WTF? Is my bid that far off?

Discussion in 'Landscape Lighting' started by JimLewis, Mar 4, 2011.

  1. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    I don't get it. I'm bidding a big landscaping job for a good well, qualified customer. $1Mil+ Home in the very richest community in our entire state. It's a $30K project overall, and about $7K of that was lighting for the entire property. I've cut out the rest of my bid, but left the lighting portion of the bid here. It's attached below. It comes out to $237.00 per fixture.

    They really want to use our company. And they already told me they got 2 other bids and, as they expected, the other bids were a little lower across the board, for every portion of the landscape. We were generally a good 20% more for most items (which is about right for us). But they really wanted to go with our company and were just way more impressed with our work, experience, presentation, etc. than they were with the others.

    The only thing that stood out to them, as they reviewed the bid, was the price I had for lighting. They said one of the other guys they received a bid for was 50% of my cost. It was a Kichler system too (although I seriously doubt it was LED, but who knows?) and this guy apparently came out at around $120 per fixture. The third contractor, apparently, didn't do lighting. Because they only mentioned getting a bid for lighting from one of them.

    So since my costs were generally only a little more than these other guys on most items, they were okay with that. But since my cost on the lighting portion was DOUBLE, now they're kind of wondering how we could be so much more. Insinuating that they are getting ripped off or something. So I just got drilled over the phone as to why my system was so much more.

    Now, unfortunately, I can't see that other bid. But he did say it was approx. the same number of fixtures. He also said it wasn't an itemized bid like mine. Only that it was Kichler and approx. the same number of fixtures.

    But WTF? Is my bid really that far off? How do guys even do lighting that friggin' cheap! It just pisses me off that I might end up losing a really good landscape job - or at least maybe lose the lighting portion - because some other jerk is out there doing work at unrealistically low prices.

    Am I wrong to charge list for my fixtures? Check out my bid below and give me some feedback. Do you feel it's way out of line somewhere?
  2. JB1

    JB1 LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 5,904

    I think right now a lot of contractors are asking that question and second guessing their bids.
  3. extlights

    extlights LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 439

    Each companies price points have so many variables tied to them that it's really hard to know why the other quote is less expensive. I will say that if I were to bid it out based on just product we would be a little less expensive as well. Not half, but definately less expensive. Of course that is only based on your proposal without actually seeing the project, therefore I can't be completely accurate.
  4. ilc79

    ilc79 LawnSite Member
    Messages: 177

    Sounds cheap to me, I use Kichler and i double the fixture price wire price and the transformer price to get my total for the job thats what the kichler reps preach too, not always do i get that if it is a pretty easy lighting job no boring or gettin in trees or on roofs i will do it a little cheaper the average kichler bullet light cost me 33 dollars in a 12 pack and i charge 66 dollars on the harder jobs and if its a simple job i charge around 50-55 dollars.A 300 watt transformer is around 190 dollars for me. im in ga.
  5. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    Right. So that's kinda what I figured. This other guy must be using regular Kichler, not LED. If they're really that cheap, then it makes more sense. But you can't get the Kichler LED fixtures for anywhere close to $33 or even $66.
  6. RLI Electric

    RLI Electric LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 381

    Jim, I am sure you are awesome at what you do but I probably wouldn't buy it either. If this is exactly what your client is seeing, what is it they really see?
    Less than a paragraph of items is costing them X amount of dollars. I am going to speak more from a marketing side than a technical side here but what you are offering light fixtures (and a little labor) for 7500 dollars. I am probably wrong but they might be thinking what else can 7500 dollars get me? A deck, an above ground pool, a home theater, a small patio or maybe a kickin firepit.
    All of these things create a picture in their head. Not a list of fixtures. I am speaking for myself here. I do not talk electricity or fixtures anymore. I do not talk transformers or lamps anymore. I talk to them about the picture they are trying to create in a space. I just happen to be able to answer any technical question that arises and I will not bring it up first. This is what I see the difference between electrical work and lighting design. Notice I did not specifically say exterior. This turns our abilities into a commodity. This is the hole electrical contractors have created for themselves. Lets not do it to landscape lighting. It is too much of an art to become a time and material thing. Just my thoughts though.
  7. Mark B

    Mark B LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,020

    In my opinion, I would not list the type of fixture or the model #, length of wire, connectors, etc.... I would be afraid they could go find them on the internet and see what they really cost.

    I normally give the total of fixtures, what size tranny, then the total for the project. Most of the time for ME I got there through a referral, so they have already have seen my work..
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  8. shovelracer

    shovelracer LawnSite Silver Member
    Messages: 2,008

    Jim, I think we all know that they are not comparable bids. Even more so if someone is half how are they even considering both at the same time. A red flag should be held over one. That is like taking a printout from the kia dealer over to BMW and trying to use it to knock down the price.

    I like that you include the energy usage, but there appears to be an error. I assume you are figuring 219watts of 12v dc usage. If so the actual usage is not that. It depends on how you load the trans. You would have to measure that as it varies with your hookup. Likely it is pulling a little more, like 3 amps or 360 watts 120v ac. Then the actual cost to customer is likely different. Maybe the juice is $0.105/kw, but there is most likely delivery at 6-7 cents. A more realistic number is $0.18 coming out to around $8 month, but since 4 hours of use is very low than they might be closer to $12-15.

    Now with a comparable non-led setup they might be closer to $40 month pushing a 1200w trans.

    This could be an additional selling point that could help further separate you from the budget quote. Your system would save them thousands over its life. Sort of makes a few hundred bucks insignificant.
  9. emby

    emby LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 380

    Hey Jim,

    You have some interesting threads going here.....

    Some of the comments so far are helpful but the one that stands out the most to me is Bob's. That was a very good point of view for your business.
    Landscape lighting is not an irrigation project or a landscaping project. In my opinion you have to treat landscape lighting totally different and the first rule of thumb is to NOT price per fixture to your clients.
    You are designing with light and the fixtures and lamps are the tools that you will use. SELL the design not the fixtures. Your porposal package that you have attached does not reflect any information on design or what your going to do with light. It does not even tell me if you are lighting or tree or a shrub. What it is showing me is that you are simply selling fixtures and labour.
    If you want to be successful at landscape lighting invest in some knowledge such as attending the Landscape Lighting Institute course or joining the AOLP as they both will provide you with a wealth of knowledge so that you do not find yourself in this position ever again.
    Further more was a budget discussed with the client to begin with? This is one of the first items to be discussed with my clients and that budget indicates how much detail I can include into the lighting design. Fixtures are fixtures and when it comes down to it they are simply a tool that we use. Anybody can purchase fixtures including your clients, what they cannot buy is your personal design of their property. You have to raise the bar my freind or you will simply find yourself struggeling to make a profit selling fixtures.
    Take it or leave it I am just offering some advice to a person who appears to have some interest in the joy of landscape lighting.

  10. emby

    emby LawnSite Senior Member
    from Ontario
    Messages: 380

    One other thing to note here is that we have a rule on page one of this forum and that is NOT to post prices as this is a public forum. Its very important for the other participants in here.


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