News flash: it’s expensive to buy a home in a big city. The average price of a detached home is over $1 million in Toronto and Vancouver. Skyrocketing real estate prices has prospective homeowners looking at creative ways to get into the housing market. One of those ways is by buying a fixer upper. Although fixer uppers often come at a bargain, they can come with a laundry list of repairs (and headaches). Before you roll up your sleeves and get to work, it’s important to ask yourself the all-important question: should I fix it myself or hire a professional? Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each option.

When You Should Fix it Yourself

The biggest benefit of DIY (do it yourself) is that you save money. Contractors don’t come cheap. Not only do you pay for the materials, you also pay for the labour. There’s also no guarantee they’ll do a good job. If you have experience in the trades like plumbing and electricity, doing your own renovations can make sense. If you know how to use a screw driver, it makes sense to do simple jobs yourself like replacing door handles and light switches. Big box retailers like Home Depot and Lowe’s offer free home renovation seminars on the weekend. YouTube and renovation shows on HGTV are also good sources of information. Just make sure you don’t bite off more than you can chew (more on that below).

When You Should Hire a Pro

Although you can save money, DIY comes at another cost: your time. Before you start a renovation on your own, figure out how much time it would take you to complete. More importantly, make sure your timeline is realistic. For example, if it takes an entire team three months to renovate your kitchen, unless you’re fine with using an unfinished kitchen for the next year (be sure to run this by your wife), it’s probably best to hire contractors. Some renovations are also best left to the pros. Anything to do with the trades such as furnaces, windows and roofing are usually best left to the pros.

If you’re planning to do major renovations when you purchase your home, be sure to mention this to your lender before you sign up for your mortgage. You can often take out a bigger mortgage to cover your home repairs. This can save you money, since the interest rate on a mortgage is almost always lower than other forms of financing like a line of credit.

It’s important to do your homework before hiring a contractor. Get at least three estimates in writing before deciding on who you’re going to go with. Don’t just go with the lowest estimate. As the saying goes, you usually get what you pay for. The estimate may come in lower since the contractor is cutting corners. Happy home renovating!