Twice in the past month, my husband and I have been called away from home due to plumbing emergencies at our rental cottages. In the first instance, we were away for several days and had to replace the kitchen flooring and the drain tube on the refrigerator (the cause of the problem) to the tune of nearly $300 for materials and the part.
The second time turned out to be mostly a false alarm as far as plumbing goes but did require us to drive another 100 miles round trip to the nearest home improvement store to get a few things not available locally. Total cost excluding time and fuel? Only $203.46 this time.
So, all together for rental repairs in May, we spent about $500. Not too bad, right? But bear in mind this is only because we did ALL the work ourselves. Had we hired someone, our costs would have been at least triple that amount. In addition to the extra expense, scheduling with a professional often takes weeks. We couldn’t even get ahold of the only appliance repairman in our isolated rural town and our local flooring guy was booked up until mid-June. We certainly couldn’t expect our tenants to wait that long.
While each of these experiences was minor from the standpoint of both time and money, it could have been much worse. Prior to tearing out the vinyl and buckled underlayment, we thought surely we’d have to replace the subfloor, and maybe even the floor joists, in that kitchen. And had the false alarm turned out to be what we expected, we’d have been doing an complete flooring replacement in the bathroom of another cottage.
Over the past decade plus of DIY landlordism, our experience is that these types of projects ALWAYS take twice as long and cost twice as much as you think they will. This time, we got lucky and actually spent less than half as much money and time as we thought we would. But had either (or both) projects been as extensive as they first appeared, we were financially prepared. We have an ample emergency fund set aside so that we can immediately take care of problems as they arise. You too can have an emergency fund by having you own checking account.
Unforeseen expenses are often beyond your control and will pop up now and again whether or not you’re prepared. Your ability to handle them is totally within your control, however. So, back to my original question: Do you have an emergency fund?
Crystal Marie lives by the philosophy that needing less rather than earning more is the key to happiness and financial serenity, which allowed her to “retire” from formal employment in health education at the age of 44. She can be found making the most of the second half on her blog, The Best 50 Years.