To Get Rich, Be Willing To Do The Dirty Work

Be willing to do the dirty work if you want to be rich

There's a reason why get rich schemes fail. You've got to be willing to do the dirty work and put in the time if you want to get rich.

Going all in on margin is likely to leave you broke. Working for someone else to get rich takes a very long time. And trying to win the lottery is not a great plan, it's really just a waste of money.

Whenever there's a debate about owning versus renting, one of the most common rebuttals against owning is not wanting to fix a toilet. The excuse is so commonly used that it has definitely become cliché.

Homeowners Are Willing To Do The Dirty Work

We know that homeowners have a median net worth ~40X that of renters. Thus, it got me wondering whether there's something more behind the cliché that makes renters deny the positive financial realities of homeownership over the long run. Are they simply not willing to do the dirty work of home maintenance?

Or could it be that those against homeownership secretly wish they could afford a home of their own, but can't because they aren't willing to control their spending or take on extra work outside of their day job? Instead of making some sacrifices, are they trying to debase homeowners with an activity that's supposedly beneath them? Maybe!

Every time someone uses the “fix the toilet” reason, I start to wonder what's so hard about replacing some parts in the water tank or using a plunger? Janitors make well over $200,000 a year here in San Francisco. Are those against real estate arrogantly implying that being a janitor is not as honorable of a job? Perhaps.

I hypothesize those who aren't willing to do the dirty work are the ones who will never earn or accumulate much more than the median income or net worth. Let's debate!

Dirty Work, Grunt Work, It's All The Same

After playing a couple hours of tennis at my club, I headed over to my rental to fix an overflowing dishwasher air valve. You know, those weird ~2 inch cylindrical metal things that sit next to your kitchen faucet.

It's funny because the person I played with, an ex-college tennis player, decided to join a different club because she wasn't willing to pay the steeper initiation fee. Yet when I told her I had to go fix a leak at one of my rentals, she was amazed I would do such a thing! “Don't you have people to do that for you?” she inquired.

When I first got notification from my tenant of the problem, I was initially bummed because I was tanning my cheeks on my deck. But I quickly YouTubed “how to fix an overflowing dishwasher valve” and found the solution. So easy. I'm always willing to do the dirty work to save money. Why pay a plumber hundreds of dollars for something I can easily fix myself? If my tenant can help fix it, even better.

Savvy homeowners are willing to do the dirty work and fix things themselves because of the cost savings. The journey to get rich starts with saving and making the most of every dollar you have. I've worked on fixing things at all my rental properties over the years and have saved thousands in the process.

Anyway, I sent my tenant the 3 minute video as reference. He decided to give it a go by removing the valve cap and blowing forcefully through a paper towel roll to see if it could unclog the hose. It didn't work because he texted me a couple days later to say the problem still persisted. No problem! I love stopping by my rental once a quarter to make sure everything still looks good.

Get Your Hands Dirty And Save Money DIY

Before leaving home I made sure I had all my plumbing equipment: a roll of paper towels, a flat head screwdriver, a wire coat hanger, gloves, pliers, and a pipe brush. What a pleasure to have a trunk filled with tennis equipment and plumbing tools.

When I got to my rental, I also tried the paper towel roll trick to create a seal to remove any gunk with a forceful breath. No luck. Then I got my brush and shoved it down the hole to try and clear out some gunk to no avail because it wasn't long enough. Then I used a much longer straight wire hanger to get in there. That's when I realized more work needed to be done because black gunk started latching onto my wire hanger.

I had to remove the valve connected to the garbage disposal and get in there! Once I did, I found both sides were completely clogged. I carefully started carving out the gunk from the hose with my wire hanger, then feverishly brushed out the insides until both the hose and the garbage disposal side were completely clean. I reattached the hose, ran a test and voilá! Everything worked perfectly.

Fix the dishwasher valve
Clogged garbage disposal
Willing to do the dirty work saves money

Willing To Do The Dirty Work: Success!

The total time it took me to do this first-time job was 18 minutes. Next time, it'll take me 10 minutes or less. Not only did I save myself ~$250 – $350 in plumbing fees, I also saved myself the time it would take to coordinate back and forth with my tenant and a plumber.

I also now have the skill to fix all future dishwasher valve problems, including the one in my own house.

After I finished, I did a quick inspection of the house to note any new damages. Then I watered some of the fruit trees, picked a bag of lemons, checked mail and went to get some food. Total time spent: 35 minutes.

The next week I received a $9,000 direct deposit for the monthly rent.

Never Ending Ways To Make Money

Let's forget about the $108,000 annual rental income I collect each year from this rental that requires no more than 10 hours of work a year. The aggressive savings I did in my early 20s is over now. But the rent continues to grow with inflation, forever.

After 14 years of being a landlord, you develop handyman skills that can earn you another solid income stream if you so choose. I could put an ad on Craigslist right now and charge $90/hour with a $200 minimum per visit. You know my ad is going to look pretty darn amazing given my experience in online marketing. Just eight jobs a week would net me an extra $6,400+ cash. Bam! That's an extra $77,000+ in annual income.

Let's say I smartly turn on my Uber drive app to pick up passengers along the way to my handyman jobs. Ten trips a week equals around $80. That's an extra $4,160 a year in spending money. Given I can make driver referral income online as well, I'd probably make an extra $12,000 a year. Did you know the top Uber referrers make more money that Uber employees? Don't be too proud to get rich with hustle and hard work.

The annual grand total from just this one income unit is therefore:

$108,000 rental income


$77,000 handyman income


$12,000 driver referral income online


$4,160 driver income

= $201,160.

Well, what do you know! We've reached a healthy amount of income that can be used to pay down a mortgage, invest in various assets to generate more money, and cover life's many expenses to be more free.

Change Your Attitude

Change your attitude to change your life
But A+T+T+I+T+U+D+E = 1+20+20+9+20+21+4+5 = 100%

If you're willing to humble yourself, you're going to financially blow all the people who are too arrogant (or too lazy) to fix their own toilets out of the water! It's really not too difficult to replace a washer or tighten a screw you guys. YouTube is your friend. Be willing to do the dirty work because it will not only save you money, it will help you get rich over time.

Eventually, you will get to the point where you can afford to pay people to do everything for you without creating a significant drag to your net worth. But before you get to financial independence, which can be defined as 20X your average gross for the past three years or 50X your average annual expenses, you must be willing to do whatever it takes to get ahead.

If you're unwilling, then no problem. It simply means you're happy with the way things are right now. But if you aren't happy with the way things are and still spend like crazy, are unwilling to get smart about being a self-sufficient person, or aren't willing to get up by 5am or stay up until 2am to work on your side hustle every single day, then you need to read my post about Dunning-Kruger to jolt yourself out of delusion.

Another Benefit Of Being Willing To Do The Dirty Work

There's one final benefit of being willing and able to do the dirty work. You instantly become incredibly attractive to a potential mate. Having enough money to provide for a family is one thing. But if you not only possess a can do attitude, but actually do as well, dare I say you become one of the most attractive people on the planet!

Life is good being free. But you'll only truly know how awesome being free is once you get there. Don't look back and regret not doing the dirty work because you were too proud. Fixing a leaky toilet is just a metaphor for dealing with the inevitable crap life throws your way.

If you don't want to own physical real estate, then you can just invest hassle-free via real estate crowdfunding sites like Fundrise. Make sure you're not hating on an asset class because you're envious of those who didn't miss the boat. There's always another opportunity somewhere!

Further Reading

If you're willing to do the dirty work to grow your wealth, here are some more articles you should enjoy.

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About The Author

110 thoughts on “To Get Rich, Be Willing To Do The Dirty Work”

  1. Ten Factorial Rocks (TFR)

    I will just replace the word “dirty” with “hard” work, to make the message broader. For real estate DIY owner, it might indeed be dirty as you say but the broader message is that unless you do the HARD work (of living way below your means while people who earn even lesser live a better lifestyle than you), most people will not get rich. The millionaire mindset is much less about the ‘millionaire’ part but about the mindset of being financially responsible, in EVERY decision in your life. This part is the real hard work, which gets lost among the media-induced glamour of being a millionaire.

  2. It really is amazing how much money we can save and self independence we can create when we are willing to get dirty and do the work ourselves. We have an example with one of our previous tenants who trashed the place and left trash and goods in every room. To pay a professional would have cost upwards of a $1,000 to clean this place out. Instead I rolled my sleeves up and did it myself. Stayed up until 3am getting it done but I got it done. Felt pride in my work and the saved money was like money in my pocket. Here is to getting dirty and getting the work done now and in the future!

  3. There is so much benefit from having the skill of knowing that Youtube exists. I knew the girl I was seeing was serious about me when she asked me to re-caulk her sink. I had never done it before, but I looked up the videos and borrowed a caulking gun. She saved a ton of money and I looked really good to her. Absolutely worth it.

  4. Steve D Poling

    my landlord maintenance plan is:
    1) give it my best shot to fix it myself.
    2) if the fix holds, i’ve saved money.
    3) if the fix does not hold, i call someone and provide a slightly-less-ignorant description of the problem.

    1. Lily @ The Frugal Gene

      Lol, hey you stole our plan!

      Home Depot and due diligence really does save some serious green.

  5. Ms. Conviviality

    “Likes to wear sundresses and can also swing a hammer” was the line that got my now husband’s attention on my dating profile. AND I didn’t even include a picture because I wanted to be liked based off of my personality/interests rather than looks. So yes, I do think being handy is attractive. Before I moved in with my husband, I told him that the master bath needed to be renovated because there was a 6-inch gaping hole in the wall across from the toilet due to a leak he had been researching…for OVER A MONTH! Granted, his house is on three acres surrounded by trees so no real need for privacy but it was a good excuse to modernize the 30+ year old fixtures. It was rewarding for us to renovate an 80 sq ft bathroom on our own. We moved the toilet location, expanded the shower to include two shower heads which involved tons of decorative tiling, added another sink, and created a linen closet. I’m an office worker by day so being handy has become a part of who I am through many experiences. It started with an interest to be more self-sufficient so I volunteered on the electrical crew for Habitat for Humanity for 6 years. While volunteering I got to know another girl on the crew who was looking for property to raise her horses but couldn’t find the right home but found plenty of land available. The two guys on the crew suggested that she build her house and they would help. The four of us worked every weekend on her house for 2 years and I’m happy to reminded of the “house that I built” every time I visit. For all those people who think that you’re not handy, just give it a try by easing into projects or helping out at Habitat for Humanity.

