Landscaping entails much more than just keeping the grass green and flowers colorful. Depending on the type and size of property you manage, hiring the right professional landscaping team is critical in keeping your both your property and budget healthy. Whether you’re looking for ongoing maintenance or a short term project such as installing drip irrigation, choosing the right partner is critical. Unfortunately, there are many crews out there that over promise and under deliver. Doing your due diligence during the selection process can save you time, money and a lot of hassle.
An experienced pro who wants your business will be happy to answer all of your questions. In order to get the most accurate answers, spend some time thinking about the general goals, budget and timeline of your project before making contact. That said, many landscapers also have design capabilities and would love to use your property as their next canvas. Here are 10 questions to start the conversation:
How many years of experience do you have working as a landscaper in this area?
Nothing compares to real life experience, especially in the world of landscaping. Owning a brush cutter doesn’t mean you can manage projects, install irrigation or understand which species of grass thrive in humid, coastal conditions. Let the HOA down the street suffer through the rookie’s trial and error.
Do you have any accreditations or certifications?
Experience is great but it’s also helpful to work with someone who continues their education and keeps up-to-date with technology, regulations and popular trends.
Are you fully insured and bonded? Do you have Workman’s Compensation Insurance?
Landscaping can be a hazardous job. Accidents happen even with experienced crews; the last thing you want is any liability in the case of injury or property damage.
Do you belong to a firm or are you an independent operator?
Typically when belonging to a large landscaping firm, there’s a standard quality of work expected of the partners and if you end up being unsatisfied with the work, you may have more options for recourse.
What services do you offer? What are you the best at?
Primarily you want to ensure that everything in your project can be done. Secondly, they may offer services that you can bundle into your contract (i.e. hedge trimming or irrigation winterization). Most crews can handle the basics but if you’re looking for a stunning water feature made of natural stone, it’s best to find someone who is passionate about such installations.
Will sub-contractors be involved?
Subcontracting work is not an uncommon practice in landscaping but you should be made aware in advance if workers on your property are direct employees of your manager or not. When it comes to quality control and project communication, knowing who is responsible on the job site will save you time.
Can you show me examples of your work?
Words are cheap and pictures can be doctored or purchased from stock photo companies. If you really want to see if this landscaper knows what they’re doing, have them walk you through a couple of their past and current job sites. Ideally you’ll visit ongoing jobs to see how the crew is working as well as projects that were completed several years ago so you can see how they’ve stood up over time. While on site you may be able to chat with the property owners as well and hear about their experience.
Can you provide a list of references?
Even if you’ve arranged to visit a few sites, request a list of references as well. Ask pointed questions about what it was like to work with the contractor. Did they do everything they committed to? Did they stay on schedule and budget? Were there any surprises (good or bad)? Also do research online using sites such as Yelp or Angie’s List to see what others are saying. The list of references will likely only include satisfied customers or friends willing to say a good word.
How soon can you start? Do you have the bandwidth to complete the project by (insert need date)?
If the landscaper is experienced and does good work, their schedule probably won’t be totally clear. Have a conversation about their current commitments and when they can fit you into the schedule. If you have a specific deadline for a project make them aware and ask if they can personally guarantee hitting it.
Can you tell me more about the products and materials you use?
Are the plants locally grown? Do the hardscapes come with a warranty? Are the fertilizers you use eco-friendly? How the job is done is certainly important but it’s the plants and materials left behind that you will be (hopefully) enjoying on a daily basis.
Professional landscape management is a competitive field with lots of providers in most cities and towns which puts you in a great position. Ask for recommendations from friends and colleagues, research online and invite a few potential contractors out to your site so you can ask these questions and more before making a decision. Depending on how urgent your needs are, you can likely afford to wait until you find the perfect match for you.
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