-water heaters will you be installing during the remainder of your working life? I bet you’ll never want to install another one once you’ve suffered through the first campaign to save $150. Why study plumbing if you’re not going to be a plumber? After all this, ask yourself about the actual dollars you really saved.
Don’t believe me?
The Dining Room Table DIY
My father-in-law purchased a dining table at an estate sale. It was only $10. He knew I had been looking for a pedestal style, which it was. The top was ugly, but the base was neat and heavy duty. All we needed to do was paint it and we would be golden.
So we thought.
We’ve painted many things before, so we jumped right in. I went to the store and purchased a pint of Ralph Lauren’s “Bone Black” in semi-gloss (fantastic black, by the way). Dave pulled out our small sprayer, and carefully began laying on the paint. After all, sprayed furniture looks much better than painting it with a brush.
Dave was almost done when our sprayer belched out an unintended glob. He frantically grabbed a roller (better than a brush) and tried to smooth it.
The damage was done.
The roller made a rough texture. The rest of the table was smooth. We had to make it all the same, so Dave went over the entire top with the roller.
Now we have a table with a bumpy top.
It doesn’t wipe easily. Everything sticks to it. It always looks dirty, even when I’ve cleaned it.
We don’t want to sand it down and start all over again, when the same thing could happen. We are out our $16 for the pint of paint, a whole evening of time, and we’re still going to buy a new top for it.
It was more expensive to do it ourselves.
Smoke and Mirrors
This Old House.
An entertainment empire has been built around the home improvement industry. Eccentric designers create jaw-dropping interiors that cause us to gasp or shed a few tears.
I’ve jumped on the bandwagon. You’ve watched as Dave and I have turned our abandoned shamble of a home into an immaculate farmhouse.
Our DIYing has saved thousands of dollars in professional fees. (Well, except for our dining room table).
Let’s look through the smoke and mirrors now. What are you seeing when you watch Dave and I or a home improvement show?
You are seeing professionals in their element.
The truth is, Dave and I don’t DIY to save money (although that’s an added bonus). We DIY because no one else can do it better.
When something comes up that isn’t our strength, we hire it out.
After the dining room incident, my sister-in-law gave us a beautiful but very dated bookcase. It was orange oak. Did we try to paint it?
We packed it up and took it to a professional cabinet maker, who sprayed it for us.
Even though Dave has been around construction his whole life, has his degree, and has built hundreds of homes, he still won’t do our plumbing or drywall. He knows someone else will do a better job. And he can go about earning more money doing what he does best.
Walking the Minefield
Building and designing a home is complicated when you know what you are doing. When you don’t, the variables and complexities can be lethal.
If you were involved in a lawsuit, would you be confident enough to handle the ins and outs of the court system without a lawyer?
The majority of us wouldn’t.
We don’t know how to properly file paperwork. We haven’t studied law, so we don’t fully understand our limits or our rights.
A good lawyer will ready the paperwork and educate us before we’ve even gone to court. After he or she started us on the right track, he will bring something special to the table. He will advocate for us, do things behind the scenes to ease our stress, and fully use the law to our benefit.
A lot is at stake in a lawsuit. Placing our fate in our own hands gives the other side too many advantages. If the other side wins, it could be devastating.
That’s why we hire a lawyer.
Yet, when it comes to one of or THE biggest investments of our lives, it amazes me how many people want to build or remodel their own home.
Bloggers and HGTV make it seem simple. When you’re facing costs of hundreds of thousands of dollars, it’s tempting to cut the contractor’s fee. It may seem frivolous to hire an interior designer. Besides, you’ve done a few projects around the house. You’ve got this, you say to yourself. What could go wrong?
Everything could go wrong. I’m a gal that usually sees the glass as half full. However, I’ve been doing this long enough to know that Murphy’s Law is in full effect when building a home. Everything that can go wrong WILL.
I can’t list them all, but here are few things that you’ll find difficult to navigate without a professional.
Do you fully understand how to file paperwork for your bank and county to get building permits? Most people don’t.
I recently went and filled out a request to rebuild the decks on the front of our house. The town needed a plot plan (drawn to scale) showing our acreage, house, water lines, and septic system. We had to verify that we weren’t building into any public easements and mark the edges of our property with orange stakes. We had to draw an elevation of the front of our house with the deck, pay $700 for the permit, and mark 3 pages of questions regarding materials. Then we had to submit it all again to our Home Owner’s association.
Are you ready for that?
As far as bank paperwork goes, contractors know how to help you get the loan you need. If you aren’t using a contractor, it’s our experience that the bank will make you fill out MORE paperwork because they worry about how you’ll handle the project. A contractor will have a proven record of paying everyone that works on your home. They don’t know if you’ll pay subs on time, and so your vetting system is much tougher. If you don’t do it right, you’ll have to do it over and over again until your town/county has everything they need. Time is money, right?