    1. Wonderful line that captures the article’s essence perfectly! To be self-sufficient is super attractive. If one can combine financial self-sufficiency with day-to-day life self-sufficiency, I dare one will always be loved.

  6. Pay your dues, then breaking the rules! I like it, especially the part about acquiring new skill sets like plumbing. It’s always good to learn practical things. Recently my wife and I put up wallpaper (I watched like 10 YouTube videos in order to prepare). It took us about 3 hours to do it and I figure the alternative would be to pay a contractor a couple hundred bucks I guess for them to do it – win for us!

  7. I agree with your thoughts here and beleive there is another component that makes society better if more folks were willing to tackle projects. The ability to develop self confidence and thus the mindset that: “I am in charge of my life, not someone else or society or government.”

    Watching our elective process whereby charlatans try and sell gov’t security as a panacea over self sufficiency makes me cringe.

    I still remember people sitting in water in New Orleans crying “Somebody help us!”
    Get off your arse and walk to higher ground! Sitting around waiting for others to help in a situation like that is insane.

    That should have been the big story out of Katrina – how soft we are becoming, not what is the government doing or not doing.

  8. $250-350 in plumbing fees? Ouch! COL is crazy over there. My plumber would apologize for charging the $89 service call fee, fix the problem in 5 minutes and try to find something else to do to justify the $89. :) So far I’m really enjoying the services of my plumber because he’s so cheap. Though for your dishwasher fix I’d probably try it myself too since I can handle basic stuff (as long as it doesn’t require a blow torch).

    I found this post really interesting since I didn’t know you did DIY fixes, especially at your rental.

  9. You're Fired!

    Sam — Challenge accepted! 30 minutes to write, 600 words (too short, I know). couldn’t find a direct to you email address any longer…


    Life Insurance Needs and why I don’t need any:
    Sam recently asked for a guest posting and his latest post triggered a real idea in my mind. I don’t have any life insurance and I feel 100% safe and comfortable with my decision. Let me outline my thought process.

    First, we need to evaluate why do we have Life Insurance? To protect and provide for our loved ones if and when we die, right? But is it possible our needs change inversely of what the Insurance Industry would have us believe? I think so.

    When I was younger, I had a few assets but many responsibilities and many to provide for. My wife and my kids. My wife needed enough to live the balance of her life after I departed. My kids needed enough to provide for them, plus educational expenses through college. Therefore having little assets but a High Insurance Need. I couldn’t really afford Life Insurance but also knew it was sorely needed. My employer provided some, but not enough. I bought a Term Life / 20 year plan for 250k of coverage. Perhaps not enough, but with my employer’s added on, all I could afford. We were in our 20’s and 30’s

    Mid-life — my mortgage is diminishing, bills are manageable, kids are getting older, my wife is older. So Insurance now only needs to support my wife for 50 years (not 70 years as above), and my kids only for another 10 years, plus college. My insurance needs have declined; yet the Insurance Companies realize I now have more of a disposable income and advertize stronger to this group. According to them, how could we even think of living without Life Insurance? We are now in our 40’s – 50’s

    Finally, I’m nearing retirement and significantly more financially savvy, thanks to Financial Samurai and ‘life’. So what’s changed? Let’s examine it the changes:
    First, my life expenses are Very manageable, close to phasing out. My mortgage has long been paid in full; Kids have graduated college and have lives on their own. Both my wife and I have gotten older (how did that happen?). So now I do not need to provide for my kids; I only need to provide for my wife for a shorter duration (20-40 years)… and here is the biggest change of them all:
    I have real assets of my own! Due to many years of decent returns, maxing out / proper 401k contributions, and keeping a watchful eye on my investments, I now have more than enough to meet the requirements outlined above. And additionally the Insurance Companies realize a few things too. They know I have more money; they know sooner or later I’ll need Life insurance and therefore they advertise focusing on our age group. Guess what? I’m not buying and even cancelled all my Life Insurance I had once my assets passed 1.5m. My wife can spend over 100k / year and still have money left over…. Life Insurance for why?

    So once you have enough assets in your own portfolio, why continue to have Life Insurance? My money / our money will easily outlast both of us; even spending in excess of 100k per year. Yet it’s funny, every time I talk to an insurance agent (home / auto / umbrella) they always ask about my Life Insurance needs… yet I just asked them to quote 2m umbrella liability plan…. go figure. They know where they make most of their money and can’t help themselves.
    So once you have over a million in your portfolio, cancel your life insurance and save a few dollars!

  10. Hello-
    Thinking about starting a Servpro franchise in the Los Angeles area. The franchise will cost around 100K-200k. Currently my net worth is around $1.2 million. I have 3 rental properties,1 primary residence, and 300k in cash and retirement account. I am a Corporate employee right now that makes around $73K annually, my wife makes around 50k annually. I also have a 3 1/2 year old son. Do you think it’s a good idea to quit my job and start a franchise? What would you do in my shoes?


  11. Sam,

    Love this article.

    I redid my small master bathroom, tile shower surround to ceiling, heated floors, all nice brushed nickel finishing for ~$2,500. I was getting quotes for $15,000.

    Sure it took me many many months and late hours on youtube, but guess what? Not only did I create ~$12,500 out of thin air but now I know how to do almost any home project. I basically created my own college course but instead of costing me money, it paid me.

    I now also have the confidence to work with contractors… it is alot harder to screw someone over who knows all about the job already.

    Doing your own work, at least early, on is a WIN for net worth, a WIN for knowledge, and a WIN for your mind set.

    Keep it up Sam.


  12. Adriana @MoneyJourney

    I’m attracted to my significant other for other reasons. Him being handy around the house is just an added bonus :D

    We would love to become homeowners one day. We rent right now, but actually had many problems as tenants in the past. Out former landlord was often a jerk when it came to repairs around the house.

    For starters, I remember we had just moved in and the tenants who used to live there before us “forgot” to pay some utility bills. Our landlord refused to take care of the problem, so the utility company disconnected the service. We were left without hot water for a good couple of weeks!

    Fast forward a couple of years (and many other inconveniences), we decided it’s time to find another landlord.

    The bedroom windows were so old, they wouldn’t close properly anymore. The result was, as you can imagine, a very cold bedroom to sleep in during winter! Our former landlord refusing to fix the problem was the last straw..

    Our current landlady is such a peach! We love staying here, but one day we’ll definitely take home ownership into serious consideration.

  13. Great job on the fix Sam! Man, YouTube is the best reference on how to fix things. It has saved my butt so many times.

    More importantly, this article really hits home for me tonight. I’m tired and don’t feel like doing any work for Wallet Squirrel. You helped remind that I need to get down to work and push through some projects for the ultimate goal, financial freedom! Thanks so much for the push I needed tonight!

    – Adam

  14. Stealth Saver

    Great article. I’ve completed the following jobs with youtube’s help.

    – Replaced the bearing in my washing machine (2 days work – Saved $500 in repairs and $2000 for a new washer and dryer… my wife and I had a bet that I couldn’t fix it)

    – Replaced the steering components on my Jeep that was causing it to shake violently at 50+ mph a.k.a. Death Wobble (1 days work – Saved $700 in repairs)

    – Replaced AC capacitor for house AC unit (15 mins work – Saved $150 in repairs)

    Being cheap makes me feel so happy sometimes.

    1. Hi SS

      I have a question. How did you know it was your steering wheel and not wheel alignment/wheel bearings, etc? Was it only the steering wheel that vibrated?

      My truck chassis, not the steering wheel, vibrates when i drive above 55mph. i thought it was wheel alignment and that helped, especially when i saw the rubbers for the bin needed replacing when they took the tyres off, but the vibration is still there.

      i know my tyres are bad and need to be replaced, so that’s next on the list.

      i do find that my steering wheel, sticks a little on the bend and my wheel alignment is completely off again but the steering wheel is not vibrating and we checked the wheel bearings over the weekend and they’re fine.

      1. Stealth Saver

        Hi quantakira,

        Yes is started with the steering wheel vibrating, but after a few seconds the entire Jeep starting shaking like crazy to the point where it felt like it was going to shake itself apart. I would have to slow down to about 20 mph to get the shaking to stop.

        One of the benefits of owning a Jeep Wrangler are the forums, I searched them to see people who were having the same issue, then to confirm I also posted my own question with my symptoms. The most common answer were that the tie rod ends were shot.

        I initially wasn’t going to attempt the repair, even after watching the videos as I didn’t think I was up to the task. So I took it to a mechanic (didn’t mention what I thought it was, just gave him the symptoms) and he confirmed that it was my tie rod ends. However after receiving the quote I decided that I would repair it myself as I just couldn’t justify the cost.

        Previously I tried to fix it with an alignment which worked for about a week, and a tire rotation which worked for a day.

        My advice to you would be to try the following in order:

        – Wheel alignment (which you have done)
        – New tires (I would recommend wheel balancing before that, but since you need new tires anyway they will have to balance them)
        – Tire rotation (This might help if it happens again)
        – Replace track bar bushing/track bar (This is another common cause of the vibration). Depending on your setup it might be easier and more economical in the long run to just replace the entire track bar.
        – Tie rod ends (what I had to do)

        I really hope this helps you out, if so please let me know what fixed it.

        Also – if anyone ever tells you its the steering stabilizer then they don’t know what they are talking about. It might fix a very slight shimmy in the steering, but not an entire vehicle that’s vibrating.

        1. Thanks for the information. No, my vibrations are different to your vibrations. There aren’t any vibrations at the lower speeds. It starts at 55mph and stays about the same even if I increase my speed.

          It’s definitely the tyres! They have valleys in them. But I will check out the track bar just to be on the safe side. I will definitely let you know when I fix it! (haha! see the confidence there!)

        2. Hi SS

          Update time!

          I changed out all four of my tyres on Saturday and the vibration is mostly gone. I went to a great place where the guys also checked out my car.

          They pointed out that my RHS front brake was wearing out faster than my LHS and that the shock absorber mountings on both sides are loose. I’m opening it up this weekend to see if it’s only the rubber mounting that’s damaged or more.

          The guy told me to fix it and bring it back for wheel alignment because it’s not worth doing wheel alignment while those bits are loose.

          The bad tyres probably caused all of these problems. Next time I’m going to listen to my gut. I didn’t change out the tyres in December because my dad (who used to fix cars) told me there’s nothing wrong with them and I should just take the car for wheel alignment. I’m pretty sure he thought I was imagining the vibration in the car but when he saw the condition of the tyres on Saturday, he was pretty shocked.

