In this post, we will suggest several recommendations you can do to protect yourself and ensure you have a fantastic building experience. Unfortunately, the construction industry has a reputation for being unprofessional and unrefined. With a little homework and research, you will be able to find the right partner.
Ask potential Landscape Contractors for referrals of work done IN THE PAST 12 MONTHS. You want to know what current customers are experiencing, and how they are being treated. When business is plentiful, too many contractors think it’s OK to burn bridges, cut corners, and do the bare minimum.
Online reviews, on Google, Yahoo, Yelp and building communities like Houzz.com are great places to look. Look for trends. Are clients thrilled, or are they frustrated? Are there a few negative reviews included? Remember that most satisfied people don’t take the time to write positive reviews, but people who are upset make sure everyone else knows about it. You can tell a lot by the tone of the negative review.
If you have concerns about feedback or negative reviews, be respectful of the Contractor and ask for their input. There are two sides to every story!
The sooner your Landscape Contractor asks for your budget parameters, the better things will be! Once your Contractor understands the budget, they can begin to steer the conversation in a direction that is realistic. Recognize that the Contractor NEEDS to know what you are prepared to invest! Be honest with them!
If you say you have $100,000.00, and you want a 20’x40’ gunite swimming pool, spa, paver patios, fire feature, lights, outdoor kitchen and trees and plants, you need to know that is unrealistic.
This is where the dance happens and it requires active participation from both parties. A qualified and experienced Landscape Contractor should be able to quickly provide Line Item budget quotes for each of the areas you are interested in. This can be written down, and once the items are added up, you can either re-adjust your budget, or prioritize features.
You will want to assess how well the Contractor knows their numbers! Contractors who have experience installing the amenities you are asking for will know what they cost. Recognize that these initial numbers are starting points, and that as Design progresses, unit costs may increase or decrease.
A final note on budget. On larger projects, it is not uncommon to start at a certain budget number, and as collaboration, brainstorming, and what-if’s are explored, that original number may no longer be relevant. As long as your Landscape Contractor is willing to provide Line Item or Unit Costs to you, you can manage the final budget.
Landscape Contractors specialize in various landscape styles, work well with a certain clientele or demographic, and have capabilities from simple to complex installations.
Many landscapers install the same project 100 times over. They use the same plants and trees, the same rocks, with similar design features. WHY? Because this is what they are comfortable with, it’s what they know. They have a comfort zone they are not comfortable traveling outside of.
A major factor in your Decision Criteria is how well your Landscape Contractor gets YOU, YOUR vision, and YOUR budget! Why would you start a relationship with someone who doesn’t understand your ultimate vision, your dream? That’s guaranteed frustration!
Ask your potential Landscape Contractor to dream with you a little, to explore possibilities and what-if’s. How do they do? Do you like their ideas or are they at a loss for words? Ask them about recent projects, and unique things they did to satisfy an owners’ request.
Certain Landscape Contractors thrive in this environment, and they get energized by the challenge. They will rise to the occasion. Ask them to visit one of their job sites, look at their social media accounts and past work. Are they winning awards, getting recognition, and constantly improving their work product? Can they adapt to the special and unique requirements of your project?
This is a hard thing to quantify and qualify, but think through this before you begin your research. What do you value? Is it PRICE, REPUTATION, RELIABILITY, CREATIVITY, ABILITY TO HIT DEADLINES, or an INTEGRATED SOLUTION? Each one of these Value Propositions will likely require a Contractor that specializes in this area.
If you want a Landscape Contractor that can provide all the Design, Budgeting, Materials Selection, Installation and Project Management in-house, you will have a limited number of qualified Contractors to vet. If you want CREATIVITY, that might mean you need to be prepared to deal with a Contractor that isn’t well organized and shows up when they want. Know in advance what you VALUE, and then interview perspective Landscape Contractors based on your criteria.