Just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

Real Estate Broker/Owner with Cornerstone Business Group Inc 0225086119

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. 

Just because you can do something doesn't mean you should do something. When I started in real estate, I was an investor buying foreclosures and turning them into rentals. It was great! The only part that wasn't great was I had no idea how to do a lot of the maintenance that needed to be done to foreclosures.

Fortunately, I had been involved in construction as an electrical contractor, which meant I had seen others do the things I hadn't done. That was the You-Tube of the 90s. The question often popped up in my mind, "What would . . . . . . do in this situation?" Ironically, in those days, my memory was a lot more crisp, and I was able to draw on those days in the field to figure out how to do a large variety of things. 

That created a large chest of experience, and many rentals later, I knew things. With that said, today, some of my real estate clients assume since I have broad construction experience that I should put it to work for them. Many times, I do. 

Just because you can, doesn't mean you should. I'm tempted to keep my life experience to myself and let my clients get their own contractors to take care of their residential needs. Unfortunately, since I know so many contracting companies, I know who is good, who is bad and who is so-so. I'm always concerned when my clients pick a lesser quality company to do something.

Sometimes, a house only needs something minor. No worries, I'll do it. That can be a trap that ultimately puts you in a box you can't climb out of. This area can be a high-wire act for me. I don't want to see my clients make a mistake, but I don't want to be their go to person for everything forever. 

I've done just about everything you can think of on a house. That doesn't mean I'm licensed or qualified to do everything according to local licensing agencies. The realty is, none of us should exercise any offers of advice or practice in a field that is not our licensed field and/or certified field of expertise. Clients get pretty comfortable pretty quick calling on your skill-set when they know you can do certain things.

I recently declined to do an electrical repair for a seller who ultimately hired two jack-legs. We were too busy. I represented the buyer on this deal, and I made the home inspection repairs contingent on the seller having licensed professionals do the work and then it was contingent on my inspection. I inspected the work twice. It went from seven problems to nine and back to seven.

The homeowner was nearly in tears when I turned down his incompetent electricians (neither were licensed as required) work. Finally, I sent one of my guys in to fix things and in 45 minutes, he fixed what the two goofballs previously had made worse. I've been weighing the "just because you can, doesn't mean you should" concept and this was an early attempt to stick to that new policy. It was a failure, but there is hope. 


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Will Hamm
Hamm Homes - Aurora, CO
"Where There's a Will, There's a Way!"

Hello Mike, It happens, I have some people that do not turn in a invoice that the work is done ahead of time and I will have my inspector go back out and check.  No work was done at all.


Jan 31, 2019 09:37 AM #3
Grant Schneider
Performance Development Strategies - Armonk, NY
Your Coach Helping You Create Successful Outcomes

Mike - you are right about that.  We knew a handyman who claim he could do anything.  I said no to anything that required licensing such as electrical and plumbing.

Jan 31, 2019 10:34 AM #4
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

I always learn something new when I read your blog posts, Mike.  Today, I learned the meaning of "Jack Leg" after I googled it!

Dictionary result for jackleg



an incompetent, unskillful, or dishonest person.

"a jackleg carpenter"

Jan 31, 2019 05:08 PM #5
Myrl Jeffcoat
GreatWest Realty - Sacramento, CA
Greater Sacramento Real Estate Agent

CONGRATULATIONS Mike, on having this blog FEATURED in the Old Farts Club group!  

Jan 31, 2019 05:11 PM #6
Jeff Dowler, CRS
eXp Realty of California - Carlsbad, CA
The Southern California Relocation Dude

Hi Mike:

I think that adage "just because you can doesn't mean you should" is a good one to follow, in our business and in life. No doubt there are some exceptions.


Jan 31, 2019 08:00 PM #7
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

They say you can drive a car with your feet, but that really doesn’t make it a good idea to do lo.

Jan 31, 2019 09:10 PM #8
Laura Cerrano
Feng Shui Manhattan Long Island - Locust Valley, NY
Certified Feng Shui Expert, Speaker & Researcher

Jeff Dowler, CRS There’s a saying like that for a reason and that is usually true. Love and light to you and yours!

Jan 31, 2019 09:11 PM #9
Kat Palmiotti
406-270-3667, kat@thehousekat.com, Broker, Blackstone Realty Group - brokered by eXp Realty - Kalispell, MT
The House Kat

I absolutely agree. Just because we can do something, doesn't mean we should (for many reasons - lack of extra time, liability, etc). As with Myrl Jeffcoat , I never heard the term "jackleg" either! 