          On the upside, I’m now confident as an experienced driver and I know when there’s something wrong with the car I’m driving daily. And I will pursue it until it’s fixed even if no one else believes me.

        3. Hi SS

          One more update. While changing out the mountings, dad realised the shocks are gone. While changing out the shocks, dad discovered a stone lodged in the suspension! That was the true cause of all the vibrations.

          Car’s fixed except now the plastic over the rear wheel well is loose and rattles, lol. It never ends.

  15. I grew up the son of a handyman and drywaller and was good at most small jobs by the time I was a pre-teen. I currently rent and I do all of the home repairs in the home I rent. My landlord is scared of this type of work and overestimates the costs of a repair 100% of the time. He’s happy to have me in the home because I do the work and save him money. In return, he hasn’t raised my rent once in 4 years. win-win – all because I’m willing to change the garbage disposal, set a toilet, fix a leaky faucet, change air filters, and fix broken fences. And honestly, I enjoy doing all of those things anyway.

  16. I’m currently searching very hard for a property that will enable me to become a landlord. This post only motivates me more to jump into the game. I’ve never minded fixing toilets. Actually, a lot of times I prefer fixing things to leisure time.

  17. You're Fired!

    You’re Fired….
    18 minutes? Really?

    It looks to me you spent more time getting your phone out to take pictures (trying to pat yourself on the back even before the job is finished?)

    Hey truth be told I like fixing stuff and yes it gives me a chance to buy a new tool if I don’t have it (car or house); and it really gives me satisfaction doing any job.

    My first house was bought with no roof (fire) and sweat equity brought it up to livable standards for half price. It was / is the best way to jump start your net worth climb.

    1. I know, crazy slow right? The video did take 3.5 minutes to rewatch though if that makes me look better in your eyes. I know I should work quicker given my 14 years experiences as a landlord, but I’m the guy who always stayed until the very end of class to check all his answers, even if I finished 20 minutes early.

      I promise to do the job in 10 minutes or less next time!

      And you’re right, I take time to chronicle my fixes to: 1) remind myself in the future how to fix the same problem, and 2) make mega bucks as a personal finance blogger writing about this topic.

      I could have added a blogging income line item to the $201,160 total to make the number bigger. But, most people aren’t willing to establish their own website (not sure why since blogging is the best business on Earth), so I decided not to.

      But here’s a challenge for you! How about write a 1,200 – 1,500 word post for me in 18 minutes or less. It’ll be a lot of fun! I can help edit it.

  18. I recently replaced a water heater which YouTube was a big help. If you go to Lowes or Home Depot and buy one and pay to have it installed it’s much more expensive. They need to have it “inspected” and it costs about $200 if I recall (earthquake straps, etc.)

    It’s basically turning off the water, disconnecting the water supply lines, purging the old tank. You can recycle the old tank for free at a local retail recycle place.

    Get a buddy to help you with the actual movement of the new and old tank and get some plumbers tape and compound for the fittings. Done!

  19. Not everyone who hires work out does so because they are too good to do it themselves. Some of us employ other people because we have been blessed with twenty eight thumbs instead of the standard two. Ever seen those #nailedit memes? When someone tries to replicate something they see on social media and completely mess it up? When I try to use tools they seem to turn on me with a vengeance. Screws don’t go in straight. Nothing ever lines up. My twenty eight thumbs get jammed and hit and hurt. If your hand eye coordination works as expected, you have no idea what I am talking about.

    We have had a few successes at DIY though, and those feel great. Most recently our shower stopped draining, and I was bracing myself for the cost of a visit from the plumber. When I got home that evening Mr. BITA told me that he had worked from home that day and spent some time unclogging the shower himself. That was all sorts of awesome. When your usual state is to be less handy than a doorknob, the small wins are exhilarating.

    1. Indeed, but like everything, we get better the more we try and learn. I don’t want to slice my fingers off either when doing work, so I will hire out for more dangerous jobs.

      I just want to encourage folks to be more self-sufficient. It’s a very important skill and attitude for achieving financial independence.

      The reward of DIY is exhilarating. Tell Mr. BITA to keep it up!

  20. +1 for DIY. Most of the time the repair is not that difficult once you have access, the proper tools and parts. I find that a short amount of extra browsing in the hardware store provides me helpful ideas in what is available when the next project arises.

    A small puddle would form in front of our water softener every few days. So I stood in front of it during a manual regen, and discovered that one of the control connections dripped for about 3 minutes in the cycle. I stopped by the Culligan location after work to pick up the part and they looked at me as if I was an alien. “You’re going to replace this yourself? We can send out a technician to diagnose the problem and quote you a new softener, as needed.”
    No thanks, [Even with the high part mark-up, I’ll replace myself for less than $100, rather than a $300 service call or $1500 new water softener].

    However, I will call the plumber to perform cleanout of main drain line to clear roots and such, for under $200.

  21. I’ve learn a ton of plumbing DIY as well. I’ve replaced faucets, toilets, caulked bathtub, and a bunch of other things. It takes time, but I learn a bunch. I haven’t had to deal with the garbage disposal, though. I’ll check it out after the tenant move out. Our tenants have been great and I don’t want them to move out.

  22. I really like your attitude! Actually since we bought our house, I also try to fix as much things myself as possible. When I do, my wife usually asks me: “is it done yet?” Maybe it’s a way to say I’m incredibly attractive :)))

  23. Steve Adams

    The worst part of dealing with repair folks is tracking them down and finding a good one. I’ve got a water heater to fix and don’t do gas lines myself. But it has taken weeks for people to get back to me – at some point it would have taken less time to just do it myself then manage the phone calls and coordinate the visit.

  24. Charleston.C

    Great example that explains both the benefit of renting and owning! From the renters perspective, the vent is fixed hassle free since the landlord is responsible of it (at a cost). From the landlord’s perspective, rental income is well worth the hassle.

    For me there are 3 major reasons why I will keep renting.

    1) Life is a little uncertain to have a primary residence in a fixed location when I would rather have the mobility to move to the heartland if that’s where the next adventure takes me! In many ways Sam, had you bought a condo on the East Coast when you were younger, you may not be in San Francisco today and who knows if that would turn out better or worst for you. Having the mobility at that time gave you options.

    2) By renting, I also have the flexibility to up size or down size with at most 12 months worth of commitment. I would hate to own a small house that is suitable for my needs right now, only to outgrow it when I start a family. There is always the option to rent out the first house and buy a second, but who knows if I can afford a second mortgage when its time for me to up size. The alternative being a house suitable for the future, but is too big for me needs right now. That to me feels like unused space that I am paying for up front.

    3) Although I am a renter, I am also a true believer in the conservative Asian/Chinese cultural approach of owning real estate. But instead of a personal use property, the focus is on purchasing apartments/multi family buildings to be rented out. I find the cap rate for multi-family buildings to be much more lucrative than a single family house in my local market of Boston suburbs. The rental income I receive, covers or at least supplement rent I am paying elsewhere depending on the place I choose to rent, so I am not on the sideline while everyone else is seeing a steady gain owning a house.

    At the end of the day, I value the product (of rental apartments) I am offering and will recommend renting to all! But renting is no excuse for not buying properties as one of the many facades of investment to achieve financial independence.

    1. Those are all very valid reasons for renting. Buying property is not a riskless activity. It requires a tremendous amount of planning, thinking, saving, and courage before making the move.

      I WISH I bought a 2/2 condo with a view of the Chrysler Building in Manhattan in 2000. The place would be up 3X, and my downpayment would be up 12X. And I would have rented out the place when I got the opportunity to come to SF b/c there is so much rental demand in Manhattan.

      I encourage you to find your stability center ASAP because lots of good things start compounding that’s beneficial for your wealth.

      Read these posts if you haven’t already. I have a different view on buying physical real estate than you.

      Buy Real Estate For Lifestyle, Capital Appreciation, Or Rental Income?

      What Type Of Investment Property Should I Buy?

      1. Charleston.C

        Thanks for the links Sam. Always good to be directed to older posts that was written before I became a regular reader, and appreciate different view points to form my own opinion as well. Using your progression as an example, perhaps I am closer to the stage of “Condo”, than no view house and really far from house with view especially considering cost.

        Just gotta keep saving and keep putting money away, then see what is the most beneficial thing to do when the right moment arises.

  25. $200K janitors. $9K/mo direct deposit easy rental income. It all sounds so wonderful, but it applies to a tiny part of the US, metro areas with concentrations of educated professionals with very high incomes sipping lattes and driving their Priuses to the wine country on the weekends to stay in a nice B&B.

    I moved from the Bay Area to Las Vegas in 2004. I thought I was so smart to sell my townhouse for $425K enabling me to buy a single story house here for $220K, add more money from my savings, and buy 2 rental townhomes, new construction, for $200K each. Cash. I didn’t see the point of borrowing money and paying interest if I could afford cash. I was going to be a happy landlord, collecting rents and capital gains on my investments. I would trade my one abode there for a nicer abode here, plus two rental streams. I had retired, early.

    By 2007, the builder of the townhome complex had filed BK with 157 of 300 units empty, and all the other units which peaked about $250K were being abandoned by people walking from their mortgages. The banks would often leave them in limbo, vacant, and vagrant squatters would break in and live in some units (new contruction, remember). As foreclosures were slowly processed the going price to buy a unit on the courthouse steps for cash was $50K. All the units that had been purchased with financing were abandoned, there was no point to continue paying a mortgage for even $150K on a unit worth only $50K. The new purchasers at the foreclosure auctions were mostly absentee LLs, out of state, many from CA, but many Canadian, Australian etc. They simply wired money over and instructed realtors to buy some and get them rented.

    The median income in this town was probably under $50K per household, and those people mostly bought a house. The tenant pool was much poorer. And vacancies were off the scale, so lots of property with hungry LLs needing income. So very poor quality tenants got great deals. Realtors then told their out of state LLs that the best way to get a tenant who could pay and not have to be evicted would be to Section 8. Get a poor person with a government voucher to move in, and the government pays you 80% of the rent. Great, and you collect the 20% from the tenant, except they usually do not pay. LL can evict, and lose his income stream, but most often LL simply takes the 80% payment which is from government and writes off the rest.

    When the builder filed BK, court ordered sale of the remaining 157 units and they were bought in bulk by an investor for $9M. Works out to about $60K per. They rent for approximately $1K per month, a range of $800 to $1200. That company experienced high vacancy rate so took Section 8 also, and this new construction complex in a new and up and coming area started looking like an inner city housing project. Crime, drugs, idle people milling around all day, sitting in their garages smoking pot, tons of kids everywhere. Domestic disputes. Continuous police presence.

