Estimating Landscapes

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by jwholden, Apr 11, 2003.

  1. jwholden

    jwholden LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 218

    OK guys. Here's one.

    When you get calls to do landscape design work how do you go about letting the customer know what the job is going to cost? Do you shoot from the hip when you first talk to them and go high or make them wait until you give them the estimate for the work. I have gone both ways and sometimes I shoot from the hip and come back high and look really stupid. Just curios what you guys do.

    P.S. I don't want anyone to bid a job for me. Let's stick to how you go about the bidding process.



  2. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    I figure out everyhting and give them a written estimate.
  3. Lanelle

    Lanelle LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,361

    Determining a suitable budget for a project is part of the initial meeting/qualifying process. Giving an estimate is a detailed, written proposal to do certain work for a certain price. If the client faints when you talk about budget then maybe they aren't ready for the estimate.
  4. Mike Bradbury

    Mike Bradbury LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 492

    You asking them how much money they want to spend on the job has to be in the first discussion. What's the point in giving them a knockout $5000 plan when they only want to spend 3k?
    Most important things: 1) What is important to them - listen for keys, low maintenance, year round color, whatever, ASK them what they want.
    2) Ask them how much they want to spend.
    3) Ask them when you can get back together to present your ideas.
  5. GarPA

    GarPA LawnSite Silver Member
    from PA
    Messages: 2,585

    ITs no secret to those of us who do a fair amonut of 'scaping that you can get your chiained pulled in many many ways. Often, people are looking for free ideas and work you along only to say "I'll think we'll do it ourselves."...yeah right. I have a formatted list of questions I ask of anyone, be it mowing, barking, scaping, whatever....when they call me. I tell them that in the interest of their valuable time, and mine, would they mind answering a few questions about the project/mowing/whatever. After we go thru the few questions, and if there is some degree of reasonable info, I give them a very wide dollar guesstimate of what the project might cost. Forexample, install 5 beds about 10 x 10 with 5 plants in each bed. Obvioulsy this job will have three ,000's on the end of it. So I tell them this might be in the range of $1000 to $2000. If they gag at that point, fine, I've just saved travel time and the time to do the least for me this has worked. Every call I get, I try to 'qualify' the customer...this has worked least for me. Has saved me countless wasted non-billable hours....just my opinion
  6. paponte

    paponte LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,366

    I could not agree more with that statement. Some people are a little hesitant to give you the price they want to spend, in fear that you are going to charge them that amount and they are not really going to get what they are paying for. What I say in return is that if they were to get 5 different people in here, they are guaranteed to get 5 different prices. I could bid their job at $2K or at $20K. If I say $20K am I ripping them off? No I am just giving them more than what they are looking for. :cool:
  7. AGLA

    AGLA LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,778

    I guess that I am lucky. I work for a company that is known to have upscale only clients. I never discuss budgets up front. It is determined by what they want in the landscape. If the proposal is too high, we eliminate things or reduce sizes. It is seldom an issue.

    Very seldom are we bidding against someone for a job... when we do we do not get it because we are not competitive in a pure price sense.

    We are usually selected because we were recommended or they know jobs that we did. They are pretty well sold on having us do the work and then having us design and build it.

    We try to give them everything they want first and let them decide that they need to take things away if it is too much money. In the end, they usually wind up adding the things that they had dropped earlier. It must be nice.
  8. jwholden

    jwholden LawnSite Member
    from CT
    Messages: 218

    There's no doubt that a word of mouth reference is always the best way to get work, and I do get some work this way. However, to try to stay ahead of the economy I have done some advertising in a local paper and am getting cold calls. When on the phone I always discuss the project and just try to get the people talking. I can tell a lot about a person after talking to them a couple of minutes and listening to their opinion of the project.

    I have been charging a design fee for my time. Frankly, it's not enough, but if they don't want to pay the design fee they wouldn't have hired me anyway. Time saved. I honestly try not to discuss price too much when I meet but I do present the estimate in pieces so they can hack away as much as they want. If they choose not to use me they have a very professional plan and the contact with me that leaves a positive image if they ever have trouble with the company they chose instead of me.

    I just presented three estimates and got the one that came out to be over what I guessed at the initial meeting. I was pretty excited! I presented the entire plan and then explained what I could take away to get back under budget. Funny, but this customer was the reason I made this post.

    Anyway, any additonal discussion on the bidding process is greatly appreciated.


  9. ParkerLawn

    ParkerLawn LawnSite Senior Member
    from KY
    Messages: 512

    I am with ALGA, I speak with the customer about their interest and then go and do a proposal and talk it over with the client and decide if this is what they had in mind or we take out some if needed and even add plants alot of times too. I am also dealing with mostly higher end clients where money is not as much as an issue as presentation of their home is. I have several clients that give me full freedom to do whatever I think needs to be done at anytime. These are the best kind of clients to get, but you must always be honest and keep the customers interest in mind and not take advantage of the situation. I have found alot of customers dont like to talk about what they want to spend upfront but you also need to be able to read people so you don't waste your own time.

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