You have your heart set on upgrading your landscape but you know that the work is beyond your meager ability. Here are some things to consider when selecting a professional landscape firm to do the work for you. |
Everyone wants a nicer landscape but few of us have the time to devote to doing it ourselves. Here's where a professional landscaping service is handy.
The following are the simple but the most important points that you have to consider while choosing a landscaping firm.
Look around for inspiration
Write down any ideas you may have on a piece of paper. It sometimes helps to make sketches. You can also find ideas online or by getting inspiration from a neighbor's yard. After that decide on the things that you want in the landscape like patios, pools, vines, trees, colors etc. Now you can start looking for a landscaping company. Don't worry if you still don't have any landscaping ideas, the landscaping company can help you with that.
Make a list of the landscaping companies
A list of local landscaping firms can be found in your town's yellow pages. You can narrow down the search by getting referral from friends and checking with the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau. The rule of thumb is to go with the firms who have been in business the longest. Also make sure to check to see if the firms you are interested in interviewing have any trade certifications. You will also need to make sure that the firm is licensed and bonded.
Interview the prospective firms
There is no reason to hurry the process. After all, your goal should be to end up with a beautifully landscaped yard and to not break the bank in the process. To that end, it is best to interview at least three firms who have made the short list that we ended up with in the step above.
Set a time to met with the contractors one at a time. If you are going to interview more than one company in a day, you will need to allow at least 3 hours between appointments.
During the interview, you will need to do the following:
1. Share your ideas if you have any.
2. Make a formal 'plan' upon which the firm can base their estimate. The firm will later present you with a diagram of how the landscape will look when it is mature.
3. Get a time line on how long it will take to complete the landscaping.
4. If your landscape will require subcontractors like a pool contractor, make sure that the landscaping firm will act as the contractor so you will only have to deal with one firm.
5. If you plan to have the landscaping company also handle the maintenance, you will need an estimate for year-round care that will include mowing, trimming, fertilizing, taking care of the hedges, flowers and shrubs, mulch, edging, etc.
6. A provision for a warranty. You need to make sure that the company will stand behind their work and guarantee their plants and workmanship.
Compare the offers
After the interviews are over, sit down and compare the offers you have received. Remember that while cost is an important aspect of the bidding process, it must be balanced against the quality of the work. I know of several firms that can do a poor job for next to nothing.
The value of landscaping
Here are some interesting facts from the American Nursery & Landscape Association (http://www.anla.org/)
- Landscaping can add between 7 and 15 percent to a home's value. Source: The Gallup Organization.
- Homes with "excellent" landscaping can expect a sale price about 6 to 7 percent higher than equivalent houses with "good" landscaping, while improving landscaping from "average" to "good" can result in a 4 to 5 percent increase. Source: Clemson University.
- Landscaping can bring a recovery value of 100 to 200 percent at selling time. Kitchen remodeling brings a 75 to 125 percent recovery rate, bathroom remodeling a 20 to 120 percent recovery rate, and addition of a swimming pool a 20 to 50 percent recovery rate. Source: Money Magazine.
- A mature tree can often have an appraised value of between $1,000 and $10,000. Source: Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers.
- In one study, 99% of real estate appraisers concurred that landscaping enhances the sales appeal of real estate. Source: Trendnomics, National Gardening Association.
Get financing if needed
Take the offer to your local bank or credit union. A finance officer can best advise you if the value of the work is worth the cost in the bank's estimate. If you have equity in your home, the bank may cover 100% of the cost of the improvements.
Sign the agreement
For your protection and that of the landscape firm, you will need to sign a contract. I would suggest that if the value of the contract is over $5,000, have an attorney look over the wording to make sure that the landscape company is bound to do what you expect.
I know the process seems arduous but the pay off is enormous. Once the job is done, you can look out on your newly landscaped surroundings and be proud of a job well done.
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