    The HOA fees started at $42/mo but over a couple years, and 3 managers later were raised to $145/mo. Common areas were destroyed by tenants. Swimming pool bathroom was lit on fire. Pool furniture thrown into pool. Unsupervised toddler drowned in pool while mom was passed out in a unit from drugs. Gangs of unsupervised thug kids terrorized residents for fun. Pool has been chained closed for 5 years due to lack of funds to open it plus vandalism guaranteed to be repeated. Water to external landscaping turned off years ago to let the landscaping die, due to lack of money to pay for the watering.

    LLs experienced continuous turnover and breaking of lease. No one would live there, except people who had no other choice. Lowest credit quality applicants, Section 8’s whose past history caused other LLs to turn them down but desperate LLs would take them here. Gang symbols were spray painted on buildings and fixtures.

    I have owned these rentals since 2005. Today my $200K purchases have returned to about $130K in current value. I have evicted twice, and had much work in repairs and turnovers, over and over. The latest blow is the HOA it turns out was managed for past many years by a local community manager that doesn’t have a license, and reserve study shows it should have $1.6M in reserves, but has about $200K only. A $900K construction defect lawsuit was won against builder’s insurance co, which should have provided some relief, but all that money was ‘spent’. Legally spent, by overcharging by managers, contractors and other helpers. The State Dept of RE has ordered audits, and fined HOA, and has a case pending against board president who it turns out started a pest control company then made sure to get a $6K contract for his little company from the HOA. All the absentee out of state LLs pay their dues and really have no idea what is going on.

    I suspect soon I will get a letter saying a new manager or receiver has been appointed and guess what, discovered they are woefully underfunded and special assessments of many $1K’s per unit are required.

    My tenant applicants have been: DJ, prostitutes (legal), exotic dancer, cab driver, etc. Current example earns $1700/mo and has $700/mo car payment. Another were roommates, 3 young people each with incomes of $1000/mo (McDonald’s) who wanted to pool their resources to rent for $1000/mo. Big question is how do you afford this if one of you moves out? Uh. No idea. When I pointed out that move in cost would be one month rent plus one month as deposit, and each of the 3 would need $660 cash they realized they can’t afford to move in. These are not isolated examples, this is reality. This is the tenant pool in this market. They simply do not have the income.

    My own home that I bought in 2004 for $220K is again worth $220K today. At the bottom it was worth $100K and many around were foreclosed. At that time I bought 2 more, at $100K, and so clearly I have a gain there, which offsets my losses on the townhome disasters. My point is this happy landlord dream with continuous work, and toilet repairs and many other repairs (yes I do it all myself) has earned me perhaps a break even on capital, but rent yield of 5%. And the break even required gains on the ones bought around 2012 to offset the ones bought in 2004/5.

    It all sounds so wonderful in blog land. So happy, effortless. I gather that many of the people who have discovered the joys of this investing have never seen a crash or downturn. Or destroyed unit. Evictions. Tenants threatening your life by calling in the middle of the night firing guns to scare you, because you filed to start eviction and they have no money to pay. Maybe it will never happen in La La Land.

    1. Thanks for sharing your experience with land lording! I’m sorry about the experience. The downturn crushed many of us, myself included by 35% or so. The 2008-2009 financial crisis is why I started FS in the first place! To help deal with the pain of losing so much wealth so quickly.

      My Lake Tahoe condo’s value declined by probably 40%. I, too, was under water and questioning what the point of paying the mortgage was anymore. But I just kept on paying and finally got a little bit of reprieve when Bank of America offered a free loan modification down from 5.875% to 4.25%.

      Supposedly, valuations are back close to where I purchased the place for 10 years ago, but I’m not counting on it. I wrote about how to view vacation property purchases here.

      So my follow up questions to you are:

      * Why did you move to Las Vegas from the Bay Area?
      * What is your home you sold in the Bay Area in 2004 worth today according to online estimates like Zillow, etc?
      * How do you like the lifestyle in LV vs the Bay Area?
      * What are you doing differently now that is helping you protect your wealth better in the next downturn?
      * What other advice would you provide readers?

      It’s true, many folks haven’t experienced the downturn like we have. The 2000-2003 downturn was quite brutal as well! I just didn’t have as much money to lose. I’d love to write a post about your experience and highlight the nasty side of landlording. One of the big reasons why I buy property for lifestyle first (to live in and enjoy) is due to the horror stories.


      1. I’m excited, really! I might get to be a “don’t let this happen to you” case study in a post, and I have friends I can send the link who will roll on the floor laughing.

        I’ll answer all the questions, and at the risk of rambling on let me comment first on the crash in Las Vegas, Phoenix, Florida and many other places. I’m not sure your timeline of discovering the joys of easy money, whether via stock or RE or whatever, but there is a fascinating article “Riding the Boom” I highly recommend from Fortune magazine, May 30, 2005. It very accurately captures the zeitgeist of the time, and I was right in the middle of it. I don’t know when, but it will happen again. It is human nature. I recall news items at the time with Wall St experts saying the same people who are buying the RE to flip today were buying hot IPOs a few years ago pre-crash in the stock market, thinking there was no way to lose. Many went BK.

        We all know the story of the Cisco multi millionaire (paper wealth) employee who borrowed against ISO exercised stock to buy a mega house, to save taxes (no sale of the ISO (NQO?) stock, hold it with huge gains intact, no tax event), and watched in horror as the value of the stock cratered below his debt, lost all the stock when it was margin called and sold to satisfy the debt, lost the house to foreclosure, then faced tax bills on the sold stock which had the tax event caused by the margin call (ordinary income on the diff between exercise price and value at date of exercise, which the stock was sold far below), and filed BK. (Technicality, yes you have a cap loss on the sale below FMV on date of exercise, but you can’t use it to offset the ordinary income on the bargain element of the option. Millions of dollars were involved.) A planner loves to tell the story because he earlier advised the guy to sell the stock, pay the tax, then buy a house, and sanitize much of his paper wealth for safety setting himself up for life. The guy dismissed the planner saying CSCO could only go up, and he would sell when it had tripled again. It didn’t. He could not see that it was possible for the stock to lose 80% of its value. The impossible was possible.

        I ramble. I found the Fortune archived article online and I recommend it:

        I like it so much I’ve archived it on my computer in case it disappears from the web.

        I knew a couple of the characters in the article personally, and went to their local seminars about multiplying money by buying and flipping RE. After the bust, they completely changed their focus and guess what they were having more seminars, now charging people to teach them about gold and hard assets. Also they were teaching people to deed their underwater properties into entities then walk away, and when the foreclosures came and marked their own credit, since they personally were the borrowers, to complain to credit bureaus that they had sold the homes, and the debts weren’t theirs, and all credit marks should be erased from their reports. Sometimes this worked. The flurry of paperwork was so huge, many banks didn’t research and dispute their claims and let it go. So their personal credit records got scrubbed despite millions of $ of foreclosures and losses to creditors and abandoned property and financial wreckage everywhere in their wake. This left them free to continue in the game, to start over taking new loans on new properties. All prior sins seemingly erased. Fraud was rampant, and everywhere.

        I personally recall sitting waiting to have my hair cut here in Las Vegas, and a guy next to me was a bouncer at a strip club. His W-2 income was $8 per hour, base pay. Of course his real pay was more, all cash tips, and largely unreported as much income is here. He said he had just purchased a $1M house, with 1% down. He had no savings at all. He had written on the app (stated income, unquestioned) that his income was $300K per year, as a self employed RE investor. None of that was true. To get the $18,000 down payment and closing costs, which he didn’t have, he and some friends pooled their resources. Each would give to one person enough money so that person could close the house. Immediately after closing that person would apply for a HELOC loan, and pull more money out of the deal based on higher appraisal. Prices were rising weekly, anyone could borrow. He would then repay his friends with that borrowed money, they would regroup, and the next friend would go to buy his $1M speculation. Plans were to hold the houses a few months then sell them for perhaps $300K profit or so and repeat. The lenders were very happy to make these loans, because their own money was not at risk, all the loans were securitized quickly. Everyone was paid commissions and fees at closing, it was wonderful. The only people who could lose, and did lose, were nameless faceless people on the other side of the securitization whose retirement funds were buying the mortgage backed securities in some distant land. Of course all these homes were abandoned and foreclosed and later sold at perhaps 80% discount. Yes $1M houses later were sold for $200K cash on the courthouse steps.

        You may think as I did when I lived in the Bay Area that RE can correct, perhaps 10%, perhaps even 20%, but that is about it, and it always recovers because there is always demand and tons of money around. But I can personally attest that I know many common properties here where prices declined 75% from peak. A house across the street from me sold $450K near the peak and was abadoned about 2 years later. The bank had it for sale for a year and finally sold for $160K.

        Vacant land parcels being assembled for development were an even hotter investment. Appraisals were flying, and prices skyrocketing. I personally got involved (yes, lost a bundle there too, I have been told that the moment I become aware of an investment, an opportunity, by definition that means the trend is over…I am the perfect contrary indicator). Prices on much of this land dropped 90%, but even worse at the bottom, which we are still very close to now, 10 years post crash with no recovery, there simply are no bids. No buyers interested in purchasing these land parcels at 10% of peak values 10 years out. Because the building boom is over. I personally own land that I will probably die holding and never be able to sell. In one case a group of us lent money, foreclosed on the borrower, but abandoned land rather than pay the prop taxes, because the taxes due (based on trailing value) were more than land was worth. It was preferable to take a total loss, and let the county have the land, than to pony up more cash to pay taxes with no recovery in sight. The county conducted a public tax sale auction. Minimum bid would be only the taxes owed. There were no bidders even for the minimum. Land was simply not worth even the taxes owed on it.

        There are more horror stories than you can imagine.

        OK back to your questions. I lost my tech job in a downturn around 2000. I had accumulated some savings, securities, and owned my own Silicon Valley townhouse free & clear. Never liked debt, liked to pay things off. I had been an extreme saver, and was very frugal by nature. My low burn rate, contrasted with relatively high savings, meant I could retire. My thinking was the main reason to pay the high costs of living in the Bay Area was access to the unique high pay job market. I was no longer accessing that. If I was never to do that again, why stay? Additionally I looked at stories that RE was taking off in Vegas. (It was, but not because of organic growth, because of wild speculation and an orgy of borrowing. I didn’t recognize that.) So my thought was I can live here in the Bay Area with much capital tied up in the house I sit in, or I can move and for the same money buy 3 houses each about the size of the former one. I can live in one, and create an income stream from the other two and be a part time LL, something to do. And never look back.

