You’re comparing bids from landscape maintenance companies so you can decide on a company to care for your homeowners association (HOA)—a pro who can act as a real partner, and who can give you a contract that fits into your budget. Maybe you’ve been burned before after hiring a landscaper that didn’t do what was promised. (The complaints from property owners piled up.) Or, perhaps you’re simply shopping your current vendor because you want to be sure you’re getting the best service possible for your investment.
But how do you know if what the contract says is what the landscaper will actually do? Why is one contractor’s bid for HOA or condo association (COA) landscape maintenance much higher than another provider’s proposal? Aren’t they supposed to be performing the same work?
You don’t want to make a mistake because there’s a lot at stake.
Benefit: A good commercial landscape maintenance company will improve your HOA or COA property value and attract new residents who value an attractive place to live. A professional landscaper should be your single source for outdoor maintenance, from installing annuals to handling snow and ice removal—and all of the “green work” you expect like mowing, edging, pruning and cleanups. This pro is your partner.
Risk: A less qualified grounds maintenance company could deteriorate the brand image of your HOA by not maintaining its health and appearance the way property owners expect. You could end up spending more, even if the contract is lower priced, because you’ll end up fixing mistakes or repairing areas of the landscape that are neglected. And, if you need someone to handle a landscape maintenance issue right away, there’s a chance you could spend more time then you want leaving voicemails, and waiting for return emails and texts.
So, there’s a lot at risk if you align with the wrong landscape company to care for your central Ohio HOA.
And, there’s a lot to win if you hire the right professional that is a full-service landscape maintenance provider and understands your needs. Here are 5 things to know before you sing a new HOA maintenance contract.
A Property Walk-Through Is A Must
Don’t let a landscape company get away with quoting you a price for HOA or COA property maintenance with a generic proposal over email. Even the most sophisticated GPS apps that help contractors identify the square footage of a property are not enough to create a complete bid. During this walk-through is an ideal time to share your landscape needs and wants, and what you expect from a landscape maintenance provider.
>>Tip: Schedule a property walk-through so the landscape contractor can analyze problem areas, point out opportunities for enhancements, and really get a feel for the scope of work.
Talk Expectations Before Requesting Proposals
Since we’re on the subject of needs and wants—don’t initiate the RFP process until you make your expectations clear. Spend some time thinking about what you like and don’t like about your existing service. What are your goals for the health and appearance of your landscape? What snow and ice removal requirements do property owners expect? And, what projects are you considering in terms of landscape enhancements to improve your HOA grounds?
>>Tip: Build these expectations into your Request for Proposal (RFP) so contractors’ bids include the scope, frequency and services you want.
Be Specific—Scope of Work Drives Pricing
Every detail matters and impacts pricing. We suggest making a list of every service your property requires to look great through the seasons. Bids should include all of these specifications so you aren’t left paying extra for services you need. For example, one contract could include “regular maintenance” but not specify whether that also includes sidewalk edging and bed weed maintenance.
Here is a list of services your HOA landscape maintenance contract will probably include in order for your property to look its best and stay healthy.
- Mowing, trimming, edging
- Fertilizer and weed control
- Bed weed maintenance
- Spring and fall cleanups
- Aeration and overseeding
- Irrigation maintenance
- Annual color (for entry areas, in particular)
- Snow and ice removal
Time Matters—Define Service Frequency
Be sure the bids you review include frequency of service. Don’t settle for “mowing” – require the landscape company to indicate the number of times your property will be mowed at your HOA or condo association, and whether there will be a charge if it requires more services. Will the landscape maintenance provider show up on your property every week—every 10 days? Will there be a partial service rendered even if the whole community doesn’t need mowed? Make sure it is spelled out clearly, OR make sure the seasonal price is inclusive of all mowing to avoid hidden charges.
>>Tip: Frequency is often why landscape contract pricing can differ from one company to the next. You can only make a fair comparison when the service scope and frequency are accurate on all of the proposals you’re considering.
Ask About Training, Licensing and Safety
Last but certainly not least, be sure the professional landscape company you’re looking to hire actually is a professional. We put this important point at the end of this article not because it’s the last thing to consider—but because we want to leave you with this key point.
Training: Find out what training the landscape company provides its employees. Does the firm invest in its people and focus on career development? A culture of education, training and development translates to capable, skilled crewmembers who will service your HOA landscape. And, they’ll be more likely to take pride in their work and treat your property as it if were their own.
Licensing: Find out if the landscape firm you’re looking to hire is involved in professional associations, and what licensing its people hold. Don’t forget to ask about insurance, too. You don’t want to assume liability for the landscape company’s employees while they are operating equipment on your property.
Safety: Safety is always first! Be sure the company you hire has workers’ compensation in place and emphasizes safety with its people. The company representative should be able to explain company procedures and policies related to training and safety.
Before You Sign an HOA Maintenance Contract…
Get the details! And, be sure the landscape company you’re interviewing understands your culture, your goals for the landscape, and what services you expect to be delivered. Ultimately, the people working on your property—whether or not they are your staff—are an extension of your team. The landscape company that services your HOA is a reflection of your organization. That’s why it’s so important to take your time and think about these five keys to success when hiring a landscape company.
Let’s talk. We’d love to visit your property and help you find opportunities to make your HOA landscape looks its best. Contact us in Columbus at 614.888.5285 and in Marion at 740.389.6204. We care for condominium and homeowner associations in Columbus, Upper Arlington, Hilliard, Dublin, New Albany, Powell, Worthington, Lewis Center, Delaware, and Marion. You can also fill out this simple form and we’ll get in touch with you.