Which is easier to acquire; 1/4 acre lots or 1 acre+ lots?

Discussion in 'Starting a Lawn Care Business' started by green-pa, Oct 6, 2007.

  1. green-pa

    green-pa LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 737

    I was just checking to see what I should focus on for next year. I'm sure i'll be happy with whatever I add to my list of clientel now, but I'd really like to get more large accounts since most of mine are less than 1/4 acre. I'd like to get more wide open places where I can make more money without having to make so many stops. I figure I can make on 1 acre propery what I charge for like 3 1/4 acre properties and it wouldn't take me much longer. It would also be a nice reason to be able to sit instead of stand/walk and invest in a Z. But perhaps I'm just wishing for too much.

    I just want to know, is it more difficult to find large 1 acre+ properties or more smaller 1/4 acre properties and in that range?
  2. NC Greenscaper

    NC Greenscaper LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 447

    Nobody's ever happy! I have bigger lots some multi acre and I would rather have many smaller to make more money. What gives?
  3. corey4671

    corey4671 LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,931

    exactly. I have mostly larger lots..acre or more. Have a handful of 1/2 and 1/4 acre lots and one particular 1/4 acre that everytime I mow it I wish I had 50 more just like it! 1/4 acre takes around 20 minutes and pays my minimum charge $30. $90/hr.
  4. ed2hess

    ed2hess LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,596

    In our area more guys cutting big lots with big equipment so prices are lower. Get more money for smaller lots.
  5. green-pa

    green-pa LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 737

    Oh, well, maybe I could still use a Z sometime next year on some places. I just don't want to invest in a 60 inch Z unless I have at least like 6-7 1/3-1 acre properties. And even then, that would only probably justify getting a used one. I'm thinking a new one, like a Scag Turf Tiger or something is probably like $7,000+ right? Could I get a nice used 60 inch Z for around $3000; I mean if I find a nice deal? Is it possible? And do Z's last longer than Wb's?
  6. topsites

    topsites LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 21,653

    The 60" Warrior is 8,500 new, you might get a nice used one like it for around 4-6g or thereabouts, the problem is finding one... You won't find many established Lco's wishing to part with theirs so long it's in any kind of shape, and the ones that are being sold still in good shape have a loan attached to them which affects the price because the owner is still obligated to pay that off...

    I would plan on using the Wb's as long as you can stand it, they're highly efficient in terms of dollars / hour, they're just about as comfortable so long you have a velke, and most of the guys don't usually get into a Z until somewhere in their 5th-8th year... It's just that thing, those of us who like to do this long-term realize we have to have the horse in front of the cart (translation: enough money in the bank to cover the entire mower so IF one gets a 0% interest loan one can put it on auto-pay and not worry about it, or pay for it outright and be done with it).

    As far as which lasts longer, shoot, a Wb can run 10-15 years, some as long as 20, might need an engine or a transmission at some point in time but afaik most of us run them till the wheels fall off... Would a Z last longer? Probably not, maybe about the same.

    You're getting there if you have 3g cash to spend, I'd consider a new Wb first, get a 44-48" and you'll see how that really cuts ahead of that 36"... Plus the 48" is designed for lots 1/4 - 1 acre in size, it's the sensible upgrade, you don't just go from 1/4 acres to acre+, it doesn't work so good, do it one step at a time and I think you'll be better off.
  7. Patriot Services

    Patriot Services LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 14,506

    It really depends on the area you are in. All my accounts are in residential developments. A 1/5 to 1/4 acre site is standard, plop your usual 2000sf house and a pool or landscaping and you have very little open area to cut. Most yards of this type have a 36" wide gate to add to the fun. This is why there has been a dramatic increase in the number of 34" to 36" ZTR entering the market. There is just no sense to having a big ztr and trying to cut these size props. Constantly juggling the machines on the trailer is a pita and eats up valuable time. :usflag: :usflag: :usflag:
    ericg likes this.
  8. green-pa

    green-pa LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 737

    THanks Topsites! I've only got 1 property over an acre now and one other that is about 1/2 or 1/3. The rest are sub 1/4 acre lots. It makes a lotta sense what u are saying. I didn't realize that WB's can last just as long as Z's.

    SNAPPER MAN LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,443

    Why invest in a larger mower just take the time with a 36" and get a stand on so you can mow in 5th gear. Just my opinion.
  10. brucec32

    brucec32 LawnSite Platinum Member
    Messages: 4,403

    I'm sure it varies by area of the country, but in my experience (15 yrs) you make more per minute of work on-site on smaller properties. For example most people are ok with paying $35/visit for a 1/4 to 1/3 acre property to be mowed. But go to 1 1/2 acres and they are not going to pay much more than $100. Time on site on the former might be 30 minutes for one guy. Time on site on the latter 2 hours. Of course up north there is likely less edging to do on a large property and they tend to be flatter, more open, and have less trim work for the relative size. You really have to estimate total time on-site to know for sure.

    The idea of sitting on a ztr more is appealing. But in my experience it all works out to how much "work" it is and just about evens out.

    I will say that large lots may tend to have less shrub and weeding work relative to the size, so if you want to avoid that go big.

    But conversely, I have had several tiny lots where I'm there 15-18 minutes and people happily pay $25. My worst payers per-minute of time on site have always been the above 3/4 acre lots. But it may vary.

    As for obtaining them as customers, here there are about 10x as many smaller lot homes who want their lawns mowed. I figure that is because the large lot owners just buy a tractor and sit on it, whereas here the small lots cannot be mowed neatly with a lawn tractor, especially the Bermudagrass ones. Too many turns. And above really tiny the 21" won't cut it either.

    The majority of rural large lots seem to be owner-mowed. It just makes sense. It costs more to have a pro do it, and they may not have the busy corporate lifestyles. But again, it varies by region.

    The advantage we have over a home-owner or low-baller operation is investment in advanced mowers, and to me it seems that advantage is biggest on medium sized lots (bigger than 21" can handle but smaller than lawn tractors do best) where the zero turn ability lets us rock and roll.

    Finally, very large lots are rarely kept to a premium standard. It is just too expensive to mow, fert, aerate, and treat the weeds on such a large area. Unless it's a real "estate", they are usually just weed grasses. So cut quality may matter less and you may find yourself underbid by a butcher who the customer doesn't mind at all in return for the lower price.

    I avoid truely large props for fatigue reasons. I do best spending 1 hour max on site. After that it sucks.

    You also will need a large (and pricey) 60" plus deck mower to be price competitive on a large prop. That mower may be too heavy and large for your smaller props. Decide if the investment is worth it. There's money to be made on all of them.

    If you have employees, go large since it results in less "seat time" spent in between jobs, fatigue matters less, quality often matters less, mistakes are not as noticeable, and the solo guys may not be as competitive since they want more per-hour of labor than your guys cost you.

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