        Was I wrong. Having lived most of my life in the Bay Area, I wrongly presumed that most things were equal elsewhere, that markets, jobs, trends were mostly similar. They aren’t. This is a different planet. Most of the US is like a completely different country than the Bay Area, LA, San Diego, etc. The people, incomes, education, job types are radically different. If one lives in the bubble, whether in SFO or Brooklyn or Boston, it is easy to think that all should be equal. It isn’t.

        OK so I paid $200K for the Bay Area townhouse in 1993, sold in 2004 for $425K, and today zillow values that property at $907K. I took my $425K, came here and bought a house for $220K, added more cash of my own, and paid cash for the 2 rentals at $200K each. The rest of the figures you already have.

        When I left CA my net worth was approximately $1M. The crash didn’t happen right away, in fact after my purchases here in 2004-5 prices skyrocketed for a couple of years. Net worth peaked around $1.7M by late 2006-7. I had invested in other things too. Pooled capital trust deed loans to developers at 12% on ‘safe real estate’, never more than 50% loan to value. How can you go wrong? 100% of those loans defaulted, and the collateral was not worth taking back. Borrowers either went BK or were judgment proof. Personal guarantees on these loans were worthless. Yes you could probably hire an attorney and pay more than your loan principal again to get a judgment, which you would never collect. Lesson learned, your only security is the value of the property and personal guarantees are worthless.

        As you know the stock market cratered around the same time. There was no place to hide. I watched my net worth decline by $1M to perhaps $700K. I was sitting, no job, ‘retired’ (unemployed) with perhaps $700K at the bottom, including the value of my free & clear residence. I held my 2 rentals watching all the units around them be abandoned, and the neighborhood turn into a ghetto slum. I did my best to keep them rented and keep some income coming in. (Recall that since I paid cash, I didn’t have the logical option of walking away from the mess leaving a trail of defaulted loans. My own money had been lost.)

        As I mentioned before I did buy 2 more houses, also for cash (I have no debt), around 2012. That turned out to be good timing, and today I have gains on those offsetting the losses on the first 2. The first 2 for which I paid $200K each, peaked around $250K each within a year of purchase, bottomed about $50K when foreclosures maximized, and today are worth perhaps $125K each. The 2012 purchases I paid approx $100K each and today are worth perhaps $230K average each.

        I continued to live frugally. I have had no home run investments, none. Just slow growth over time. Net worth today is about $2M. No intervening jobs or employment income. Net worth has exceeded NOMINAL peak net worth from about 2006-7, but is still much below inflation adjusted or REAL peak net worth. I continue to consume as little as possible. I draw only 0.6% per year from investment assets at current values (IA=rental RE (excl prin residence), securities, bonds, savings) At 0.6% my burn rate is very low and very safe. You could not live 3 mos in SF on my entire year’s consumption. I live on perhaps $1500 a month total including taxes. My largest expenses are insurance of all kinds, and taxes mostly RE taxes. I pay very little income tax because RE is highly tax preferenced as are qualified dividends. I have muni bonds too, zero coupon, no tax there.

        Ah, the rest of the questions. What am I doing better now? I made horrible mistakes in timing, judgment, and risk taking in the past. I thought I was diversified circa 2006 by having some direct owned rental RE, some stocks, some bonds (corporates, they got hit too in the crash), trust deed loans on RE (PS today I think the crowd funding RE lending is this disaster all over again, but diffused to involve far more tiny loans from people who will all lose their capital in time). I got overconfident and smug which is human nature when things go well. None of that worked, and EVERYTHING crashed at the same time. Also my security, my job, was gone. Try getting a job age 50’s, not having worked in 17 years. It is one thing to suffer a huge capital loss when you have income, quite another to suffer a huge loss when you depend on income from that capital for your survival. My diversification today though is little different and I realize all of it could happen again very easily. I have rental RE (4 rentals, no debt), a few parcels of land I’m holding forever hoping maybe there may be a recovery (I pay yearly taxes), zero coupon muni bonds, i bonds, savings, equities, preferreds. I don’t do private lending, or RE lending because I was burned so badly before.

        One improvement is long ago I liked to trade stocks, in and out, trying to time things. It is fun and exciting. The thrills of big gains once in a while obsure the losses. Looking at a 2-3 year history you finally learn you are only kidding yourself. I can’t trade, and I don’t know a single person who has done it successfully for very long. All of them have great fun though, and lots of exciting stories to tell their friends. I know some extremely sad cases of Silicon Valley people who lost their life’s savings thru their trading addictions, and one who is still addicted and in denial. He has lost over $2M of accumulated life earnings in net losses in the stock market, and now at age 70 has $200K left from that life’s work. That’s all. He owns a home, and that is it. He is truly addicted to gambling in the stock market. I think seeing all this and in myself too cured me, after years of personal mismanagement, and I no longer trade. I have some index funds, a few individual stocks, and I hope I have the strength to hold thru the worst of bear markets when they happen in the future keeping my eye on that being 20+ year capital.

        The main thing I have done right is live very frugally consuming only a tiny % of assets. This isn’t the focus of your blog, it is the focus of the Money Mustache guy and a few others who focus on simple living and getting their personal time back. A completely different focus and value system. One thing I notice on your blog is the goal seems to be having the highest score in the game. The highest net worth. You probably look at the Money Mustache guy and say what a nut, he can’t afford to drive a BMW to the tennis club then go have a $7 latte and shop at the boutique grocery on the way home. That’s true. He doesn’t value that stuff as you do. There is no right answer. You find satisfaction from accumulating the highest score. He gets it a completely different way. Ask yourself this, if tomorrow you had a cancer diagnosis with 6 months left to live, how would the net worth benefit you? Perhaps it is for your heirs, and if so I understand. In my case I have no family. Parents long dead. No one left behind. Heirs are 100% charities. I guess the value to me of more money is more security. Not consumption. My basic needs are met, I don’t crave more. If today I came into $5M I’d probably invest most of it passively and just look at it grow. I might buy a second home somewhere which is a form of consumption, then sit around and worry about the home and have to have it watched and serviced.

        OK final paragraph of this insane ramble. Vegas vs Bay Area. Different planet. I admit now with hindsight I liked it there much better. Not the weather or scenery which is fantastic, yes, but the community, the people I knew, worked with, and lived near. There is less strife, crime, rudeness, coarseness, idiocy, abrasiveness, incivility in a place where the average Joe has a good job with benefits. That is there. I mentioned my tenant pool before. That is real and representative of the different economies. People here largely have little education, they survive by their street smarts, wits, they connive scheme and scam. The jobs are related to construction, gambling, drinking, smoking, sex, partying, and preying on the lack of self control of others. They have no qualms about taking advantage, that is life. Transients come and go every day, they move out and abandon furniture and possessions to drive off to the next state where they will live. Pay day loan and title loan shops on every corner for people who want to borrow at 800% annual interest to be able to pay their electric bill and prevent disconnection in 110 degree heat. Smoke shops. Liquor stores. Extreme mismanagement of finances. Hard luck stories. Social problems, drinking, drugs, sexual crimes. No one values or respects education, in fact the opposite. Their view is let’s stick it to those smarty pants college educated guys, show them what’s what. (Especially hate those latte sippers in places like SFO that think they’re better than me and look down at me from their planes flying by!) Life is cheap. Everyone is armed, the more guns the better. He who has the biggest or most guns and ammo is the top dog. People are shot every day and killed over the silliest of things like neighbor disputes, girlfriend disputes. People are shot over $10, or an iPhone theft. Living in the Bay Area, which has a crime index of 2 on a scale of 10, I was shocked to get here and find 8 on a scale of 10. The shock wears off, you get desensitized to the continuous news stories of all the violence as long as it doesn’t affect you. The environment affects your children if you have them. Their school mates influence them. They drink and do drugs at very early ages. Teen pregnancies. A friend is an electrician and a very nice guy, and has 2 sons, one gay, very nice people. As soon as he turned 18 the gay son I learned was doing porn. Not consuming it, working as an actor. The family knew. They didn’t like it, but just shrugged. What are you going to do? I recall going to dinner and hearing him tell his mom proudly that he was now on 3 websites and was about to win an award most popular newcomer. I was shocked but they took it in stride. “That’s nice.” He became a bartender as soon as he could legally at 21. The other son works construction was sitting at Thanksgiving dinner with us and conversation came around to guns, and the parents were saying I don’t like that, you are going to end up in jail. Didn’t know what they were talking about. I asked about the gun comment and he lifted his shirt to show he had a loaded glock in a holster under his shirt. “For protection.” His friends are similarly armed. No one’s going to mess with me! The morals of the place are astounding. I can’t recall running in to any of this in the Bay Area. Different world.

        OK that’s enough soul baring for now. Hope you enjoyed or at least weren’t bored. I think now you have me craving a latte which will be a rare treat for me, so off to Starbucks. (PS Starbucks here is full of loud, ultra right wing, Fox News addicted, conspiracy theory promoting, gun toting, racist hard liners. If you go there and plan to not join in that loud discussion you better sit at a distance and hide the website you are reading. God forbid you let them see you reading NYT, Washington Post or worse Huff Po, your tires will be slashed or car keyed in the parking lot. Never ever admit you are from Northern CA either or expect to get a political lecture and dressing down from total strangers. I will sip my latte in the corner as usual, wearing my earphones with the sound turned up.)

        1. You have an interesting perspective. Your frustration is palpable and understandable. But I have spent a lot of time in Vegas (I grew up in NV and my family still lives there) and I have to say, I find your comparison of LV to SF surprising. I suspect that you are comparing apples to oranges as far as neighborhoods. Not only are the cities themselves different, but there is great variation from area to area. I’m getting the impression that you traded a group of professional peers for a much lower socioeconomic set.

          However I totally agree with your statement that Sam seems to live in a bit of a bubble with regard to real estate. It could be he is correct and I don’t have his costal perspective. And, for what it’s worth, MMM actually makes a ton of money off his blog. He seems to have reached a point where he lives a little bit of a double life between his image as a minimalist DIYer and a rather prosperous blogger. But I suspect he and Sam have similar problems of having prospered in the markets they have and not really getting that other markets would have other outcomes rewarding/punishing different decisions.

        2. Hi Len,

          I, for one, enjoyed your long story. That’s not always the case, but I was totally felt like I was reading a book, and it was gripping.

