How to estimate prices effectively for new customers.

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Firefighter541, May 22, 2008.

  1. Firefighter541

    Firefighter541 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    Hello all,

    I have never been "Professionally" involved in the Outdoor maintenance field. At work we are responsible for outdoor maintenance all year round. Because of my shift schedule I have the opportunity to possibly put in a quote for a 20 unit retirement condo community (which my in-laws are currently living in), and possibly another 10 unit condo community across the road.

    The condo corporation (which my in-laws are currently involved in) is unhappy with the service of the current maintenance company and is looking for a replacement.

    As of right now I have no equipment but am interested in purchasing some should a quote from me be accepted (obviously). To get to that point however, I need to put in a successful realistic quote. I'm not really sure where to start. I've built fences and things before and I know how long it takes me to do that kind of thing, but this is kind of new to me.

    If anyone could give me an idea of where to start, maybe even a break down of different going rates, and approximate time to complete each task for a certain amount of square feet or whatever, I would appreciate it very much!

    I'm located in Kitchener, Ontario.

    Thanks everyone.

    Joel
     
  2. MJS

    MJS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,316

    Welcome to Lawnsite :weightlifter:

    For starters, to work for most Condo or Villa complexes, you'll need some sort of liability insurance - not sure what it is $$ up there.

    How big is this area you're bidding on/ how many acres? And what exactly are you going to be providing? Just mowing, trimming, edging, or are you also bidding on shrub trimming, fertilizing, etc?
     
  3. Firefighter541

    Firefighter541 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    Hi MJS,

    I'm not sure how big the complex is. I would guess about 2 acres. There are 20 units in clumps of 2, 3, and 4. All with their own driveways walkways and front porch. Each unit will also have a deck. There are quite a few little common areas, 2 "main roads" and 3 parking areas.

    I think what I would like to do is provide them with some options. For example: Mowing and trimming is such and such amount, weeding of beds and planting is such and such amount, (these things will be done on a weekly basis) fertilizer and seeding and aeration is such and such amount, snow removal of streets, parking areas, 20 driveways, 20 front walkways and 20 front porches and salting is such and such amount. etc.

    This way the condo corporation can pick and choose, but atleast it is a base for them and me to start from.

    Thanks for the welcome, and the help. Hopefully I'll have something to contribute one day.

    Joel
     
  4. MJS

    MJS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,316

    Well, for the mowing and trimming, you need to find out what you need to make for an hourly rate (me, I bid to make at least $50/hour) - then estimate how many hours mowing, blowing, and trimming would take you.

    I would bid other jobs on a similar scale; how long it takes, and how much you need make in that period = $$ per hour. So if your minimum happens to be $50/hour, and it takes you four hours, then you should charge at least $200 for your services. But then, I am not really familiar with the going rate of services in Canada. . .

    Were you to get this job, what kind of a mower would you invest in? A walk-behind, or a zero turn? Your equipment will also influence how much or little you bid a job at.

    For the bed weeding, etc. You might want to consider getting your pesticide/herbicide applicator's license. Then you don't have to worry about bending over 20 gardens and pulling weeds for hours. :)
     
  5. Firefighter541

    Firefighter541 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 3

    Ya I think $50/hour sounds fair. Do you have a worker with you as well? I have a new guy at work that has done a lot of landscaping and was thinking about paying him $15/hour (cash) (most around here make 10 to 13/hour above board)

    As far as time goes... Its been a long time since I cut grass on something you could ride... and I guess while one is mowing, the other can be doing push mowing and trimming. As far as pestisides and the like go, many places in our province are starting to ban them. The town I live in is one of them that will be doing it soon. Everyone is going towards natural types of bug and weed fighters. So I think for now bending over is where it's at.

    Do you think that 11 hours a week for a 2 acre (in the non snow times of the year) is reasonable to do all of that (weeding, mowing, trimming etc.) Is pricing for snow removal different? or could I just say 11 hours a week for the whole year? and if it's more its more and if its less its less.....?

    I think I would definitely invest in a zero turn ride on. It won't have to be new, but I'd like it to be decent. I have an ok push mower (lawn boy) that would get us through the first year. I'll need a trimmer and blower. My wife and I are kind of in the market for a new vehicle anyways (new to us... not brand new) so we get a decent 4X4 pick up.
     
  6. enviouslawns

    enviouslawns LawnSite Member
    Posts: 188

    Around here pricing for snow plowing seems to be anywhere from 90-125 per hour, and then you have to charge for salting also. And most people charge double the going rate after 5 or 6 inches.
     
  7. MJS

    MJS LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,316

    No, I currently work solo almost all of the time - never had a regular employee, so I can't help you there.

    I think 11 hours isn't unreasonable, especially if you are using that 21". With a larger mower, you could probably take it down by a few hours - yeah, a commercial zero turn is a good idea for something as large as 2 acres.

    I wouldn't bid the same 11 hours for the entire year - what about leaves in the fall; they will take you substantially longer than normal. Also, some times during the year the weeds grow faster, and the gardens may require more maintenance.

    I would write down a week-by-week estimate for how many hours you are going to be working the entire year (or do it by quarters) and then divide that by your hourly rate. Make sure also that they pay for any materials that you might need - that shouldn't be included in your hourly price.

    And also, you should base your final bid on a hourly rate without telling them that. . .It's a pain to have someone complain if you're charging $550 dollars, but you finish in 9 hours instead of the estimated 11. I don't know if that made any sense at all? :dizzy:
     
  8. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Never invest money pending a contract's approval.
    Further, never base an estimate on the price of your next acquisition.
    That's putting the cart before the horse, and in business this is plain dangerous.
    Last but not least, the odds are roughly 9:1 or 10:1 against you.
     

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