Do it yourself – Do you really save money?

Famous WW2 poster

We can DO it!

March 11, 2012 by Joe MacKinnon in Blog
All my life I have been a do it yourself kind of guy, either because of cost, convenience, or necessity. I grew up ‘fixing’ things my dad handed me to fix (he resold used goods). I fixed my own vehicles, tv’s, tools, and even tried to cut my own hair. You name it, I fixed it; so construction was a great fit for me and I do it very well. Not everyone is so inclined, and there are people who ‘cannot boil water’ (so the saying goes).
I am all in favor of people saving money, and taking pride in what they have done. The problem is they often don’t have a good understanding of all the work that is involved in actually doing it. The television programs make it look so easy, and a kitchen renovation can be done in as little as one half hour. When you are considering doing it yourself, you must take a hard look at yourself and/or your partner to consider the questions below:
1) How ‘handy’ are you really?
Onetime helping someone paint a bedroom or your dad’s garage does not really qualify you as a painter, and you could really make a mess of your job. You could also make a mess of your hands. I have a client who cut off one of his left fingers with a circular saw, and after re-attachment he still plays guitar, but not as well as before. Another client briefly thought he severed his finger when a ladder unexpectedly collapsed on him (he is a dentist). Luckily, he didn’t.
2) How much is your time worth?
If you are a professional person who earns $50 an hour or more, and you take time off work to do your renovation, it will likely cost you way more than a pro. Guess how many hours it will take you then multiply by 2 (it always takes longer than you think); then multiply that by your hourly wage to get your personal labor cost. If you are the type of person who will sit through a hundred online videos to learn how to do it yourself, great! Just be sure to take that time into account as well.
3) How much longer will it take?
The pros make it look effortless, and can breeze through the job very quickly. They are very practiced, work all day long, and have the best of tools. You, on the other hand, will usually be slower due to either lack of practice, limited time (often just weekends & evenings), or possibly inferior tools. It could take twice as long (or more).
4) How long can you withstand living in a renovation?
I have lived in my home while renovating and anyone who has done it will tell you it is dirty, noisy, and extremely inconvenient. Where do you ‘go’ if your bathroom is being renovated? Where do you eat while your old kitchen is torn out? You may have to eat out for longer than you would like, and this can all put a strain on your family. The longer it takes, the more stress you may encounter. Doing it yourself could stretch this out considerably (see #3 above).
5) Will the results be everything you hoped for?
So you did it yourself, you are proud of your work, and it looks great! Shortly after that you notice that the side kitchen drawer cannot open because the stove sticks out too far, the wash machine makes a thumping sound in the pipes when it turns water off, and any one of a thousand other nagging potential problems that you will now have to live with. Some you can fix easily, others will be too expensive to fix so you just live with them.
In Summary
Be smart about your abilities, time, tolerance level, and budget, and make the best choice for you. I have ‘wised up’ and no longer do my own taxes, cut my own hair, or attempt to fix any electronic devices; it’s just not worth my time!  Very Sincerely, Joe MacKinnon

Laneway homes pros and cons

In general I am in favor of laneway homes, however, the decision to build a laneway home is not necessarily an easy one, it depends on many factors that are very unique to you. Some of which are:

  – Finances
  – Location/zoning
  – Lot size
  – Family situation
  – desire to get rental income
  – Investment knowledge
  – Tax situation

Because every situation is different it is impossible for me to give you a positive or negative recommendation for you here. What I will give you is an example of an anonymous client and what their motivations are.

My client Brad (not his real name) and his wife have the finances to build their laneway home. They took out a line of credit secured with their home at a rate of 4%.  They will only pay interest on the portion of that money as they draw it down. They plan to move into the laneway house when it is completed and rent out their house which is old now. The rent they will get for the main house will be more than they could get for the 2 bdrm laneway.

The result is they will live in a beautiful home, the tenant will be cutting the grass and shoveling the snow, and the estimated payback time for the line of credit or mortgage will be 15 years. The laneway house will increase their equity so the property is now worth more. The only downside to them will be the loss of a portion of their capital gains exemption for their property when they decide to sell due to Canada Revenue Agency Rules. If you have any questions regarding any of this please click  here.   Also, the city of Vancouver’s website has an excellent laneway house ‘how to’ guide with  pictures and examples. Just click here.     Sincerely,  Joe MacKinnon

The coming labor shortages

The coming labour shortages


Old Carpenter

Old Carpenter

February 9, 2012 by Joe MacKinnon in Blog

It’s no secret that the population of Canada is aging, and a huge pool of skilled talent will be dropping out of the workforce bit by bit, increasing every year. Immigration will partly offset this, but not enough to prevent skilled labour shortages in the future. All kinds of workers from Firemen to Plumbers will be saying goodbye to their 9-5 jobs and Hello to full-time hobbies and travel. This will mean that supply and demand will be doing it’s magic to push up the costs of the professionals that are left. In response to this, a rush of relatively unskilled workers will rush in to fill the void.  Some will be capable and trustworthy, but many will be ‘in it for the money’ and for them every job will be a rush to finish quickly to maximize profit because, after all, they are ‘hard to get’. The first of the baby boomers are just now starting to retire and within 10 years, most of them will be fully, or semi-retired. If you are thinking of doing a major renovation in the future, the earlier you do it the better it will be for you. Don’t wait until lumber and labour prices climb. Here’s a link to check out,  just Google for many more.

I was hacked!

Recently my website was hacked by an irresponsible oaf. I am truly sorry for this interruption, and I vow to bring it back even better than it was before. You will be seeing some changes until it is in it’s new form. Please be patient and I’m certain you will be pleased. Sincerely,
Joe MacKinnon


Update: Have now improved the site, and it is WAY more secure. Joe