Entire subdivision with a reel mower?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by E&MLandscapeServices, Apr 24, 2006.

  1. E&MLandscapeServices

    E&MLandscapeServices LawnSite Member
    Messages: 40

    I've been asked to submit a bid for a 'commercial' residential account. Basically, its a small subdivision (25 homes) and each homeowner pays an annual fee to the Homeowner's Assn for maintenance of their front yard. They hire a company to mow (nothing more) the front lawns and keep up the entrance to the subdivision (mulched shrubbery). I know they each paid $700 last year for this service - I dont know if they would be willing to increase their payments or not ($17,500/year total).

    They currently have someone doing the work but his contract is up at the end of May. Several homeowner's have complained and want their lawns mowed with a reel mower because they have Bermuda grass. They also dont want 'heavy' ridden mowers on their lawns. A friend of mine suggested they contact me for a bid at their Homeowners Assn meeting last Thursday.

    Even though it will be more work with a reel mower, I am certain that I can gain additional business from some of the homeowners for their back lawns as well. If I play my cards right - about what percentage of the homeowners do you think will sign contacts for their backyards as well? Has anyone been in a situation similar to this?

    Suggestions for a reel mower? Brand/cost/etc...
  2. treemeat

    treemeat LawnSite Member
    Messages: 46

    I've seen a lot of used reel mowers on EBAY . . . seem to go pretty cheap compared to rotary mowers.
  3. The Kiwi Lawn Ranger

    The Kiwi Lawn Ranger LawnSite Member
    Messages: 34

    I have two clients I mow for that I use a reel (cylinder) mower on , Mine is a Jacobsen 32" I got second hand form my local golfclub.

    The Lawn Ranger
    Taupo New Zealand
  4. E&MLandscapeServices

    E&MLandscapeServices LawnSite Member
    Messages: 40

    I could get a gang reel mower and pull it but they dont want 'heavy' equipment on their lawns... This one is $2635 - has an 8 foot mowing width....

    I could get a couple of these... but thats a lot of pushing

    Has anyone dealt with a Homeowners Assn on maintaining a subdivision - I realize it depends on who is in 'power' in the Assn while you have the contract but I wonder how difficult they will be to work with. It will probably be easier than working with each individual homeowner, right?
  5. mike lane lawn care

    mike lane lawn care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,707

    what about a self propelled reel mower?
  6. mike lane lawn care

    mike lane lawn care LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,707

    or, if it's toom much to push, then say, "hey, it's not possible for me or any other LCO to do this, i have to use my mowers".
  7. dcgreenspro

    dcgreenspro LawnSite Senior Member
    from PA
    Messages: 688

    if you are going to get a reel mower, check local golf courses for old ones. My old boss is giving two 36 in. away. Secondly, talk to a golf course mech. to do pm maint on the mower. reel to steel, blade sharp, oil change, grease. it will def. pay off. gl
  8. E&MLandscapeServices

    E&MLandscapeServices LawnSite Member
    Messages: 40

    Well, I cant say that to them - I've been in business about a week and only have 15 other residential contacts (and 1 commercial contract starting in June). These 25 homes will be a big part of business for me right now until I grow some...

    I've looked at the gas reel mowers - they dont seem to be too much. Has anyone had any experience using them?

    I need to determine how many man-hours this will take each week to determine if I can do it without additional help. The lawns are pretty much cookie-cutter - all are approximately 125' x 75' with a few trees, hedges, etc. All have double driveways and a sidewalk so that eliminates some green space. Basically, we have 2 days per week to mow these lawns - Wednesday and Thursday.
  9. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    The reason they are so cheap is because they are so much smaller 17"-27" is about all you will get without going into golf course territory. They also take a good even lawn to work well, and they are more expensive to maintain. Most people wont spend the money up front to get a good one, they buy the belt driven McClains, Don't cut the grass for 2 weeks and then burn up the belts trying to get a mower set at 1" through a lawn that is 2"-3" tall.

    I use mostly reel mowers. Costs about 60-80 to get one sharpened. They don't pick up debris well. You hit one rock and they will not cut right until sharpened or at least adjusted. Blades and bed knife must match exactly. The blades are exposed so they can be dangerous for employees. 1800-$$ for a new 25" tru cut. With all the pain, they give the best cut,(reel mowers in general) and if you take care they will long outlast a rotary. I have 2 that are over 20 years old, great cut.

    Then there is the lawn, it must be flat or at least transition evenly, they scalp very easily.

    I would be surprised if they are willing to pay for the extra expense or time, but you also will have little competition. I figure at least 10% more time to mow with the reels after you have cleaned the area. We clean the turf first, check for rocks and twigs, pick up leaves etc. I sharpen mine once a month.

    I love the reel cut nothing better.
  10. Az Gardener

    Az Gardener LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,899

    I would stay away from a commercial golf course mower unless the lawns are very flat, they propel themselves with a drum or roller. The better homeowner models are driven by large wide wheels so if you get a little high in the center the cut is still ok. They are a little more forgiving is the best way to put it. Tru-Cut, Trimmer are about the only ones I would reccomend. Trimmer is the best.

    Also it is a lot more to sharpen the golf couse mowers. Around here only one place besides the courses will do it and they are far away and I'm at the bottom of the list so its 10 days to two weeks to get them back if they are not busy. Do you really want a mower that had been used commercially? Golf courses have the most resources to keep those things productive if they can't keep them productive how could we?

    With obstacles they are a pain, the catcher sticks out in front, if the trees have surface roots you will be bouncing over, topdressing or scalping tree roots. You cant get into corners unless their is room for a catcher to hang over. If the drives/sidewalks are level with the turf it is great, if not a pain. Too high scalp, too low weed eating for 6". I will try to post some pictures later in the week.

    Still, they do give a beautiful cut but its not a poor mans game.

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