There is no golden rule when it comes to do-it-yourself maintenance for your vacation rental; some people can wield power tools like a pro while others are barely comfortable lifting a screwdriver.

Whether you look after your own property maintenance depends on your availability and comfort level, but if you’re handy around the house and have a good selection of tools, some DIY projects can save you money. Others, however, could leave you open to liability.

How do you know the difference?

While you should make sure you’re up-to-speed with any local bylaws and regulations, there is one key deciding factor when it comes to working on your vacation rental: Whichever is the safest option for both you and your future guests.

Preventative Maintenance and Minor Renovations

Just like your family home, scheduling preventative maintenance will help save you in repair costs down the road — not to mention the inconvenience if something happens while your house is rented. As we’ve blogged about in the past, good housekeeping matters. A well-maintained house is a critical part of keeping your rental property looking good.

HomeAway offers a seasonal maintenance checklist for vacation rentals, much of it easy to manage on your own or with a bit of guidance from the people at your local hardware store. For example:

  • Doing touch-ups with paint, both inside and outside the home,
  • Caulking around doors and windows to prevent leaks (and save on heating/cooling bills),
  • Cleaning different systems around the house, like the furnace filters and ducts, the fireplace, gutters and downspouts, or
  • Fixing basic faucet leaks.

DIY Versus Hiring a Pro: Questions to Ask Yourself

When doing your regular maintenance, keep an eye out for anything that looks out of the ordinary; central to this whole plan is catching issues before they become major problems.

If you spot anything that needs to be fixed, Better Homes and Gardens magazine suggests asking these questions before deciding who will do the work.

  • Who has the most experience? This is where your comfort level factors in; if you’re handy, once you think the project through, it may be worth your time to do it yourself. Otherwise, it’s often best to go with the more experienced pro.
  • What are the consequences of mistakes? Always remember: Safety first! Caulking is a pretty low-impact task, but installing new ceiling lights can cause a host of problems if done incorrectly.
  • What is the most reasonably-priced option? Do a price comparison between the professionals and buying the materials yourself; doing a project yourself can sometimes save you money, but first impressions can also be deceiving. Even if you have time to spare to do the work yourself, once you’ve purchased any needed tools and materials you may find that the cost difference is relatively negligible.
  • What is the time-frame for a remodeling job? For example, if a pro would take three days but you might take a full month, consider the impact of the time difference — both to your other commitments and upcoming rentals.

When to Automatically Call the Pros

If you’re having problems with your electrical system, bring in a licensed professional.

Not only can you cause significant problems if you don’t know what you’re doing, like electrocution or fire, but the finished work must be inspected. Skipping over this could impact your insurance coverage or even resale value.

Plumbing is another area where, if things go wrong, resulting problems can cause a range of issues from flooding and clogging to major leaks.

Some basic maintenance, like unclogging drains, may be fine on your own. However, you should consider a licensed tradesperson for anything more significant.

Be Friendly with your Insurance Rep

Doing your own maintenance can, with some projects, impact your insurance rates or coverage for better or for worse.

Some obvious red flags are electrical and plumbing projects, but some yardwork may also be best handled by an outside company.

For example, what if a heavy winter storm affects a large tree on your property: The tree hasn’t fallen over, but you know it needs to be removed. When spring comes around, you debate removing the tree yourself or hiring a pro. Your chainsaw may be just as good as theirs, but what if the tree falls on your house? What if you throw out your back?

It’s also important to note that not all maintenance projects can cause your rates to go up; some simple steps can actually cut your insurance bill.

Whatever your project, a call to your insurance agent can help confirm what’s covered, and also what might garner you a discount. Possibilities may include:

  • Replacing rubber hoses on your washing machine with no-burst stainless steel hoses,
  • Installing and maintaining smoke detectors,
  • Switching to deadbolt locks on exterior doors.

These are all small maintenance tasks, but each can have an impact on your bottom line.

Are there any lessons you’ve learned about maintenance tasks that are better left to professionals, or tips for the do-it-yourself crowd?