          Glad things worked out for you.

  26. FIREin' London

    Great article again Sam!

    It’s an interesting one – seems most in the FI community are great at DIY or able to pick it up. I’ve always struggled as not been great on the home fixing side (my other half is better than I am, so she puts together flat pack furniture etc.!).

    I am trying to learn to do bits as I go, my usual excuse is that I dont want to spend what little free time I have fixing things. The solution was to buy a new build that came with a couple of years guarantee, so anything went wrong I called the builder to fix, free of charge ;-)

    That time is over, so now yes I am looking at how to fix things, strangely including soft close toilet lid seats ;-)

    I am truly in awe of the amount of rental income you get from that place, $9k a month!! As you say though, you put in the hard work before hand and now enjoying the benefit of “spending on your savings” rather than “spending on your lattes” :)


  27. Being able to do-it-yourself certainly helped me get married. Mrs. Atypical was very happy that I can fix anything for her. The only downside to being able to fix everything, is the expectation that when something breaks you will immediately be there to fix it. Sometimes there just aren’t enough hours in the day to work, do a side-hustle, have a hobby and fix everything that needs fixing.

    Youtube definitely make it so we are all do-it-yourselfers.

  28. Remember how you talked about your dunning-kruger blindness? This is it. What you find simple many people don’t, and you can’t understand. You are likely right that a lot of people who are capable choose not that do things. But some people simply can’t understand, or are unable to make their hands do what the you tube guy does. Using a power tool can be like learning to play an instrument. Some people can put many hours into practice and be barely proficient. The difference is bad music is more easily cleaned up than home repair fails.

    For you, it’s easy. For most, it’s doable. I think you trivialize the skill it takes to know what symptoms of a problem are important to put into Google/YouTube to figure out the diagnosis in the first place. And the spacial understanding to translate what you see there into your own repair. It can be done, and more people should do it. But speaking of it as though people are just leaving free money on the table is unreasonable. If it were easy then professionals wouldn’t screw it up so often.

    1. I remember, since I highlighted my Dunning Kruger post towards the end of the article.

      For me, it’s NOT easy. I don’t want to learn anything new b/c I have the money to pay folks to do everything for me. It would be way easier for me to learn and do the work myself if I had no money.

      But I FORCE myself to learn to become more self-sufficient. Don’t take dirty work literally. Being willing to learn and do the dirty work is an attitude about how to approach life and build work in general. Don’t be too proud to hustle!

      Tell me about yourself. I’d love to learn more.


      1. Easy is relative. I have a background in engineering. So many people in engineering school complain that you will never use what you learn there, but an engineering degree is about filtering who has the capacity to learn the material and providing a background you begin to apply as second nature. Engineers very much wind up in Dunning-Kruger-ville because they forget life before they knew the relationship between position, velocity, and acceleration and how it seemed like magic at the time. And they don’t always understand that it isn’t that lots of people don’t want to work as hard as we do. It’s that they don’t have the capacity.

        It has been morbidly fascinating in my own life to watch first my grandfather then my mother-in-law, then my mother, suffer brain damage. All different causes and all different effects. My mom is able to look at something she knows she could figure out three years ago and draw a complete blank on what the steps to solving it are (her damage had the largest effect in her logic and numerical processing sections of the brain). I have tried to teach many people many things and watched very hard working people absolutely unable to understand. I myself have run up against my ability to visualize problems or keep mental track and I realize that my capacity is higher than the average bear.

        I agree with you that many people are either lazy, or scared of the unknown (and don’t make an effort to educate themselves). I just think your post is an over simplification and over generalization. More helpful than a kick in the butt might be a list of places online to find good DIY tips, or how to find good help.

        1. Fair enough. Besides Google and YouTube, what DIY places would you recommend? I’ve learned all my handyman skills from these two sources. Why not contribute some tips of your own?

          1. Google isn’t a source any more than the library is a source. If you dont know how to find a book the library is intimidating. The trouble some people have with Google is they don’t know how to use it because they can’t figure out good search terms. “Drain plug” will get you completely different results than “drain clog” or “drain stop” or they simply don’t have the vocabulary. “It’s a kitchen thingy!”

            I needed a small plastic insert for my washing machine over the holidays. Finding the model number, the the schematic, then narrowing down the part number wasn’t trivial. I know plenty of people who would have had to call a repair person and pau $100 for a $7 part, especially since in the end the part was named incorrectly. The hardest part was finding the model number (it was a tiny sticker on the back) and verifying it was the part I needed since the name was wrong. But I can see a number of places where someone could have gotten stuck.

            We have done enough repair that we really don’t consult the Internet for instructions. But I like DIY network and Bob Vila for upgrades. Mike Holmes is really good, but i havent ever seen a helpful website with his name on it, just his show. If I had to offer advice I’d say, if you can’t find a thread to pull on google in the first few minutes then ask for help. My mom often calls me with her symptoms (health, car, home repair, computer) and I Google search for her. I don’t do the work but I can find in 5-10 minutes what would take her hours. Using Google and YouTube is, itself, an important skill to have.

            1. Got it. I probably take for granted that I’m a skilled Googler. Given I also follow all the SEO (search engine optimization) related news, I’ve learned that Google has gotten smart about getting back results that are related to what you are searching for or what they think you mean by what you are searching for. This is why some online media publishers try to rank for long tail keywords instead of highly competitive key words e.g. “how much should I have in my 401k?

              I’ll check out Bob Vila. And maybe I’ll do a tutorial post on how to Google or YouTube would you want with maximum efficiency!

            2. Well said S.G. Not knowing the correct terminology to input into search engines and not having some idea of Boolean syntax structures you could be in the “library” looking for that “kitchen thingy” for hours. (Thinking of a recent episode of The Magician when Penny asks the head Librarian for a particular spell but didn’t know where to start to find a book that covers the particular spell he was looking for…Yes, I admit I enjoy the show…:)

              On top of that, once you do find that “kitchen thingy”, you then have to sift through libraries of videos to ascertain the validity of the author and their knowledge on the subject which in turn can be daunting for some especially when they are trying it for the first time. This of course can apply to any subject manner. So, getting back to another point you made, it can significantly help the learning curve if you can be referred to links that provide accurate and knowledgeable subject experts on the particular subject matter from a “trusted” source.

              I can’t tell you how many sites I’ve seen that the author of the video/written content is revealed as a so called “expert” and the information they provided is simply false or not well constructed leaving you even more perplexed.

  29. Jack Catchem

    I like your points, but sometimes you do need a professional.

    I spent hours one night (unsuccessfully) fixing a leak. Nothing worked. Showed up tired for work and my lieutenant asked me why I looked so sleepy. After I told him he hit me with a quote I’ve remembered ever since.

    “Jack, sometimes you have to focus on what you do best so you can pay other people to do what they do best.”

    Plumber fixed it the next day in a little over an hour. I think it’s all about the proper assessment. Are you not doing it because you don’t want to/are too “good” to or is it out of your league.

    Granted my wife loves it when I can do it, but I need to stay honest with my capacity. Thanks YouTube!

  30. Some people just don’t want to deal with the headache of managing a property (besides their own). Some people choose to rent in an expensive market and invest the equivalent of a down payment in a diversified portfolio of stocks and bonds. They don’t want to repair somebody’s broken sink. Maybe they don’t feel like they have the time, energy, or personal inclination to own a rental property. Maybe they want to focus on building their business. For these people, there are many other effective forms of passive and semi-passive income. For example, you can get 90% of the upside of owning property with a REIT that pays a healthy dividend. You miss out on some possibilities for leverage with owning shares in a REIT vs. owning a rental property with a mortgage, but it’s still worth it to a lot of people.

  31. Janitors only make 200K year when they work 80 hour work weeks. In most parts of the country they make working class wage level.. I agree with your article about home ownership but the janitor reference to SF isn’t a representation of 99.9% of janitors in the US. It’s like saying that because Lebron James earns 25 million a year that somehow “forwards in the NBA earn 25 millions a year.”

    1. Hmm, I might have to get the janitor’s autograph then next time I take the train downtown! You should check out the next salary cap with the new deal. Way higher than 25 million now.

      The one particular janitor makes closer to $275,000 all in. Not bad.

      And even still, the $200,000 income I’ve highlighted in this post is not bad either. I’m sure most people can live happily off $200,000 a year.

  32. I think your analysis is spot on for a lot of people – whether they own the home or rent.

    My lovely bride and I were fixing up a house to rent out and needed to remove an outside, big-sized light fixture that had been placed in a tree in the backyard. It was ugly and had an extension cord hanging down from it to the ground. Definitely not to code!

    So, it’s 100 degrees F and I’m up on a tall ladder trying to take down the light while my wife is steadying the ladder.

    I unscrew the light from the tree, but it’s been up there so long that the tree has grown around the attachment plate so it won’t just come off. It’s going to take a strong, sharp jerk on it to pry it off. When I did that I discovered the top of the light fixture had been the “squirrel latrine with a view” for all squirrels in a 3 county area. I was inundated in squirrel poo pellets.

    Thankfully my mouth had been closed – possibly for the first time in a decade. :)

    What didn’t land on me – in my hair, on my clothes, down the front of my shirt into my chest hairs – showered down on my darling wife.

    And, no, we didn’t stop for the day. We still had several hours of work to get done.

    The last time someone tried to tell me that landlords didn’t deserve to charge so much for rent, I recounted this story (after supplying the numbers that also justify why).

    Oddly enough, they seem to think maybe it’s not something they would want to do.

  33. It depends.

    Working harder is not equal to working smarter. Knowing you strengths is important in this case. If DIY is not your cup of tea I’d rather hire out instead of making a mess, but that is only after applying the “I’ll try anything once rule” i.e. if you’ve tried fixing the toilet and made a mess, next time hire out. But if the dishwasher breaks next time – you try again, and if you still make a mess, hire out. If this keeps happening and there is a pattern – then do everyone a favor and hire out.

    1. Agree. I just think that with YouTube and the internet in general, it has allowed all of us to become much more self-sufficient.

      Self-sufficiency is extremely important in early retirement / FIRE. And it’s also extremely important when we’re older.

  34. Cleaner Numbers

    I hold to the view that most people are extremely lazy. They’d prefer to coast by doing the bare minimum, and they’d prefer to pay someone else to do heavy lifting. This drive to use leverage rather than our own energy used to be an advantage in our earliest days as a species, but nowadays it’s just keeping people from moving on to a higher level of independence.

