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What Do You Charge For Fall Cleanups?

Discussion in 'Landscape Maintenance' started by Right Touch, Nov 17, 2008.

  1. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Posts: 4,403

    Just blowing leaves into the woods (more than a modest amount or way into a real forest) sounds like a good way to guarantee continued business, as many will just blow back in!
    It can also be pretty time consuming, and pretty frustrating if there's any kind of wind at all. On most properties I'd have to either mulch or bag them.

    I'm just glad I can mulch em. I had a daunting batch at one really tough 1/4 acre lot last week, the kind of place full of leaf traps everywhere and with neighboring homes so close you couldn't just blow them anywhere but into the lawn. There were so many in the beds under some trees I was having to wade through them to spread them out enough for my bp blower to handle. After I blew the beds out I had a waist high mess in spots Even the PB 750 wouldn't move them any further, so I ran the lazer through them a few times blades off to spread the piles into the lawn, then turned the blades on and mulched them up, reversing when they got piled up in front, and was really amazed that they were reduced to powder in a few passes (1st pass at transport height, then lower height as the leaves got small enough not to ride up over the deck). I then blew the remaining fragments to disperse them and yes, you could tell there had been leaves there if you looked for them, but from the windows of the house or any angle besides right above them it looked pretty darn close to vac'd. And with more leaves left on trees it wouldnt make sense to do another pass with a 2nd mower to vac them up. I kept thinking while doing it that I really owed the engineers at Exmark a thanks for actually spending time on their mowers' mulching ability. This was much bigger volume mulching than I ever try to do on purpose, but it had been 9 days a lot of leaves leaves fell. I didn't have a bagging mower with me so it was good the Exmark did its thing so well.

    The best/worst thing is, it took just 50 min longer than a simple mowing, and the vast majority of that was dealing with the nooks and crannies and getting them out from some dense shrubs and other plantings. Another similar (probably easier) round in December and they're done for the year. That's $100 to get all the leaves cleaned up. I'm probably leaving money on the table doing it this way, but customers seem to really like the value and since I hate walking around blowing leaves or tarping them I'm fine with it. It has taken years to perfect the technique and realize what works and when, but I would suggest that you not get wedded to any single technique.

    I did my 2 acre home lot in 3 hours, (not all of it, just the landscaped areas) , and due to having more room to spread the leaves over, it looked vac'd. Of course 2 days later after wind and rain it's got a nice even coverage of leaves on it again. But I'd be sick if I bagged that many leaves and it was a mess again in 2 days.

    And btw, my hourly rate for this is $60. It should probably be higher but past a point people are going to balk as I do reveal that rate to them up front.
     
  2. pbrad

    pbrad LawnSite Member
    Posts: 72

    i charge $50.00 each time im there and then $25.00 for desposial
     
  3. Perfect Image TLM

    Perfect Image TLM LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 267

    All in one clean up... $60 per hour, 2 hour minimum + dump... Mini clean ups with a grass cut... cut and a half (only mulching the leafs)
     
  4. thomaslawn

    thomaslawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 88

    Well That just sucks.
    I have much better luck doing clean-ups for a flat fee.
    If you charge per visit or hourly you can and probably will lose money


    It all depends on the customer and your ability to determine a correct rate prior to completing a service. I have never had an issue with a customer complaining about a clean up bill. A good majority of our properties have numerous mature trees and require 3-4 cleanups per year. Doing it this way my customers are not hit with one large cleanup bill.
    The services are billed out monthly, so for example we did $300 worth of work in October, it is billed in October. Maybe anither $300 in November, biilled at the end of the month. That's a total of $600, for cleanups, leaves basically. A customer would have a hard time believing me that there is $600worth of cleanup work needed to be done if I presented him with a pre-service quote. However, once they see how much work is actually done over the course of a few months they understand the rates and do not complain.
    Bottomline: It's all about knowing your customers: if a customer is a cheapass throughout the year (and trust me you can read this in a person by simply having a few conversations with them) I have found it better to stay clear of providing additional services because I know I will have a hell of a time getting what is deserved. You mentioned your customer stated "my last guy did it for..." that's a red flag, get away asap. It's your business you know what it takes to be profitable.
     
