What's the best way to estimate a potential customer's lawns (to quote them a price)?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by Darryl Goss, Jul 14, 2005.

  1. Darryl Goss

    Darryl Goss LawnSite Member
    Posts: 1

    What is the best way to bid lawn jobs? Do you do it by the square foot like this?

    1. Divide a lawn up into several pieces that are roughly rectangular, square, oval, circular, triangular, trapezoidal (4 more or less straight sides of unequal length) or other geometric shapes as appropriate.

    2. Take measurements of these shapes using a measuring wheel or a measuring tape,

    3. Use the appropriate mathmatic formula to determine the square footage of each piece.

    4. Enter each value as a positive (regular) number in a column to be added up for the total square footage when you're done.

    5. Measure, then calculate the square footage of "take-away" obstacles- large obstacles that would take away from the square footage of a piece of lawn- like big bushes over 15' in circumfrence, concrete slabs, driveways, etc..

    6. Enter the square footages of all "take away" obstacles as negative numbers in your totals column (or simply subtract them from the total square footage for all areas of the lawn)

    7. (Optional) Measure and add up the distances around all trees, fences, bushes, beds, houses, out-buildings, garages, swimming pools, gardens, driveways, sidewalks, patios, slabs, et cetera that would need to be trimmed with a string trimmer or edged, and charge x amount per lineal foot for string trimming or edging (whether or not I would wish to show this as an item on an itemized bill)

    Or, is there a faster, more efficient way to do this? (especially on irregularly-shaped, obstacle-filled lawns)

    Also, what would be a good price to charge per square foot for a new startup business in my area (Fenton, MI between Flint and Detroit)? How much should I add for string trimming and edging?
  2. charlies

    charlies LawnSite Senior Member
    from earth
    Posts: 587

    you have got to be kidding. i am great at math, but that is too complicated for me. when i first started, i used to be very concerned about being able to get it exactly right, but now, i just estimate, and tell the customer if i need to change it after the first mow. if they don't like it, tough. so....: i say estimate now, adjust later.
  3. Lawn Sharks

    Lawn Sharks LawnSite Senior Member
    Posts: 394

    I don't go nutty over it but I do use a wheel to get a close estimate on sq ft of lawn, total footage of edging and then number of trees etc to trim around. Then add in a "hassle factor" for odd shapes, hills, gates etc.

    Don't have an exact formula but over time you will sorta just be able to look at the numbers and get a good estimate based on past data. Some yards look the same but have twice as much edging. Always good to make a solid quote. I would never tell a client that the price may change after the first mow. I wouldn't do that in any business. Give a solid quote based on your experience and you will look like a professional. If they don't like the quote I just say "Thanks for letting me bid" and walk away.
  4. DaveRave07

    DaveRave07 LawnSite Member
    from NY
    Posts: 69

    I agree. This is called an estimate for a reason. The best way to find this price out is to base it upon your estimated time working. Have an idea of how much you charge per hour and guess how long it will take you to work. You will get better as you go along, make it clear the first time that your price is for the first mowing only and adjust only if the estimate is pretty bad, but base it on your estimated time working.
  5. a1 lawncare

    a1 lawncare LawnSite Member
    Posts: 153

    I roughly figure the sq.ft. subtract the house, garage, pool,etc.

    figure your price on square footage and your trimming by # of trees and linear footage of edging then

    for obstacle filled and hilly properties

    use a difficulty factor 1=1, 2=1.25, 3=1.5+

    1 level, easy, and few obstacles

    2 hills/ more obstacles

    3 drastic terrain/drastic obstacles

    anything higher than 3 keep drivin :dizzy:
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Posts: 21,653

    Yes you could bring along a trigonometric calculator which figures in the dog house as well but I've ALWAYS estimated by eye, or looks - I LOOK at the yard and sometimes walk around (usually I do) to figure out roughly what it will take.
    I've never even used a wheel but that idea is sound, you could certainly do it that way, I think if that works for you it is likely to impress the customer some.

    That's it ! Estimate = Educated GUESS

    Sure enough in the end a few are a bit under-priced but then a few are a bit over as well and it all adds out in the long run.

    Now chooguanna git complicamated massa, choo do guacha huan, but not me.
  7. out4now

    out4now LawnSite Bronze Member
    from AZ
    Posts: 1,796

    Figure a dollar a minute in the begining as a reference point. It seems to be the way most people start then it will become purely "eyeballing" it. If you actaully do have to measure a lawn for materials or such then use a measuring wheel. Some guys use range finders, I never tried that. Its a bit of a trial and error process really. Good luck and don't overthink it.
  8. Mancinioldhorse

    Mancinioldhorse LawnSite Member
    Posts: 69

    What I do is use a wheel for beds and walls for estimating linear footage for string trimming, and then just guestimate for how long it will take to mow it....make sure you do a walk around and look for stumps, sprinkler heads, anything that may cause you or your equipment grief, or things that may make it take longer to mow..such as play structures etc.

    Then let the potential customer know that this is an estimate only and the proposal and contract would be written up after the first mow, with possible changes in the amounts. It works for me....some folks take an estimate as gospel...but it isn't.
  9. zpv30458

    zpv30458 LawnSite Member
    Posts: 11

    I am only 14 but the way I figure my price is to consider what a professional would charge, and I try to beat the price, and if it's not worth it for me to beat the price then I offer what I think is fair, and if the customer doesn't like it they can pay someone else.

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