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2 Questions for the Landscape Contruction veterans

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by MJK, Nov 22, 2006.

  1. MJK

    MJK LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 356

    1. When you get a call from a homeowner and they own a new construction house or want a complete renovation of there front yard, and after talking about there ideas and yours they ask you how much will that cost? You may have an idea how much that will cost, but don't you want to give them a landscape design? So then if you do give them a Landscape design you can give them an exact price off the design, then they say the'll think about it and you never hear from them again. How to insure this doesn't't' happen? I'm not sure if i'm asking this right but i hope you guys understand. I'm confused on what to do during this whole process.

    2. How can real estate brokers help us? I just completed a job for one at his home and was wondering how i should fully use this connection. Thanks a ton guys.
  2. PaperCutter

    PaperCutter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,996

    Two ways to handle #1, I've done things both ways:

    a- you do the design, bring it, the estimate and any supporting materials to the meeting. After the presentation, roll up the plans and just leave the estimate. Advise them that if they want to keep the plans, they can pay you a $500 deposit, applicable towards the job. Otherwise, "I've had issues in the past, please don't take it personally but I have made the business decision at this point not to leave plans I've worked very hard on without some sort of financial security."

    b- what I do now is give average SF prices for a given job and ballpark what they're looking for. For example, I tell them a patio would be from $x-$x depending on material, retaining walls could be this, planting could be that... I then tell them that to be able to give them a hard number we'd need to do an in-depth design, and I quote them a design fee. Depending on your market, you may have to offer to apply the design fee towards the install if they go with you, but I don't. I tell them the design fee pays for the time it takes me as a professional to create their plans.

    The added bonus to this is people like to be consistent- if they've paid you $1000 to design their yard, they're that much more likely to then hire you (or in my case, my "preferred" landscape contractors) because they've already established an opinion of you as the best.

    Just my two pennies, for what it's worth.

  3. Mr. Vern

    Mr. Vern LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 632

    I too used to wrestle with this question, now I have a policy to deal with it. If it is a standad spec. house with a 60x40' backyard and all they want is a simple patio, sod and planter areas, I will just scratch it out in the dirt and then give them some ranges based on number of plants, etc... If it is a bigger more custom project, I let them know that we are a landscaping company and not a design company. I have a designer on staff but our business model is based on design/build, not just design. THen I tell them that we charge $120/hr. for design and that when we are done they will own the design and can bid shop if they like. I let them know that if they choose to have us do the job we will credit 50% of the design cost toward the installation. I have never once had anyone object to that as unfair. I don't make a lot of money on the design phase, but it opens the door for me to make my money on the build phase and discuourages people from using me as just a design service.
    If you are going to attempt to do this, you need to be confident in both your ability to produce good designs, and your ability to produce well documented plans that people will feel are worth the $600+ price tag. One additional benefit to this approach is that by the time the design process is complete, you will know if this is someone you want to do a landscape project with.
  4. Mike33

    Mike33 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,649

    All based on location. My area no one gets paid for a design. If you would try to charge they would go else where. In other areas as posts will appear they can do it and more power to them.
  5. Lawnmasters

    Lawnmasters LawnSite Member
    Messages: 180

    I agree with papercutter, I don't leave my hand drawn, colored designs that I have worked on for up to 30 or 40 hours depending on the size of the property. My process is this, 1) Customer calls wants to see someone about "doing something about their landscape", most of the time they don't have a clue what they want, or what it will cost. I get the famous, "how much does the average landscape cost" question all the time. 2) I will meet the customer on site, ask questions based on my experience about what will push their buttons to see what they like or don't, I get as much information as I can. 3) I go back to the office, draw a design and make another apt. 4) meet with them, show the plan, with a seperate proposal based on the specs of the plan. My proposal clearly states that the price is for THIS proposal, any changes will include extra charges, however, we are happy to do any extra work needed. This eliminates the "while your hear, can you do something" they ask expecting a little free work. If they don't make a decision on the spot and schedule the work, I never leave the plan, unless they want to buy it. I credit all the cost of the plan back to the job if they choose us to do it.

    since I started drawing nice, full size drawings, hand drawn, colored, I miss very,very few. The design just pops, people will say "ohh wow" when the see the drawing rolled out on the table the first time. If they want a copy, I will have the drawing copied in B/W and give it to them when we start the job. Oh, yeah, I also include a copyright, this plan is propery of Lawnmasters and my not be reproduced or copied statement. Not that it will stop anyone, but It may scare a few.
    My .02 Hope it helps. Go sell a few!!!
  6. Mr. Vern

    Mr. Vern LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 632

    I have found that the secret is all in how you position your company. I let people know right from the start that if they are price shopping that they will not choose us. I position our company as a very high end provider and I weed out the folks who can not afford us. That is not to say that we won't do a simple landscape job, but we won't do anything we think is ugly, and we will not cut corners in anything. Once you have a reputation for being high end, and you target your marketing to this niche, many of the problems mentioned here go away. It takes time to get there, but it is worth it.
  7. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    Mr Vern is right on and I will tell you why. His method/system is very simple easy for any one to understand. The client sees him operating a a company with a plan of action and that instills confidence. People can tell when you are shooting from the hip and if you are about to invest thousands on anything you want someone with a plan. Not someone winging it based on the conditions of the day.

    I am guessing Mr Vern is a E-Myth student.
  8. Dreams To Designs

    Dreams To Designs LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,406

    If the estimate can be given from paint lines on the ground, it cannot be very complicated. If the job requires research and drawings, then you should be paid for that work as well. I work with many installers to create upscale designs for their projects, and I get paid for every bit of design work I do. If the installer wishes to credit the design fee if they get the job, that is up to them, but all design work is paid for, 1/3 at agreement for the design, 1/3 at the presentation of the concept and the final 1/3 when the design is accepted. All the work we do as designers or installers has value. If you value your time and effort, so should your clients.

    As for real estate brokers, make sure you get some money up front and you establish a good relationship with them. Your assistance can dramatically increase the value of the properties they are trying to move as well as shorten the time it takes to move them. If a potential buyer is impressed from the curb and the outside of a home, they tend to overlook minor imperfections on the inside. Just beware, the broker is about one thing, and that is the profit from the sale, so make sure you get your money.

  9. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,570

    that's a lot of time spent on the drawing... a whole week.....
    that would be about a $2K design....
    how the heck do you recoup all that time? are your jobs really priced to recover that $2K in design fees????

    Ever think about Autocad? I can turn out an awesome looking drawing, hand colored, etc... in a few hours.

    just did a bid on a job--- $125K, and the drawing only took 8 hours.

    what size jobs are taking 30-40 hrs to draw???
  10. YardPro

    YardPro LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,570

    That is the same thing we do.

    We are in an upscale vacation area, and the people here have lots of money. We DO NOT SELL PRICE... We sell reliability, consistancy, and quality of work...
    the price is the pretty far down the list as a reason why we are chosen.

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