  5. Middle Tennessee Lawn

    Middle Tennessee Lawn LawnSite Member
    Posts: 220

     
  6. JMK26

    JMK26 LawnSite Senior Member
    Male, from Missouri
    Posts: 517

    Since this was resurrected....

    Right Touch, you ever get paid from that guy?
     
  7. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,984


    The problem is you told them though you did not explain it to them.

    When people are being sold many a LCO will say: THE COST TO DO A FALL CLEAN UP IS $45 A man Hour.

    Never stating clearly how many hours they will be charged or how many people will be in the crew.

    Also being told APPRXIMATELTY once every two weeks when turns out to be more frequent then that you will get kickback from the customer when they get billed for 6 visits when they were left to think you would be coming for 4 visits.

    Last cleaning leaves whether using a rake or the latest blowers, vacs, etc. People do not see the any skill or the expense needed to a clean up.

    I know this is an old post. Though whether $45 or $60 an hour people do not see raking leaves on the same level as doing brain surgery and will think they are getting robbed at those hourly prices.

    This is why clean ups need to be priced by the job not the hour.

    Three men show up to do a clean up and are there for two hours and the customer is billed $360. The customer is happy the job got done and the place looks great. Price sounded reasonable to them. And, they do not stop to do the math the they were charged $60 a man hour.

    People that charge clean ups by the hour are afraid to lose money on a job. Not charging enough is part of learning the business. I took such a bath on my first clean up that years later I still can't get dirty. :laugh:

    There are some landscaping jobs that need to be done by the hour because the scope is too wide to even get in the ball park.

    Things as mowing, aerating, fert, cleanups, people expect you to be the expert and have the knowledge to come up with a accurate estimate.

     
  8. 32vld

    32vld LawnSite Gold Member
    Posts: 3,984

    Also told them you would visit 4 times and you only show up twice. Timed out. Would not let me edit.
     
  9. PerfectEarth

    PerfectEarth LawnSite Bronze Member
    Posts: 1,735

    We do a lot of leaves. We charge by the hour and that rate for typically a 3 man crew is 130.00 an hour.

    When people call, they ask how we handle Fall clean-ups and this is what I say - "We typically do leaf removal by the hour… This includes our crew's labor, all blowers, mowers, and equipment. We remove your leaves with our incredible vacuum truck and haul off the leaves. We blow off all surfaces, lawn, decks, patios, pool area, and landscape beds. We do charge a small dump fee for the leaves we remove, and this is based on that amount. Could be 15.00 or as much as 35.00…. Also, we do bill strictly to the quarter hour, so as to not run up the charges. We work very fast and we'll end up saving you a ton of time! Would you be interested in getting on the list?"

    And 8/10 times, the job is sold. Sometimes people balk, but most of the time that little speech is enough for the sale. We are just being honest.

    This also saves me a ton of time from running around to look at 50 different leaf jobs. And we also explain that we price this way due to weather conditions and other factors (wind, wetness, leaf coverage, tarping out of tight areas, etc…)

    And ALSO, if people want a ballpark, I say our typical residential yards run around 200.00…. but many are less than that (150-180) and but some can reach 4-500.00 for larger properties.

    Been doing it this way for 3 years now and all has been fine. It's a price-point that is comfortable for us and the customer. Any less, we're taking a beating. Any more, and we are not getting leaf work. There is a cozy area.

    But to say NO hourly… that's not absolutely correct IMO.
     
  10. Roger

    Roger LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 5,916

    Sorry to disagree with you on this point. I believe the reverse is true. Despite seemingly uninterested and absent from the scene, I have found most know very closely the time involved. And, yes, most are good enough for second grade math: $$$ofjob/timeofjob = hourly rate.

    I chuckle when I read so many posts, "Don't tell them an hourly rate, that will scare them off, just give them a job rate...." This presumes the customer is incapable of doing second grade math, which I believe untrue. Nobody is fooled.
     

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