A well-maintained landscape makes a big difference when it comes to attracting new tenants and adding value to your property. But signing a contract for your landscape maintenance—and budgeting for that maintenance—can seem overwhelming.
What should you look for when signing a landscaping contract? How can you make the most of your landscaping budget? Here are some tips to help you plan and budget for your property’s landscape maintenance:
1. Get to know your landscape company. When you engage a new landscape maintenance company, take the time to sit down with your landscape contractor to discuss how the company operates, who will be serving your account, how often they will be on your property and how they will report to you. This helps to set expectations and eliminate any surprises down the road.
2. Set a realistic budget based on your property’s needs. Every property has unique landscaping needs that are dependent on how high-profile it is, the size of the lot and any special conditions. For example, a building in a highly visible, well-trafficked location is typically going to need more maintenance (and a larger budget) than a warehouse.
3. Budget for annual improvements. Your maintenance contract is the backbone of your landscape budget, but your budget should also account for services that may not be included in your regular contract, such as liming and plant replacement. A good rule of thumb is to budget an additional 20 to 30 percent on top of your maintenance contract for these annual improvements.
4. Plan for the long term. The average life cycle of plants and trees is 10 years, factoring in disease and storm damage. Work with your landscape contractor to plan for the replacement of plants as needed, and factor these additional costs into your budget.
5. Involve your landscape contractor in the budgeting process. Factors such as weather, labor and material costs will affect your total landscape costs. Include your landscape contractor in the budgeting process so you have all the information you need to make informed decisions.
6. Review your maintenance contract carefully. A thorough contract should list all the services necessary to ensure your landscape always looks healthy, such as mowing, lawn fertilization and pest control, spring cleanup, mulching, tree and shrub insect treatments, leaf removal, and edging and trimming. Some contracts also include aeration and overseeding.
7. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Before you sign a maintenance contract, talk through every aspect of the agreement. Make sure you understand what is covered and what is not. For example, most maintenance contracts don’t cover plant replacement, seasonal color, snow removal, special projects and repairs. If these services are important to you, talk with your contractor about what it would take to add them to your agreement.
8. Know your service schedule. Make sure your contract includes a calendar or list of services with a timeline. It should detail approximate times of the year when you will receive each service.
9. Track the costs. It is helpful to have a contract that estimates your costs by line item for each service. This can help you stay on budget throughout the year, and if there are extra costs, your landscape professional can tell you exactly which services are going over budget.
10. Think strategically. It’s easy to get caught up in cutting costs, but keep the bigger picture in mind when making investments in your landscape. This long-term approach is generally more cost-effective than one-off fixes like replacing a tree here and there.
Your landscape company should serve as a trusted partner to make sure your property’s landscape is well-maintained and healthy.
By keeping the lines of communication open, working together to create—and stick to—a budget and having a solid contract in place, you can ensure your landscape always presents a polished, professional look that represents your business well.
Missy Henriksen is vice president of public affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals.
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