  35. We recently sold our home (closing on the 27th) here in Walnut Creek. We did a home inspection ourselves in advance just in case there was something that came up and we’d want to be ahead of it. The inspector found a toilet that was a bit lose and said we likely needed to replace the wax ring.

    No idea what that even meant at the time, but my wife got on YouTube and watch a few minute long video. We picked up a new wax ring at Home Depot and changed it our selves no problem.

    The toilet was still lose (moved from side to side a bit). Turn out, the right bolt on the toilet wasn’t quite catching and was a bit lose. We managed to fix it and tighten it no problem. So we never had to change out the wax ring, but I actually had fun doing it. I learned something about how toilets operate and how to maintain them. The job really wasn’t all that dirty either.

    I hear people talking about not wanting to do maintenance on a home all the time. We’ve lived in our town home nearly four years and the amount of maintenance we’ve had to do has been negligible. Heaven forbid you learn something and become a more well rounded person by being a home owner! :-)

      1. We sold because we’re relocating to Ann Arbor. Sale price was an all cash offer for $765k on our 1,555 sq. ft. town home… $45k above asking, absolutely no contingencies, a 12 day close, and it was also our highest offer (no brainer).

        We’ll be purchasing a home in Ann Arbor in the $400-$500k range, hopefully something we can do some moderate or big time renovation/updating on. After that we’ll buy a rental property or two in the $200k-$300k range.

        I mention all that because Ann Arbor real estate has actually outperformed bay area real estate, at least according to all the data I’ve seen. So the key is just putting the same amount of money to work (or more) as you’d have if you owned a place in the bay. So that’s really our goal.

        I also share your belief that the heartland will outperform coastal regions under a Trump presidency. So that may just work nicely in our favor.

        And hey, the market was down over 1% today for the first time in 100+ trading days. Wouldn’t mind getting lucky and selling at the top :-) We’ve got a free place to stay indefinitely while we house hunt, so I’d welcome a crash. Unlikely though I’m sure.

  36. Go Finance Yourself!

    I hate hiring out jobs I can easily do myself. Cleaning out drains is nasty work with all the hair and gunk that builds up in there. But a couple times a year I take apart our bathroom sink drain, get out the wire hanger, and spend about 15 minutes cleaning it until it looks like new. It’s nasty work, but I’d much rather do it myself than pay someone to do something so easy.

    Last year I fixed the control panel on our dishwasher. All it took was doing a little bit of research online to locate the problem and find a replacement part.

    On a side note, $9k a month for rent is crazy! How can anyone expect to get ahead when throwing away that much money each month?!

  37. Since we own 16 toilets, it’s a good thing we can maintain them without help! A $12 Drain King and a YouTube video saved us about $500 in plumbers bills unclogging a blocked drain in our shower in the condo we bought! We get all kinds of dirty at our rentals. We do our own lawn care and landscaping. We paint, clean windows and vacuum common areas. It takes a few hours every month – but we don’t mind it at all. Like you said, it keeps us involved with our investment. We learn a lot doing our own maintenance and it also is a work-out at times too! And yea, my husband’s pretty hot ;)

    1. Haha, who can deny the attractiveness of a handyman or handywoman right? Having someone who is willing and skilled to fix things is so attractive. Add on the person’s ability to provide for a family, and it’s game over! Don’t let any of the other ladies find out!

      It’s easy to get annoyed by having to maintain a property. But as soon as we coach it in terms of hours of work per rental income, it gets better. I’m going to start EXPECTING to put in 1 hour a month at each rental. If no work is required, I’ll back these hours as credit to use for future work.

  38. I think a lot of it, especially for working people, comes down to being frozen by the unknown. If for any “dirty job” I could say it will take x amount of hours and y amount of effort, I think a lot of people would be willing to do it. That dishwasher issue could have easily turned into multiple hours of research time combined with multiple hours of work time. It’s always hard to know that off the bat though. For the most part, these are skilled workers after all.

    All the best,

  39. I am in the rent camp right now – 26 single male. Excellent salry for my age and 35% savings rate. I’m not anti-own but i have a hard time figuring out what to do in my situation. The company i work for values mobility in future leaders. I have moved twice in the last 4 years since starting with the company. I will likely moved 3-4 times in the next 10 years if my career keeps going at the pace it has so far – they have asked me about going to Asia-Pacific and the US already (i’m Canadian).

    I would be interested in hearing your (or anyone else’s) thoughts on owning a place while abroad and having someone manage it as a rental for you? The transaction costs eat into your appreciation if you buy and sell a lot so i think i would have to rent and have someone manage it if i was going to buy.

    Hard and sometimes dirty work is the first step to building wealth.

    1. If you love your job, and you plan to work with them for a while then I wouldn’t own physical property given you know you are always moving. But if you are also able to know where you plan to settle down for the long term, then you can have a look and seriously consider while you go on your travels.

      I’m on strike and will NEVER sell my properties as long as commission rates are at 5%.

  40. Yep. I’ve done it all as repairs go. But now just let the Rental Management Company handle my 6 rental houses. You pay for ridiculous things like $65.00 for a plumber to simply unscrew the aerator at the end of the faucet and clean out the tiny filter to get more water volume and stupid little things like that. But I don’t want to be bothered with that stuff. I have to separate myself from the emotional up/downs of seeing how people live in my houses and how they treat them to be at peace with being a landlord. However, the houses are all paid off and the rental income is truly passive and better income than the same monies invested in dividend stocks, so I stay the course while building a separate income equities portfolio as an additional income stream for retirement. It’s good to diversify.

  41. Aptly timed article for me, as I’ve been struggling to do some light home renovation work in my own home recently. With a child on the way, the kid room was the first one out. I found it absolutely dreadful, especially that feeling of not knowing what the heck I’m doing and if the end result is going to be OK.

    There’s still two other rooms I’d like to do some work on before the little one arrives (because I suspect there’ll be little time to do that afterwards), but I’ve not been feeling particularly motivated. This post gave me a timely kick in the backside, so I’m going to get started on making a plan for getting that work done promptly!

  42. Jim @ Route To Retire

    Nice job, Sam!! I had to learn quite a bit of the fun of getting my hands dirty with the rentals I’ve owned. I’m still no great handyman, but there are a lot of things I learned how to do as I got them prepared.

    Usually though, once I get everything ready for tenants, I hand it over as I lack the time to work on them. I have a property manager that brings in a handyman for most of my issues. I could definitely do it cheaper myself, but time is more important for me right now. Once I quit the 9-5, I may go back to doing some of this stuff myself (if I’m not laying on a beach somewhere sipping on pina coladas!). ;-)

    — Jim

  43. Nice work man. I dig DIY work thoroughly. Sometimes it is not constructive on the time versus money spectrum, but I still do it. I recently replaced all my broken lawn lights and rewired them (easy to do but never been done by me), fixed a broken coffee machine (thanks you tube), and fixed my clogged sink.

    It is a good feeling and every day I appreciate the effort I put into it.

  44. This reminds me of a problem I had when I had a rental property. The tenant left and I was going through the place cleaning it up to sell, when I opened the dishwasher and was greeted by the foulest odor I have ever smelled. The inside was wet and completely covered in black and brown mold. The tenants had been living there for a year and I never heard anything about it! Well, when I replaced the dishwasher, I discovered the problem. On garbage disposals, the drain line from the dishwasher connects similar to the way the overflow tube does. Only, the disposal connection has a plug plug you have to pop out before connecting the dishwasher drain line. (This plug prevents water from coming out if you do not have a dishwasher to connect.) Turns out, when the dishwasher drain line was connected, someone never punched out that tab, so the dishwasher could never drain. Rather than tell me (the landlord) about the problem so I could fix it, the tenants just never used the dishwasher!

    1. Reason #1982621 why some people choose not to manage a rental property. Too many horror stories!

    1. Whenever ANYTHING breaks I YouTube it. 95% of the time there’s a video of somebody repairing the exact problem I have. It’s amazing.

  45. Please let us know how the handyman gig turns out. I’ve had craiglist plumbers, appliance repairs, bathroom-kitchen ventilation, HVAC who couldn’t repair what they were hired for. It’s also on me for hiring off Craiglist without any license or certification papers needed. Minus me driving and buying the equipment stuff myself. Needless after 1,2 hrs they got a little money and but not the full amount and they did have the # of someone else who could get the job done full price. The job they did only half worked 50% of the time. Some repairs are easily done, roofing, deck, drywalling, painting, setting up furniture.

    1. Jack Catchem

      Hi Ian,

      I can’t recommend Angie’s List more highly for when you do go pro. It’s a great way to identify people who are good at doing a job and giving proper service.

  46. The Alchemist

    “What a pleasure to have a trunk filled with tennis equipment and plumbing tools.” Sam, this was priceless!! Bravo! :D

    Great post here. I’m ashamed to admit that I’m terrified of doing “fix it” things. I grew up with an incredibly handy older brother who always got irritated when his little sis was curious about how he was fixing something. He was always shooing me away. Then whenever I *did* try to fix something, he would come along, take one look and sneer, “That’s NOT how you do it!” Then push me aside so he could do the job “right”.

    So I got it into my head that I was completely hopeless at fixing anything, and if I try to fix something around the house I will only make the problem worse or create a huge, costly mess. I especially fear taking anything apart in order to fix it, and being utterly unable to put it back together again!

    I’d really like to get over this fear…. if I can in fact do it without leaving a trail of disasters in my wake! Because I think it’s really SATISFYING when you can fix stuff. I wouldn’t mind the hassle one bit if I could be successful.


    1. Here’s the thing, with the digital age, all you need is the confidence to repair stuff. By simply taking photos of it before and as you’re taking it apart, you can be sure you aren’t going to fudge up!

      I’m right handy around the house. I wouldn’t say I’ve done major repairs but taking apart the video machine (remember those things :) ) to clean the head, changing RAM chips on a CPU, connecting up modems and decoders, caulking the bathroom mirror, assisting in car repairs, cleaning out gutters, cutting grass, putting together packaged furniture, hemming pants (not very well), replacing zips and buttons and making odds and ends like pillows, etc. for myself is uber satisfying, and painting the walls I find to be oddly soothing (I’m really good at painting walls). It really gives you a feeling of complete independence.

      Start small, it can be as simply as uncrewing the toaster and brushing the crumbs out and work your way up! The important thing is to start and keep at it!

  47. Wow, $9k in monthly rent, yikes — that’s like paying 4% on a 1.8 million mortgage for 30 year fixed! Insanity is not enough to describe that!

