Home Owner Associations want to see their property well taken care of. Healthy looking grass, neat and tidy flower beds, meticulously trimmed hedges, thriving trees and bushes, and well-maintained accessories such as water features are essential elements for establishing curb appeal.
The overall aesthetic of the landscape influences sales, property value, and the satisfaction of homeowners.
A lot of work goes into creating and maintaining even the most simple landscapes, let alone the more complicated vistas HOAs tend to be faced with. It’s no surprise then that just like they hire an interior maintenance team, they’d also use specialists for their exterior.
As a property manager, you should take your time when hiring a landscaping vendor. Thoughtful planning and careful research can make all the difference in finding a company with a reputation for excellent results, great value, and exceptional customer service.
Not sure where to start? Check out our top 10 questions to ask a landscaper below. We even threw in a few bonus tips for good measure.
10 IMPORTANT QUESTIONS TO ASK
- Are they licensed/insured?
When a company takes the time to build a reliable team of employees and put adequate assurances in place through insurance and licensing, it reduces the likelihood of subpar work being done and ensures you won’t be stuck covering the costs of any damages.
- How long have they been in business?
There is something to be said for longevity. Not that you should completely rule out a young company, but if a business has been able to ride the waves of time, it’s probably because they do good work.
- What is their hiring process? Do they do background checks and drug testing?
Comprehensive hiring measures typically result in higher employee retention, which means more consistent work on your yard and more personable relationships for you and the crew.
- Do they use subcontractors?
The answer to this question is not as important as why. A company may choose to use other professionals to maintain their service standards in all areas of business, especially those that aren’t their strength. Find out which services are done in-house and which ones are contracted out. To get a complete picture of their relationship with outside subcontractors, ask how long they’ve been working together? Who is the point of contact when they are on your property? Did those same subcontractors also work on the jobs given as references?
- Do they have references? Is it possible to speak to past customers?
Testimonials are a great way to determine if the company delivered on their promises, maintained quality work, handled issues in a professional and timely manner, and were easy to work with.
- What types and sizes of projects do they have experience managing? And for how long?
Experience is key. Don’t just ask how long the company has been in business; ask about their longest-standing client. Long-term relationships mean the landscaper not only gets to know your specific needs and challenges but your goals too. If they want to take their service to the next level, they’ll make recommendations based on this information.
- Are there any hidden cancellation fees upon termination of service?
How much time is required to give proper notice that you wish to end your contract?
- What are other contractual obligations written in the fine print?
Read the contract thoroughly, but don’t shy away from asking about specific terms straight up. The more upfront you are, the less chance for ambiguity and confusion down the road.
- How do they determine the frequency of their visits?
Do they come on a set schedule, or do they adjust the workload to the season and weather conditions? A more customizable option means that they are looking to provide you with what you need rather than trying to fit all their clients into a one-size-fits-all situation.
- Will they go the extra mile for you?
You want a landscaper that takes some initiative to improve the services they offer you. For example, if they notice one of your bushes isn’t going to survive, will they approach you, or will they wait until you bring it up? If a storm hits the area, will they check in with you to see if you need additional cleanup, or will they leave it up to you to reach out?
Now that you know what to ask, let’s dive into what to look for. We all know the saying, “hindsight is 20/20,” but if you know a few tricks of the trade, you can eliminate that “I should have known” feeling altogether. Below, we’re sharing a few less-obvious signs to watch for that may save you time, money, and a lot of stress down the road.
INSIDER TIPS & HIDDEN CLUES YOU MAY BE OVERLOOKING
Do the employees wear uniforms? While not a definitive indicator of the caliber of work the company does, uniforms give an air of professionalism. If the company pays attention to smaller details, like uniforms, they’ll likely do the same in their work.
What do the unsolicited reviews online say? Yes, you should still ask the company for references, and yes, you have to take online reviews with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss them altogether. Customer reviews can bring potential issues to light that you hadn’t thought of. Take what you learn from the review and allow the landscaper to explain how they rectified the situation or if they’ve made any changes to their business as a result.
Do the invoices/quotes contain minimal information. When a landscaper doesn’t provide the details of everything included in the service, it leaves a lot of wiggle room for expectations versus deliverables. If you don’t feel they are clear about what is included, ask.
How do their tools and vehicles look? When a company takes the time to maintain their assets, it’s a good indication of their overall work ethic. If you see shoddy looking equipment, workers treating tools unnecessarily rough, or oil spots under the company vehicles, you may want to reconsider working with them.
Will they read your HOA guidelines? Just like you ask your homeowners to stick to the rules, you want a landscaper that will too. Nothing’s worse than an HOA breaking their own bylaws by way of an uninformed contractor.
Are they willing to attend an occasional HOA board meeting? Inviting the landscape company to be a part of the planning will allow residents to ask questions and stay informed. Don’t expect the company to be at every meeting or accept last minute invites. Look at your yearly plans and the changing of seasons to arrange some dates ahead of time.
Beautiful landscaping is a significant investment, but HOAs know that it’s key to increasing the property’s value and attracting buyers.
The company you hire and the people they bring onto your property tells current owners and potential buyers what to expect from your HOA. The more professional they come across, the more professional you come across.
At South Mountain Lawn & Landscape, Inc., we take a team approach to working with our HOA clients. Your goals are our goals. Whether you need specialized services for certain landscape elements or a complete landscape package, we deliver our best. Everytime.
Contact us (301) 834-4628 to get started.