What is ‘sweat equity’? How you can make the most of it

What is ‘sweat equity’? How you can make the most of it
What is ‘sweat equity’? How you can make the most of it

It sounds a little bit grotty, but the term ‘sweat equity’ has made its way into common investor usage. This little piece of terminology is relatively simple, but also worth deeper consideration.

On the surface, it’s essentially the alternative to financial equity. Instead of pouring money into a project, let’s take a renovation for simplicity, you instead pour your actual personal effort and energy into the project. For instance, instead of hiring a plumber, you get in there and put your skills to the test.

Upsides

Likely, you’ve added some ‘sweat equity’ to a project without realising it has a name before. Perhaps you’ve painted a property, or tidied it, prior to selling. Likely you’ve added a bit of value, no matter how small, without spending a cent. In this result is the benefit of sweat equity – you haven’t touched your bank account, and yet you’re making money in the form of equity on your property.

If you have a skill, such as a trade, then using this appropriately is well worth while. If you’re a licensed plumber or asbestos removalist, or your friends are, then getting everyone around to work on a project can be immensely useful.

While it’s easier to understand this concept when considering a renovation, “sweat” equity doesn’t have to include activities that make you sweat. If you are willing to undertake your own research, or similar, then you can make some sweat equity upfront by using your computer and sourcing a property and negotiating. Wherever you can ‘DIY’ to add value for your property, such as getting a DA, you’re using sweat equity.

Downsides

  • Not understanding your personal limitations

If you’re not an expert and get caught up in the idea of ‘sweat equity’ then you may be risking an amateur job. Remember, there are people in the industry that have been managing properties, recarpeting homes and styling properties for years. There’s a demand for certain services for a reason. Don’t attempt to be handy with your investments if you’re not – you could end up making a mess and needing to pay a bigger bill to rectify the issue.

  • Time has an inherent dollar value

While sweat equity can seem like getting money for free, remember that your time is inherently valuable. If you are taking time off of work, particularly unpaid, to work on your property in any way then you need to make sure you can’t be making more elsewhere. Taking a week off to add $10,000 in sweat equity is obviously worthwhile for most on average salaries, however the majority of the time it’s likely you’ll be attending to small jobs that could cost you a small amount and not interrupt your sleeping schedule.

Similarly, if investing becomes your “full time” job, you want to factor in the concept of a full time salary. If your own cost per hour works out to more than it costs to hire in the experts, you may want to reconsider. If you’re spending your leisure time doing manual labour jobs, you also want to make sure you don’t get burnt out in the process.

  • You can’t tax-deduct your own work

Unfortunately, where you can keep receipts and the formal information from contractors that work on your property, the lay person doing a bit of handy work on their own investment cannot claim for their own time. You can, however, claim for travel expenses to your investment property for repairs and similar work, and for any materials purchased. For instance, if you decide to do the cleaning yourself after a renter leaves, you cannot claim for your hours of work – but you can claim for the bleach, cleaning products and equipment used.

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke

Jennifer Duke was a property writer at Property Observer

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Renovation Adding Value

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