      1. I actually remember reading that post and thought why didn’t these people just buy if so many of them are so well-off? I can’t imagine it is more work either way as long as they outsource the maintenance and upkeep to someone else, be it a landlord or a modern day butler, lol.

        Although the 4 tech guy scenario does make more sense, since they are actually paying less than are 1bd studio.

  48. I’ve never been afraid of doing the dirty work. It’s an opportunity to learn a new skill, and an excuse to buy a new tool. Replacing a toilet is one of the easiest jobs you can do. All you need is an adjustable wrench (think Crescent,) and a shop vac (I like Ridgid.) It can be done in about 10 minutes.

    When my parents wanted new hardwood floors, I enlisted their help. The price of the tools I needed was thousands less than paying someone to do the job. I already had the air compressor and compound miter saw, and just needed the pneumatic toe-nailer and a hand held door jam saw. The floor came out beautiful and everyone who sees it comments on it.

  49. FinancePatriot

    I too believe in DIY. I saw never taught how to do much as a kid, other than paint and lawn care, so sadly I subscribed that I just couldn’t do it. After watching youtube videos and getting serious about early retirement, I have been able to do sink repairs that even my father in law gave up on.

    I also believe that manual labor is the key to appreciating office work, and may one day write a blog post about it. It also offsets the feelings of being tied down to a desk. Everyone should work in fast food like you and I did (I’m a McDonald’s alumni).

    1. Yes, manual labor makes mental labor feel amazing. You definitely appreciate all the easier ways to make money with your mind that with a fading body.

      I’m PUMPED when I hire folks to do heavy landscaping work. I join them for 2-3 hours a day, but after that, I’m done. To work manual labor for 8 hours a day is so tough. Props to all those who do!

      1. Agree. I try to do most stuff myself. Now with the availability of help videos easily found online it’s rare that you can’t fix the little odds and ends stuff yourself and save an expensive 15 minute fix from a “pro”. But landscaping I won’t do. My wife bought some trees for the back yard, like 6-8 foot trees. She said they wanted 150 ea to plant them. Ha! No way I thought! I’ve got a shovel.
        Bad idea. Do you have any idea how big a hole you have to dig for a tree that size and how hard the ground is after you get a couple feet down? 150 was a freaking bargain. I am rather fond of the one tree I did manage to plant… and my kid learned some good swear words from me that day as well so it wasn’t a full loss.

  50. Fixing something yourself gives an incredibly feeling of accomplishment.

    And even if you can & choose to outsource everything, you should still try your hand at things once in a while to understand the value the contractor is providing. The checks I’m happiest to write are those to experts who’ve shown me they’re worth the cost.

    1. The feeling of accomplishment is definitely a huge positive. I was so damn proud of myself for fixing the dishwasher valve backup that I wrote this post! haha.

      There was also a ceiling leak at my rental after one of the mega storms. I went up on the roof and FlexSealed the crap out of all the joints etc. No leak, and it’s been 4 storms later! Feeling proud.

      Eventually, I’ll have to replace the damn roof. But, that’s not for another 5-10 years.

  51. Definitely down with being a landlord, and doing my own maintenance work. YouTube is indeed your friend.

    I’m incredibly handy around the house (just ask Mrs. E!), but plumbing is definitely my kryptonite. It seems whenever I fix one thing, another thing starts leaking. I’ve made so many plumbing repairs over the years, and had this happen so many times, that I have a plumber like some people have a lawyer or dentist. I’ll tackle almost anything once. But if I “fix” it and it doesn’t take, it’s time for the professional. The other benefit of the pro, is I can watch and ask all the questions I want, and learn how to avoid that pesky leak the next time around.

    1. I’m with you on the plumbing being kryptonite. In the middle of putting in a new diverter valve in my shower and it hasn’t been going well. I expected this job to take less than an hour and so far I’m six hours in with more leak than when I started. I hate to give up but sometimes that $200 for roto rooter is money well spent.

      One more thing to try tomorrow and then I’m throwing in the towel before I do serious damage and cost myself even more.

    2. Exactly. Try once, fail, hire a pro, then WATCH AND LEARN how s/he does it, perhaps video tape the work, and at least take notes, so you can improve your skill set.

      I’m not going to try and do extensive electrical work or plumbing work that requires a blow torch etc. But stuff like declogging, replacing a valve in the toilet, tightening screws, no problem. Painting, caulking, sanding, mudding, patching, no problem!

  52. Great points! I enjoy gaining the knowledge for repairs. It gives me a good idea of what the job is really worth if I were to pay someone, and the knowledge also allows me to judge when things are actually out of my skill range. Most plumbing and minor electrical – I can do – broken furnace – out of my league.

    I’m currently removing a tree from one of my rentals bit by bit. I like the work plus it is saving me $1,800. I’m about halfway done, after 9 hours worked, making my effective pay thus far around $200 per hour.

    1. Sounds like a big tree!

      Here’s the thing, nobody can do everything. It’s impossible and inefficient. But if more people can take the time to improve their everyday life skills, it makes life EASIER.

      I just don’t think people bother to try hard enough. Where has all the patience gone? We had to hunt for our own food in the past!

  53. RetireOnDividends

    It is easy to forget the savings you make from doing the dirty work yourself. Not only do you save, say $50-100 per job, but this is usually paid from your post tax earnings (unless you can expense it to a company). With may people’s tax rates near 50%, this effectively means you are saving close to double that amount in pre-tax earnings. Unless you are spending your time doing something very productive then willing to do the dirty work definitely pays off!

  54. I have unclogged drains, replaced toilet rings, and even fixed my own furnace. YouTube is your friend.

    I often hear the “I don’t have the tools” excuse as well. Ask around, regent them, meet the neighbors- as long as you bring them back it’s not a problem.

    Not sure about your area but community tool groups are popping up around MN, you can go rent just about anything for a low monthly fee. Lawn mowers and all.

    There is an awesome cheap drain unclogging tool on Amazon for under $10 bucks. Some of the best money I have spent!

    1. Jack Catchem

      There’s also the fun accumulation of tools. The tools keep on giving service after purchase!

      Home Depot is also nice about renting tools if the neighbors all come up dry too.

      1. Amen to that! Loads of fun collecting the right tools for every occasion–and to be able to write them off as well.

  55. I love this, and it applies to the *hard* work as well as the dirty work! Whenever I get real about how much time I’m spending building my blog + online business outside of my regular, well-paying job, I get reactions ranging from “But what do you do for fun?” to straight-up “I could never work that much.”

    Well… then don’t ask me how I managed to save up a down payment on a house in a year?

    1. FinancePatriot

      That reminds me when I first was saving up for a house, living in a one bedroom apartment with my wife who was also working, and I told a co worker we were saving 3k per month towards our down payment. He literally didn’t believe me. Later on I learned he made much more than I did, nearly six figures. This is a guy who thought he was frugal, too.

      1. It’s bizarre to me how much people spend without realizing it. I could never tell my friends or family how much I save/invest in a month. They’d think there was literally something wrong with me haha.

    2. Great job Desirae! So much time in the day. Let’s maximize it.

      I love the quote by Thomas Edison, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

      If only people who aren’t willing to get dirty and do the grunt work KNEW how much who are miles ahead did to get there. They’d have this “oh shit moment” where they realize…. “maybe I’m not doing enough to get to where I want to go.”

  56. A corollary to all of this is that if you get to a point where you are financially able to live off of rental income and/or blogging income, you open yourself up to time and opportunity to learn new things (i.e. plumbing skills / uber driving).

    Passive income is like doubling the hours in your day. You can be in two, three, even four places at once depending on the passive income streams you got coming in!

    Great article as always.

    1. Yes, such a good point. People look at me kind of funny when I say I want to be financially independent, like “what will you do with all your free time?” and “you already have a challenging professional job, why isn’t that enough?” What they don’t realize is that I have about 20 new skills and professions I want to learn right now. I just love the process of learning new things, even if they’re “dirty” or “demeaning” compared to my super-posh-and-professional-lawyer-job (sarcasm intended).

      1. The MAD Consultant

        Attitudes like that separate people from the rest of the herd. If only everyone had that outlook I wonder how much better our world would be. People think I’m crazy when I tell them about all the things I still want to challenge myself on. Including still learning more construction skills.

  57. I agree, doing the dirty work IS attractive to a mate. I once changed the oil in my ex-girlfriend’s car and it took me may be only 10 minutes longer than a Jiffy Lube (because I had to jack the car up myself), but saved about $15-20 in the cost difference. But afterward she said watching me do that was hot, so there was added benefit there as well.

    1. So there you go! What’s better than having lots of love?

      If a person can make enough to support a family AND be willing to caulk some windows, fix a leak, patch a wall, clean the house, and do some landscaping, I dare say that person will NEVER be alone.

  58. Awesome job fixing the dishwasher!! I didn’t realize there was a cliche about homeowners fixing toilets. I have no shame in doing dirty work. I’ve proudly fixed toilets and sink plumbing on my own! Youtube is freakin’ awesome.

    I hired a plumber many years ago when I had a sink problem and he ended up creating more problems than he fixed and charged a fortune. After that I got so fed up with plumbers I taught myself how to fix stuff and it’s made my life so much easier.

    Just a couple months ago I discovered my fridge’s water line was leaking. I was able to cut the water line off to temporarily stop the leak, run to the hardware store, pick up a $5 part, and fixed the leak later that afternoon!

    1. The MAD Consultant

      Awesome job to both of you!!! I always thought it was odd for people to think that doing manual labor is below them. More than half the landlords I know do their own repairs on rentals. Saves tons of money and is especially important to learn. None of this stuff is rocket science. In fact I just met a millionaire that still did a lot of their own household repairs. That’s on top of the other ones I know that do plenty of their own work Must be a correlation. I def agree with all the points you made above.

      Funny I just did something similar with my rental this week. Sink was clogged and instead of hiring a plumber for a $200 visit I ran to the hardware store and bought a drill powered rooter for $40 and presto clog undone. Was well worth it and I’ll have the tool for all my future clog issues. Of course while I was under the sink I found that someone else had improperly run the plumbing so that turned into another fun project.

      Fun article people might find interesting.

    2. Well done fixing that damn refrigerator water line! How good did that feel? Amazing right? To develop self-sufficiency skills is all related to financial independence. Less we can rely on someone else to fix our lives and to live our lives, the happier we will be.

      Folks, you can take this post literally about fixing clogged pipes, or you can see the post metaphorically, and change your attitude about doing work that you find beneath you to achieve a happier life.

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