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Landscapers are in constant demand and can be tough to keep. Here’s how to make sure that they enjoy the work and want to keep coming back, year after year.

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Earlier this year, we decided to enlist the help of a landscaper to get our property looking nice after the long, harsh winter. We thought it would be easy. How difficult could it be, after all, especially with so many landscaping companies to choose from? But soon we realized that finding the right landscaper might seem like choosing from a long list, but keeping the right one was the trick.

Landscapers are enormously busy this time of year. They are swamped with requests from homeowners for estimates, yard work, tree removal, new plantings, and a dozen other things that go along with the job. This means that they have their pick of properties to choose from when it comes to where they work. Though some areas have a shortage of landscaping professionals, most have dozens upon dozens of them, all ready to choose where they work.

So when you do find that perfect landscaper, how do you go about keeping the company year after year?

Start out by being honest and fair

What do you need done on your property? Be honest about this. You might be tempted to say you only need a quick lawn cut every week or so, as well as some basic cleaning of the flower beds. But if you live in a wooded area and forget to mention all the leaves that are going to cover the lawn in the fall, your potential landscaper might walk away from the job before you even get an estimate.

So be entirely clear from the start. Explain the condition of your property and what you expect. You can also give a budget range, and that will help a landscaper tell you whether you will be able to get those services for that particular price. When we started asking questions of landscapers, we learned that our proposed budget for the work on our property was actually about a third below what most would charge — so we had to either choose to do some of the work on our own, or adjust our budget accordingly.

Don’t change the terms

When you make plans to do something, you want to know what you are getting into. This is especially true at work, because you must budget your time wisely. Landscapers have plenty of clients, and they juggle a lot of responsibilities, not to mention the things they can’t control, like the weather forecast. The last thing someone wants is to show up on your property to do a weed trimming and learn that you expect them to weed the flower beds, too. Or maybe you want them to spend “just a minute” to plant that new shrub you picked up from the nursery.

Don’t try to milk more work out of the landscaper you hire. Make it clear what you want, and then sit back and let them do the job. If it turns out that you need more, you can feel free to renegotiate the contract, but be aware that your costs will go up. Occasionally a landscaper will throw in a small job, like pruning a tree, as a freebie because you have been a good customer. But if this happens, never take it for granted and never assume that will now be the norm.

Give them plenty of kudos

Your landscaper wants to know they are doing a job that is up to your standards. So when they do that fantastic job, make it clear that you are happy with it. Tell them how much you enjoy their work. Go a step further and put it in writing with a nice ‘thank you’ card to the landscaping service at the end of the season.

In fact, why stop there? When the crew arrives to do work for you, kick in some hospitality. Offer plenty of ice water by setting out a cooler filled with ice and chilled water bottles. Got some lemonade on hand? Offer them a tall glass filled with plenty of ice. Snacks are nice, too. Of course these are not expected by the landscaper, but they certainly do go a long way toward goodwill. And besides, it’s the nice thing to do.

Pay up promptly

When the bill comes due, pay all of it as promptly as you can. After all, they came out to your home on a schedule that suited what you wanted them to do; now is it your turn to do your part.

If you are unhappy with the landscaping they provided, discuss the work with the manager before it’s time for that final payment. And remember that if you are truly dissatisfied even after that discussion, you are free to look for someone else to handle the work in the future.

Think about the future

Finally, if you are truly happy with their work, make sure to get that contract in place for the following year as soon as possible. Once you find an excellent landscaper, you don’t want to let other homeowners steal them away!

 

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Shannon Dauphin Lee

Shannon Dauphin Lee is a journalist and occasional novelist with a serious weakness for real estate. When she's not writing, she and her husband are taking road trips to explore covered bridges, little wineries and quaint bed-and-breakfast inns in their beloved Pennsylvania.