The familiar saying “You get what you pay for” aptly relates to the landscape industry. If you have received several bids for the same project and are seeing a wide range of prices, there are most likely a number of reasons why. Here are just a few to consider:
Inferior Materials and Workmanship
It’s very likely a low estimate will include various ways of cutting corners to reduce costs. Shortcuts can include insufficient depth of irrigation pipes, improper soil conditioning for lawn and planting areas, or low-quality materials being used. Unfortunately, the consequences won’t be seen until later when pipes freeze or plants and lawns are not performing well due to lack of nutrients or good soil. This can result in thousands of dollars spent later to correct the issues. And, unless you’re familiar with landscape construction, it’s difficult to know what kind of shortcuts bad contractors can take.
To be fair, contractors don’t always cut corners on purpose – sometimes they just don’t know any better. Not knowing a 4” deep base of ¾” minus compacted gravel is required under a paver patio may not be something they know (and you might not either, until your patio starts getting lumpy over the next several years). However, a reputable company has learned over time what works and what doesn’t. They may also have gained industry certifications that is proof they’ve learned how to install lasting landscapes that can be enjoyed for years to come.
Owner/operator and smaller companies have low overhead which helps keep costs down, but they unfortunately also lack the staffing to be able to offer great service and follow-up with warranty issues or questions about a project. You may pay extra to work with a larger company, but generally, they will be more equipped to:
- Want to meet with you and get your bid out on time. Smaller companies usually lack a designated salesperson, so that means the person you are meeting with might be pulling away from a jobsite to talk with you about your yard. They may also have a shovel in their hand when you call with questions about your bid or upcoming project. This can be frustrating for both you and the contractor, no matter how much the contractor wants your business. And, no matter how badly they want to get your bid out on time, unfortunately completing the job they are working on usually gets top priority. A larger company will typically have a designated salesperson to meet with you. It is their job to answer your questions and get your bid out on time. They don’t have other tasks or duties pulling them away from giving you the attention you need, so this makes for a much more positive experience when working through the bid process and getting questions answered.
- Hold to schedules and keep crews working at your home. With smaller companies, the crew working at your home is often the same crew that manages warranty issues for past projects and even meetings with potential new clients. Also, they may be working on multiple projects at once. This may force them to work short days or not show up at all simply because there are too many clients to take care of at once and not enough crew members to take care of them. A larger company will typically have designated individuals on staff to address warranty issues, so things can get done right away instead of maybe never at all.
Caring for Employees
Good landscape contracting companies know having happy employees results in happy customers. By offering employees a living wage, benefits, and opportunities for advancement, top talent is attracted. Plus, an amazing company culture motivates teams to produce an amazing client experience from beginning to end. Companies that abuse their employees by treating them poorly and paying them as little as possible (and maybe even under the table), may be able to keep their costs down, but their customers will feel it at some point, either in poor quality work or negative interaction with the staff. On the flip side, happy employees are approachable, care about their work and want you to have a quality landscape AND a great experience. What’s a great experience worth to you?
Licensed, Bonded, & Insured
This one goes without saying, but it costs money to do it right. Is the low-cost bid you’re considering have even the basics covered? If they don’t, then don’t go with them. You won’t be protected if damage occurs on your property or one of their employees is injured at your home if they don’t have insurance or workman’s compensation for their employees.
Experience and Reputation
The days of the slimy contractor who says they always do a great job (but rarely ever do) is over. Online reviews have changed the contracting world for the better for the consumer. Good contracting companies are constantly reviewing their online reputation and care deeply about it. Because of this, they are going to work even harder to make sure you have a positive experience in every way. Only about 3% of landscape contracting companies win awards like the Angie’s List Super Service Award and Best in Houzz Service Award, so make sure you check out any company you are considering working with online. If they have a poor reputation (or no reputation) and they’re the cheapest bid, proceed with caution! Great landscape companies may not be perfect, but a great online reputation gives you the peace of mind knowing they will make things right in the end.
Don’t Rush Me!
Great companies will give their installation crews time to do the project right. Bottom-line thinking companies that only care about profit may push their employees to rush through projects, which can save money, but compromise quality. Giving installation teams the proper amount of time to work through a project with quality and craftsmanship. Sometimes it’s difficult to know which company allows their teams enough time to do great projects, but cost can sometimes be an indicator of this.
Remember, it costs money for a landscape contracting company to be sufficiently staffed to deliver great service from beginning to end. It also costs money to attract the top talent which can deliver a great experience and the best craftsmanship. Online reviews will tell you if the company is succeeding or failing in delivering these. And, always make sure the bids are apples to apples (same materials and installation specifications). In the end, if you spend time doing your research, it’s likely you’ll make the right decision about which company to partner with for your project.
Blessing Landscapes can help you through the decision-making process. Contact us to schedule a consultation with one of our landscape professionals.