Estimating on landscape jobs

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by Southernlawnman99, Jan 11, 2009.

  1. Southernlawnman99

    Southernlawnman99 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 35

    How do you guys estimate your landscape jobs? Just on the plants,mulch,rocks,dirt,that type of thing. I have been giving estimates like this. On the plants 50% of retail cost & I get a 20% discount. On the mulch & dirt I double my cost. Haven't done rocks yet. Is this a good formula? Also, I always ask, what s your budget? But they seem reluctant to tell me. They just want me to give them a price. But I can't go plant by plant right? Should I tell them It's 50% of the cost of the plants for delivery & instillation?

    Southern Curb Appeal LLC
  2. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    Ah, many of times this has been discussed.

    The thing that fits into my formula is that you have to consider market value for the cost of the whole project in your area.

    I try mark up as much as possible, but then sometimes my final price looks way to large with the labor added in.

    Take for example rock. Sure, with cheap river rock I have no problems doubling the price. But sometimes I get into some high priced stuff that wouldn't fly charging 300 dollars a load.(2 tons on my truck)

    Same goes with finding rare plants other than the ordinary nursery stock.

    All in all, I figure my costs for a project, and I need to at least be double my costs to come out OK in the end, and this includes labor. Most of the time I push for my costs to be 35% of the final bill.
  3. Isobel

    Isobel LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 548

    with plants I'm usually 75-100% markup on shrubs, and 50-75% on perennials. rock is somewhere between 50-75%, and sometimes 100% if its the good stuff.

    The key, for me, is to keep in mind what the average retail price is in the area.

    I use to ask budget considerations from my clients as well, but most were reluctant to give their upper limit out. Instead I tell them that I can design something that is extravagant, or something simple, and that the difference is the price. Usually they open up a little bit at that point and tell me what they were thinking.
    For the clients who don't tell me what they are thinking--and there's not alot of these--i come up with 2 or 3 options ranging in price from low to high, and they can choose.
  4. JNyz

    JNyz LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,087

    If you just go three times all your material costs you will show a nice profit at the end of the day. I do some sub contracting work for a 10 million dollar full maintenance landcsaping contractor and they use a formula to figure out the price of a installation bid. After using the formula on my bids it came out to 2.75 times my material costs but they get a little bigger discount at the wholesale nursery. So I would say just go 3 times your material costs.
  5. paradise32258

    paradise32258 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 67

    i do the same as jnyz i try to go 3 times , but like the others also said sometimes you look at the final price and its slightly to high, i discount it a little bit and write the discount of on my taxes.. but i dont discount much.. thats your profits ..
  6. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,182

    Unfortunately you can't just use the same formula for all clients. First you need to know your clients "demographicly". Some clients will have no problem with paying a markup of 200%, while public works and some large commercial bids will have to be cut a little closer to the bone as you will be bidding against many other constractors.
    As far as avoiding customer sticker shock. I figuired out a long time ago, the best way to "ease" them into the price is to simply start with only the very basics on the bid. Sprinklers, sod, fine grade, and mulch. Everything else is broken down as an option on a seperate part of the bid. The initial number they look at will be far lower than expected sometimes. Then they can pick from the line items on the bid addendum, "Oh you would like to have that new patio we talked about, ok, here it is broken down seperately in the options portion of the bid. We will simply add that into the total". By doing this you are phsychologicaly giving the homeowner full control in the decision making process. They don't feel like they are put in a box by a "do-it-all now" high estimate. 9 times out of 10 you will not scare them and you will walk away with a signed contract. You may not do everything at once, but you will retain them for the future additions and earn their trust in the process. They won't perceive it as you "pushing" the whole project on them when you enable them to retain the power of decision. Try it, I guarantee you will be pleased with the results.
  7. Southernlawnman99

    Southernlawnman99 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 35

    This sounds like a good idea. I'm going to try this. The next estimate I do I will give the basic price & up sell from there. Thank you.
  8. JNyz

    JNyz LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,087

    This might work with some companies that can deal with profit swings. My company can not and we are use to the same profit margin on each contract.

    We believe go in with three times material cost and sell the job. Tell the client why your work will be better then other contractors, show them other contractors jobs look like a year or two later, and quality referals. Believe me you will get the jobs you want and a very good profit at the end. Don't be afraid to bid high, you will be much more happier going to the bank.
  9. Lite4

    Lite4 LawnSite Gold Member
    Messages: 3,182

    No problem, just stick with what you know on the residential side of things. Things are much different on the commercial side though because keeping your bid structure the same as residential won't get you many jobs with the cost cutting, competetive nature of things on that side. The GCs are only concerned about who will give them the prescribed product for the lowest cost regardless of sustained quality. That is just the way it is on that side of things. Stick to what you know and what you are good at. You know your business model better than I do and you know what you have to make on each job. I have found most companies in my area usually have a specialty niche. Some guys go after the commercial projects exclusively while others simply stay away all together and focus on the high end residential sector. I have found high end res remodels yield a nice profit if you can get to the right clients. Good luck this year with your biz.
  10. White Gardens

    White Gardens LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,776

    This is the concept I've been working with. I've got around a dozen customers who I'll probably be doing continual work for hopefully the next couple of years. A $1000 here, $5000 there, and I've got a little security in knowing I have clients to fall back on, and they can better afford to do work over time.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2009

Share This Page