Feb 01, 2019 03:22 AM #10
John Henry, Florida Architect
John Henry Masterworks Design International, Inc. - Orlando, FL
Residential Architect, Luxury Custom Home Design

I have to really think hard about recommending others.  If they don't do the work to the owner's satisfaction then they blame you for the epic fails.  I am VERY wary...  Thanks for the good blog, Mike!

Feb 01, 2019 06:31 PM #11
Marte Cliff
Marte Cliff Copywriting - Priest River, ID
Your real estate writer

Since you know the local contractors, maybe you should have a resources page on your site listing a few companies in each specialty. Although... sometimes even the good ones mess up, so as John Henry indicated, it's a risk to recommend anyone.

Your experience reminds me of my husband. He was a carpenter, then a commercial construction foreman, then a home building contractor, and he paid attention to what all of the subcontractors did. After a while, there wasn't much he couldn't do himself. It saves us a lot money, since he can do home repairs.

Meanwhile... good luck on sticking to "No."

Feb 01, 2019 10:30 PM #12
Richie Alan Naggar
people first...then business Ran Right Realty - Riverside, CA
agent & author

Coop has the scoop...

Feb 02, 2019 05:16 AM #13
Terry McCarley
REMAX Trend - Cape Coral FL - Cape Coral, FL

Great post!  I run into unlicensed work pretty often here which is sad.  I finally created a vendor list I give to my buyers.  I do have a disclosure on it saying they can hire anyone they want to but the vendors on the list are at least known to be reputable.

Feb 02, 2019 07:42 AM #14
Endre Barath, Jr.
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices - Beverly Hills, CA
Realtor - Los Angeles Home Sales 310.486.1002

Mike, indeed I always recommend people who have worked with me or on my own home and yes they are licensed...especially when it comes to electricians and plumbers one should not use lesser quality craftsman....Endre

Feb 02, 2019 02:51 PM #16
Elizabeth Weintraub Sacramento Realtor Top 1%
RE/MAX Gold - Sacramento, CA
Put 40 years of experience to work for you

Grateful to Myrl Jeffcoat for pulling up the definition of jackleg as I guessed but I did not really know. We ask for receipts from the licensed contractors, and sometimes sellers are shocked because they did not hire a licensed contractor and were not informed of that duty by their agent.

Feb 02, 2019 04:25 PM #17
M.C. Dwyer
Century 21 Showcase REALTORs - Felton, CA
MC Dwyer-Santa Cruz Mountains Property Specialist

Good luck sticking to your new policy - it does take effort to change habits.    Especially when it would be easier to just do it yourself.      Too bad the seller and their agent weren't paying attention, "contingent on the seller having licensed professionals do the work."


Feb 02, 2019 04:41 PM #18
Shirley Coomer
Keller Williams Realty Sonoran Living - Phoenix, AZ
Realtor, Keller Williams Realty, Phoenix Az

Great post and a wise decision not to do everything, even though you could!  Many things in home repair are not what they appear!  Also, consider the liability for electrical and plumbing problems.  Definitely a licensed professional.

Feb 03, 2019 05:42 AM #19
Eleanor Thorne
Equity Resources - Cary, NC
Equity Resources 919-649-5058

Solid advice - it's just like cutting commissions, once yo do it - every person who is referred to you from there on out will assume they too get the "family discount" - slippery slope!

Feb 04, 2019 06:56 AM #20
Mary Hutchison, SRES, ABR
Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate-Kansas City Homes - Kansas City, MO
Experienced Agent in Kansas City Metro area

Oh your clients are lucky to have you and your expertise!! Especially with regards to the contractors who are trustworthy

Feb 04, 2019 09:23 AM #21
Jan Green
Value Added Service, 602-620-2699 - Scottsdale, AZ
HomeSmart Elite Group, REALTOR®, EcoBroker, GREEN

Obviously you are multi-talented when it comes to real estate, from buying and selling to repairs.  Good for you for sticking to your guns and eventually having your own guys repair what needed to be done.  Sometimes we have choices as to who, what and when to share our talents. Looks like you made a good decision on jumping in to get it done correctly.

Feb 04, 2019 05:56 PM #22
Kevin Mackessy
Blue Olive Properties, LLC - Highlands Ranch, CO
Dedicated. Qualified. Local.

Agree entirely.  Our home inspector is also a general contractor, but he won't touch electrical when he's on a service call.  He can do it, but the liability is too high.  

Feb 05, 2019 09:58 AM #23
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