New Home Construction

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by mbella, Dec 3, 2004.

  1. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    Do any of you guys do contracted work for new home builders?

  2. SouthernYankee

    SouthernYankee LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 789

    my father is a building contractor, I have done everything from backfilling foundations to finish landscaping....write back if you have any questions.
  3. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    Thanks for the reply Southern Yankee. I do have a few questions about the give and take aspect of dealing with a builder and the issues that arise with new construction. Specifically, problems with scheduling and feeling out how much room there is in balancing my schedule with theirs and saying no when there is a multi-year contract on the line.
    For example, the builder tells you that there will be a lot ready (for planting, rake and seed) Monday. Monday you show up and it is not ready and you have to move the crew to another job. The other job is a three day job. Tuesday morning the builder calls and tells you he's ready for you now, but you don't want to pull the crew from the job you went to on Monday after the builder wasn't ready. You don't want to pull the crew for many reasons, but mainly because it looks bad to the customer whose job you are currently working on.
    I found myself in this position many times this year and I usually gave in to the builder. I gave in because I have two years of contracted work with them and I didn't want to risk losing it.
    I am curious what other contractors experience has been with this and if they were able to strike a balance.
  4. MarcusLndscp

    MarcusLndscp LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 634

    We deal with these situations all the time. With all the development going on here we are literally involved with other contractors every day of every year. Most the jobs here are 3 year contracts that typically take about 3 and a half years by the time all the work is complete for every one. We typically are responsible for the following: plantings, walkways, patios, drip edge, hydroseeding, sod, erosion control, york raking, walls (both precast and fieldstone), sometimes things like pool coping, entry signs, etc. In the winter we usually get a T&M snow removal contract for plowing with our loader, sanding/salting and shoveling. You take all of the above and you are talking hundreds of thousands of dollars a year every year. This is work we want because if you run the jobs properly and efficiently you can make very good money at it. When they call us to do a job after we have already started another we try to explain our situation and tell them that we can be there two days later which they are usually okay with. Sometimes though we have to drop what we are doing for things like erosion control when the state is coming for inspection because if the state is not happy they will fine the hell out of the G.C. Things we have learned are, be very specific in your contracts of what you are responsible for...if you don't define what you are doing they will expect you to do things you have not priced. Be professional about the way you conduct yourself with other contractors because they are just trying to do their job as well. If you piss someone off they will not be willing to accommodate you and your need to get your job done. Be proactive by setting dates and times for them to be done that way when other contractors are not out of your way on the dates specified it is clearly not your fault. Finally, the most important part for us is to be as respectful as we can to the new homeowners as they move in. These people are the ones we make even more money off. Typically we will be hired by the owners after wards to do bigger and better work at their individual homes. Also as the associations are developed they hire us to do their snow removal, lawn mowing, pruning, mulching, fertilizing, etc, etc.
    If you have more questions feel free to ask
  5. mbella

    mbella LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,284

    Marcus, I'm providing the same services that you are and you're right, it is a lot of revenue in one place. This was my first year on my own and it took me a little while to get a handle on things. I didn't push for too much enhancement work with the homeowners at the beginning of the year because I didn't want to over promise and under deliver. However, as I became more comfortable with the ability of my crews to produce, I began a marketing campaign for the enhancements, although not overly agressive. Like you said, this extra work is where I found that I could really increase my margins. Is your first contact with the homebuyers before or after settlement?
    So far, my initial contact has not been until after settlement. I had many homeowners tell me that they whished that they had spoken with me prior to making settlement because they could have rolled some of the more expensive projects (paver driveways, retaining walls, and irrigation) into their mortgage. Getting involved earlier in the building process is something that I am going to work on for next year.
  6. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,563

    we stopped dealing with builders years ago.

    they want a cut (or at least a markup on your work).
    most have a landscape allowance built into the cost of the home. we started seeing builders that were overbudget want to hide it in the landscape. We had a builder want a landscape to look like a $5000.00 job (the allowance the owners thought they were getting) but only had $1500.00 to spend, cuase he was overbudget on the house.

    most builders don't want a really nice landscape, they want just enough...

    UNISCAPER LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,426

    If a lot is not ready when they say it is, then you back charge them for your time. You don't do anything a builder asks unless they sign a change order which you can add to your contract as an addendum and that you can lien against.

    You never sign a waiver of lien before you recieve payment in full for your work. If a title company wants you to sign a waiver, at the signature line, place the words "This waiver shall be null and void if payment in full has not been made by X and date it.

    If the builder goes BK, by signing this contingency, you can still lien the property, and get a judgement for the price in full of the work you have done. If there is a waiver on file, you just gave away the store.

    Get yourself a revlving line of credit from the bank so you can make payroll and operate between the times that the draws are to be made, and, build the cost of that juice into the contract price if the work you do.

    You are not a bank, or lending institution, nor a loan shark, you are a small business, and, I can bet a weeks salary that most builders are going to work off your money for as long as you let them get away with it. you will be paid, but, it is usually on the builders terms. Take control of the situation early on and protect your best interests first.
  8. MarcusLndscp

    MarcusLndscp LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 634

    Out first contact with homeowners typically happens after settlement. There are times the homeowners will contact us before and allow us to do our own design and install before the first install ever happens. The design on these jobs is usually done by an architect and then we install it. So instead we take the dollar amount for their unit and credit them that on a totally new install designed by us. Most of these jobs for us are in winter condo homes and have either 2 or 3 units per building. The base price for one UNIT is typically from 1.2 - 1.5 million dollars. For what these people put in their landscape it usually doesn't matter to them whether or not they can put it in their morgage or not.
    Also ,as someone else stated, change orders are a must on these jobs. We've come close to being burnt by the G.C. before but we were fortunate enough to have the proper documentation and paper trail behind us. These guys will use you and try to get all they possibly can out of just need to be more organized and intelligent than they are. We also run into problems with other contractors driving on new lawns, running over trees, tearing out patios to fix their mess ups, etc, etc. I always have my camera with me to document these occurences as they happen so we can get paid again to fix the mess ups.
  9. baddboygeorge

    baddboygeorge LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,249

    general contractors build a million dollar home an spend 1500 on landscaping , go figure thats why i tear it all out about 3 months later . if your gonna do new construction get with a builder that spends money in the rite areas , landscaping will sell a house faster than a builder could imagine , i wish i understood there ways of thinking!!
  10. Avery

    Avery LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,389

    Here they build million dollar + homes and spend over 30K on landscaping installs. Installs for builders consist of about 90% of my business. Home owners are a PITA to deal with. Much rather deal with a contractor.

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