Just like a good lawyer, a contractor is going to fill out most of the paperwork for you. An interior designer will do special things behind the scene to help the contractor run the project smoothly. Professionals become your advocates and bring out the full potential of your home. Do you want less than that?
Wrong Home, Wrong Lot, Wrong Area
The best homes are like a pea in a pod. The home was meant for the property. If you think you can buy a plan online and make it work, you might be in for real trouble. It may not fit the lot. It most likely isn’t engineered for your area of the country. Online is a great place to start looking for inspiration, but run your plan by a professional. They will see those problems before you start excavating. A house drawn up by an architect in Florida might be ready for a hurricane, but it won’t be engineered for the snow loads in the Rocky Mountains.
As a homeowner, are you prepared to handle tradesman? It’s a big job! Many people will be coming in and out of your home. Are you able to make sure their bids are apples to apples? Have you seen their work? Trust me, it’s not always a good idea to use the guy with the lowest bid. You could be missing some very important details.
What are you going to do if a trade won’t finish their work? What if they get sick or walk out? It happens more than you think.
Professionals have a network of people that they can pull from to keep the project on track when trades can’t or won’t finish the job.
Now for the biggest downer of DIYing a big home project: trades give contractors better schedules because they know future work will come from them. They know once they finish your job, it’s the end of the road. So guess what? You are last on the list. I know that sucks, but it’s the real world. Not only that, sometimes they increase their price to make up for the added time it will take to deal with your job. Trades hate having their time wasted! If you are building your own home, they count on walking into a mismanaged project. The mismanaged project will take them longer to finish. They’re running a business and need to cover their extra time on the job.
So that contractor fee you thought you were saving? It’s gone.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 57% of construction companies will fail before their fourth year**.
When Dave was going to school, his program taught that construction was second only to restaurants in failures.
It’s a complex business. A good contractor has to be able to manage large volumes of money, be an expert in his field, and also have insurance to cover accidents. Construction has high risk factors. If someone is displeased or gets hurt on the job, the contractor has a high probability of being sued.
A few years ago, I went to a professional interior design training. A portion of the time was spent covering our contracts. When we began, we were asked to show by the raise of hands if we had (in the past or currently) ever been sued. I was shocked to see 3/4 of the room raise their hands.
Designers promise to carry our client’s stress and lead them through difficult situations. We shoulder a lot of risk. It’s not an easy business to be in.
What about you?
Are you ready to take on those risks?
I think this reason alone is enough for anyone to hire a professional.
A New Paradigm
I grew up being taught that you pull yourself up by your boot straps. DIY has been my whole life. I’ve learned it is the best way….always. In some ways, if you didn’t do something yourself it was shameful.
There are instances when we all have to DIY. But I want you to look at it with new eyes. Is what you are doing an investment? Does it matter for years to come? How much will your life/project be improved?
If it doesn’t matter in the long run, go for it. If it does, regroup and figure out a way to hire a professional.
I get it. It’s tough out there. Money isn’t easy to come by. An honest dollar earned has a lot of sweat behind it.
Let me share another personal experience that has made me more aware of how DIY was stunting my own growth.
I will be in business for five years this month. I didn’t do much with my training and my business the first few years. On my third year, I decided I wanted to go for it. I wanted to know that I had a way of supporting my family if anything happened to Dave. I wanted to find a way to travel and open up my children’s eyes to the world outside this beautiful valley. I wanted to have more security and fill my creative cup every day. I love beauty and want to keep improving my environment. I wanted to help those who wanted a beautiful environment too.
I made huge strides with the help of my wonderful design network. I paid for services when I could. I threw those DIY boots on and buckled the straps like any scrappy farm girl should.
Earlier this year, I hit a point where I knew I had maxed out all my effort. I had brought myself as far as I could. Yet, my business still needed something. While I had passion for my business, I couldn’t take it anywhere else. My DIY boots, as good as I could make them, were still leaky. The souls (yes, spelling was intentional) were falling off.
I was referred to a business coach, and in our first conversation I remember saying, “Just help me.”
Her fee took my breath away. It was more money than I had ever invested in anyone. What was I getting? I honestly wasn’t sure. But I knew if I didn’t it would be the end of what I’d already worked so hard for. So I sent the money and prayed for forgiveness if it was a huge mistake.
Forgiveness wasn’t needed.
All I found was redemption.
In a few short months, she picked up my weary chin and helped me find my way. That professional fee? I’ve made up for it many times over with her help, and she’s also given me a new paradigm to live in.
She was worth every penny.
So what about you? Have I made you think a little bit? I hope so. I’ve learned the hard way that DIY costs you more in the end. I’ve lived it over and over again. It’s my hope that this points you on a better path.
*From “The Millionaire Mind” by Thomas J. Stanley
**US Bureau of Labor Statistics