How do the inexperienced make accurate estimates?

Discussion in 'Lawn Mowing' started by billc, Mar 7, 2004.

  1. billc

    billc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 119

    I'm just starting out, and need to know how to make accurate estimates, so I'm asking you vets to reach back into your memories and let me know how you started.

    A landscaper I respect tells the homeowner he'll cut the property once for a certain rate/price. Then he'll give an estimate for the customer to consider.

    Other landscapers say they give free estimates.

    I'm leaning toward the first because it seems otherwise my estimates will be a shot in the dark until I gain experience.

    Any ideas?
  2. Shuter

    Shuter LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,171

    One of the best ways to learn, is from mistakes made. Don't sweat it too much if you make mistakes as you go, everyone does. If you are just starting out, it is wise to find out what prices your market area will bear. You don't always want to be the most expensive or the least expensive.

    Example is: if a your market area is $30.00 per cut for mowing, there is no reason to bid $25.00 to get the job, when the customer would be ready to pay $30.00. Don't lose money by under cutting yourself.
  3. alpine692003

    alpine692003 LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,502

    be like me and learn everything on the job training.

    I bid everything
  4. CNE

    CNE LawnSite Member
    Messages: 238

    Beware of asking other LCO's what their minimum is. I did and was told "we don't drop the gate for less than $35" which I think is fair for the area. I know some of them use it but there are others who I have since found out make exceptions to the rule. I wish everyone would stick together around here. So as a result, I have had to lower my minimum on a couple. About $25 is the absolute least I'll do. If it ain't worth that, let somebody else have it. Most of mine are larger jobs though. Going rate around here is about $45 per acre if it's wide open and very little trimming. I add for obstacles. Just try to decide what you want to make per hour (I try to make at least $40-45) and then guess at how long it will take you. Don't be afraid to use your first suggestion of a base price the first mow and adjust afterwards. As a matter of fact, I may do that myself. I costed myself some money last year by misjudging time. I just started last year. I quoted $50 on one yard and it took me 1 1/2 the first time I mowed it. I've gotten it down to about an hour.
  5. tiedeman

    tiedeman LawnSite Fanatic
    from earth
    Messages: 8,745

    You will learn at what is an accurate estimate. It's trial and error. Everybody has to go through it.
  6. Randy Scott

    Randy Scott LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,915

    This is the only true way of learning. That's why when people on this site ask for prices, I'd like to kick umm in the nutsack. If business was that easy, nobody would have employees because everyone under the sun would own a business and there would be nobody to hire.

    Just take your time when looking at places and in my learning curve, I found it always took less time than I originally thought. I usually bid high until I learned from doing more and more properties. Sometimes I'd look at two acre properties and think it would take 2 or 3 hours. Way high with todays equipment. Good luck and just be ready to take a few on the chin.
  7. sildoc

    sildoc LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,925

    My average lot size is 10000 sqft. When I walk up I look at trimming (how much), Is the gate big enough to get my 36' in back yard? Do they take pride in their yard? What else is there? (weeding, hedges, trees, plantings) Mowing is the easy part to figure the time for, the trimming, edging, and blowing is the part that varies. I figure prices for spring time since that is when the most growth is taking place.
    Find out what your local market can bare and then let them have it.
    Dont worry if you are a little on the high side. The ones you get you will like to go and do, if you are low you will hate it.
  8. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    Quaint as it may seem today, in years past people used to learn their trades by working for others in what was formally called an apprenticeship. Included in the information gained by actually having done the work before would be how long it takes to complete a job.
  9. noiseyvoyzey

    noiseyvoyzey LawnSite Member
    Messages: 74

    Very well spoken
  10. billc

    billc LawnSite Member
    Messages: 119

    Actually, that's not quaint at all, it's great...and it's also not my situation. If it were, I agree I should already know how to do the estimates.

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