Homeowner maintenace agreements

Discussion in 'Turf Renovation' started by bigrig1, Jun 1, 2005.

  1. bigrig1

    bigrig1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    Hey all,
    I'm located in the midwest and used to have a pretty busy part time mowing business. I had 18-20 clients in the suburbs located within a 3 mile radius for about 4 years. I had no contracts, had no complaints and lost very few accounts from year to year. I was thinking about getting back in the business but this time going full time. I have no doubt I can pick up a lot of residence mowing at $35-40 per home, but I was wondering on the average, is it realistic to think I could get many homeowners to go with full maintenance type agreements that would add up to $1,200 plus per year.

    This would include doing mulching, fert. & herbicide applications, spring & fall clean up, areation, renovations, irrigation start up & shut down(subcontracted out), shrubbery trimmed, etc. This stuff is normal for commercial accounts but do homeowners panic when they see a yearly bid showing all these costs added up?

    Appreciate any responses
  2. thecolorgreen

    thecolorgreen LawnSite Member
    Messages: 50

    I would target upper end homes. Once you get into a neighborhood it will multiply. These folks have money and want to enjoy their yard not work in it.

    I would get some bids from other companies (large and medium) on your own house and family and friends houses and see how and what they charge and how they present and sell their services. Find out how frequently they rake beds, remove leaves during fall, etc, etc. This is what I've done and I've learned alot from it.

    I do lawn management, bed weed control and bed/hardscape cleanup on flat monthly price x 12 months and then bill separately for seasonal pruning.

    I live in the Northwest and even though its slow in the winter, I can stay busy doing something or another. I dont know where you are from but you can probably always find something to do (or take a vacation).

    Get to know some realitors and get them to refer you when they need a spruce up/clean up. These can be very profitable.

    Best Wishes.
  3. bigrig1

    bigrig1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    Thanks for your reply color green. This is a hard decision. I'm making around 40k at a job w/ benefits but 2-3% increases per year is not a huge motivator. As each year goes by I see alot of opportunity go with it.
  4. bigrig1

    bigrig1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    Color green,

    For a yearly agreement, how many times do you do pruning. Pruning would be new to me for a service. Of course I know enough not to prune shrubs in July & August when the heat can kill them so I'm thinking April, June, Sept & Nov. I figure the other months are either too hot to trim them or too cold and their not growing then. Am I on track or is this too many times per year?
  5. thecolorgreen

    thecolorgreen LawnSite Member
    Messages: 50

    I was in your same position last year. I had a 33k job, but with the best benefits around. I had started landscaping on the side the year before (2003) to bring in some extra money (we have 4 kids) and I got to the point where I couldn't take on anymore work unless I quit my job. Not to mention I didn't see my family much. So I left my job, we sold our house and moved into my parents basement while I build the business. I have few regrets.

    Are you still doing it on the side?
  6. thecolorgreen

    thecolorgreen LawnSite Member
    Messages: 50

    Well, I don't include pruning in my yearly agreements because theres too many variables for me to be comfortable with estimating (like how the customer wants them pruned, etc). Maybe as I get smarter and keep track of my statistics I'll feel more comfortable adding that in a flat monthly rate.

    Here's what my pruning schedule is:

    Winter– Deciduous trees/shrubs (above feezing temp.)

    Early Spring – Non blooming evergreens; vines; shearing as needed

    Late Spring/Early Summer – Spring flowering trees/shrubs,vines; needled
    evergreens; hedges
    Late Summer – Summer flowering trees/shrubs; vines; light pruning on
    anything needed to maintain shape; hedges if needed

    Depending on the customer I either schedule automacticly or call to schedule.

    I would get some books on the art and science of pruning, basic biology and go at it. Don't just shear everything. Learn to prune the 'natural' way (the way the plant wants) and you'll be in high demand.

    I've been blessed to have 2 wealthy customers who had let their yard go to hades the previous 10 years so I worked 2hrs/week working (I mean getting paid to learn) to turn the overgrown jungle into a work of art.

    I try to leave Fridays open to schedule pruning (or other side projects or a day off).
  7. bigrig1

    bigrig1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    I am not doing any of it now. I sold off my zero turn, trailer and walk behind a few years ago. So quitting my job next spring is a big decision to go from a salary to an unsure thing. I'm college educated but am not in any type of specialty; accountant, engineer etc. I'm a hard worker and know if I had a couple of good workers that I could grow a decent business. I live in the suburbs near a metropolitan area and like I said earlier, housing is strong. When I mowed part time my first season, I picked up 15+ lawns with no problem and only one was a new home. I know there is potential but It's a huge decision to do this. My wife & I have 2 little kids and we won't be selling our home or cutting down on any bills so this is a consideration as well. Basically I would still need to net my current income which after taxes is around 24k/year. We are blessed that my wife pulls in a decent salary but we still need my earnings. this business is in my blood now and its the only thing I think about doing as a career. Probably the best thing for me to do is work hard over the winter months to get enough accounts that would give me a good rolling start. My overall goal for services to provide are: mowing, fert & herbicide applications, landscaping bed maintenance, yearly muching, spring & fall clean-ups, gutter cleaning, holiday lighting, irrigation sys start up & shutdown (that I could sub out), & snow removal. Am I naive or being too ambitious?
  8. thecolorgreen

    thecolorgreen LawnSite Member
    Messages: 50

    If it's in your blood, its in your blood.

    Do you have money to invest in equipment?
  9. crawdad

    crawdad LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,938

    Do you already have any needed certification for applications? I don't know what is needed in your state, but this planning period might be a good time to get that stuff checked out. Laws might have changed since you took a break from the industry.

    Back to your original question, " do homeowners panic when they see a yearly bid showing all these costs added up?" I think a lot of people would panic, "A thousand dollars to cut the grass?" Wow!"

  10. bigrig1

    bigrig1 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 31

    I may have 15k to get me started. I'm figuring w/ used crew cab pickup, snow plow, an enclosed trailer, and mowing equip that should cover 1/2. Borrowing the other 15k shouldn't be a huge payment.

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