Curbside appeal is what attracts tenants. Having a nicely landscaped, well-maintained piece of property is like showcasing an interesting display window in a retail store. It’s a calling card to invite potential customers to a store — or in the case of property managers, it entices potential tenants to visit your property by creating a good first impression. Having great curb appeal “plays a major role in your ability to rent and maintain leases,” says Jesse Holland, president and executive CPM, Sunrise Management & Consulting in Albany, N.Y.
To keep a well-maintained property often means hiring landscaping contractors. Besides curb appeal, these contractors can also help ensure you meet the requirements of municipal codes, such as maximum height of grass and regular weed maintenance, adds Karyn Anjali Glubis, owner of The Real Estate Expert, a property management firm based in Tampa Bay, Fla.
Here are seven tips for property managers looking to hire a landscaping company:
1. Decide if You Should Go Small or Big
Landscaping companies are either the ‘mom and pop’ outfits or a multiple crew company. You’ll likely experience the typical pros and cons that come with the differentiation, Holland says. The bigger companies can offer lower prices, but you’ll probably get more personal attention with a smaller company. The bigger companies also tend to have newer equipment, simply because they’re better financed, Holland says. However, he adds that many large companies offer standard, cookie-cutter services, while a smaller company might be more willing to customize to your personal choices.
2. Ask for Details
To gauge the stability and efficiency of a landscaping business, be sure to consider how long the company has been in business, how often they perform maintenance on their equipment, and how they’re prices and fee structures compare to other companies.
3. See if they Have Experience with Similar Properties
"There's a big difference between a single family home and a 50-unit property," Holland says. Different property types require different levels of service, which is why he recommends researching the company’s current client list to see if it has experience working with properties such as yours. Also, websites such as Yelp or the contractor-focused Angie’s List are great resources for finding out how past clients have rated the company’s services.
4. Ask About Delays and Emergencies
Because landscaping is dependent on good weather, delays can occur easily and can’t always be helped. But it’s important to know how a landscaping company plans for those delays. Holland recommends asking: What happens when it rains? Do you get pushed back a day? How do you get back on schedule? It’s also important to know who’s responsible in the case of an emergency, such as a fallen tree, as well as the relevant additional fees.
5. Maintain Consistency
Make sure to ask if the same crewmembers will service your property every time, Holland suggests. This option is usually ideal because the regular crewmembers will be able to remember certain things, such as not using a mower on a difficult hill, avoiding a gully or avoiding any plantings that might have been installed by tenants. “Having to relearn that every time would make it more difficult and time-consuming,” he says. If it’s not possible to get the same crew every time, Holland says provide the crewmembers with a property map or create a checklist they must fill out during each visit.
6. Consider the Extra Costs of “Going Green”
There’s no question that going green is a major trend in many areas of property management, and landscaping is no exception. However, some additional green services (e.g., weeding by hand rather than using chemicals, using organic fertilizers and pest control sprays, including plant waste in the mulch rather than discarding, etc.) can be expensive, up to 10 percent more than standard landscaping. So make sure to budget and see if it’s worth the extra cost.
7. Determine the Communication Methods at the Beginning
Once you’ve decided on a landscaping company, immediately establish the primary contact at the company, Holland says. He also recommends requesting a report from the landscaping company any time it visits the property that states how long workers were there, what work was done and any issues that came up, such as an insect problem.
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