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Subject: How to deal with lawn care bids
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RobertW31
(New York)

Posts:20


01/15/2019 10:21 AM  
We are currently sorting out bids for Lawn Care for our HOA. We have 3 bids one of which is way more costly than the other two and will be ruled out because of that and no experience with HOA and inexperienced supervision.

The other two are $11000 apart and in all other respects appear to be similar.

The board and 4 residents will be reviewing the bids and deciding who to interview and what questions to ask.

As the board president I want to give maximum input to all. My feeling is that we ought to interview the two low bidders.

When we do that I am looking for suggestions for questions and before we interview we will be checking references.

We have several requirements which both have indicated they will meet.

The bid is for a two year contract.

One of the questions I have in mind is if there is any way they can lower their bid. Other than that I am open for any suggestions for questions.

Thanks.

JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8267


01/15/2019 10:36 AM  
Ask them for references from associations similar to your own. Contact the references.
RichardP13
(California)

Posts:3512


01/15/2019 11:03 AM  
In addition to John's suggestion, you might want to read up on your Bylaws. The majority do not allow for contracts longer than 1 year.

Been there, Done that
AugustinD


Posts:1576


01/15/2019 11:15 AM  
-- Inviting the two low bidders for in-person interviews, then asking them if they can lower their bid further, seems unfair to the other bidder. Are you sure the third bidder (who so far, is excluded) isn't offering a lot more than the two other bidders? Perhaps the third bidder is open to offering less and so charging less. This maneuver also seems like game playing. I mean, if Company X says it will go lower, are you going to take the dollar figure Company X names and say to Company Y: "Can you match this or go lower?" And then what? Back to Company X to see if it will go still lower? Do you want a bidding war of this nature? Doesn't this defeat the purpose of a blind bidding process? You want the landscaping company not to pull nonsense like this. The HOA should not pull nonsense, either.

-- I would ask management to set up a matrix of what the HOA would get and how much it costs, providing a side-by-side comparison of the bidders.

-- For the future, I would have sought bids for only a one-year contract.
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:158


01/15/2019 11:29 AM  
"Appear to be similar" - why aren't they identical?

Vendors should be given a scope of work to bid on that is exactly the same for each vendor. Same number of service visits for mowing, trimming irrigation inspections chemical applications etc, same square footage of mulch, same number of 4' flowers in the beds, etc.

Don't just interview them. Walk the property with them. Ask them what they think your landscape priorities should be or what suggestions they have. You don't just want someone who will follow directions, you want someone proactive. Ask them how they've solved challenging situations in the past. Ask to meet whomever would be your account manager. How long has he been with the company? How big is the crew? What's the turnover like? Do they have a 24/7 on call service for irrigation emergencies? Do they have an in house licensed irrigator, arborist or chemical applicator or do they subcontract out those services?

I would never sign a multi year contract with a new vendor. You're the client, you call the shots. One year, with the option to terminate without penalty with 30 days notice.



JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8267


01/15/2019 11:51 AM  
Our original landscaping and MC contract was for one year and thereafter automatically renewed one month at a time unless either party cancelled it. We have been operating like that with them for 3 years now meaning on a month to month basis for the past two years. Works for all of us.

The first year did have a 3 month penalty for cancelling before the year was out. We felt we could live with that.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:2464


01/15/2019 1:05 PM  
The advice here is good, but don't forget to check for complaint history in places like the BBB. Having a complaint or several isn't necessarily bad (that's part of running a business), but what you want to see is how they were addressed. Watch for comments regarding length of time it took for the company to get back to the customer (constant calling isn't good) and stuff like that.

In fact, ask them how complaints are handled, such as damage to a homeowner's personal property or demands for work on association property that isn't authorized by the board and would cost more (the response I'd look for is to be polite and listen, but then refer the homeowner to the property manager, who should then notify the board if necessary).

MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:297


01/15/2019 1:10 PM  
Robert,
All the advice has been very good here. I really like the points that Barbara made about the RFQ. When we went out for bids on a large contract for Landscaping we made sure that we gave them all the vendors the same tour of the property and the same fact sheet. We told them that if we left anything out (like pruning the rose bushes) it was assumed by them that it was to be included in the price. It is also extremely important to make sure you know what their charges are for repairs. The hourly rates. This can add up to many thousands of dollars in an annual budget. I liked when we paid 15% over the cost of materials and their labor rate. Make sure that pictures are submitted with the invoices to prove repairs were needed and made. I also wanted to make sure that if the vendor caused the problem we were not billed for those repairs. Lawnmowers cause many irrigation issues. I was lucky that in my community in Ca. we had a very active Landscape committee that met every week and walked our property and would report back to the board monthly. Ours problems arose when the old landscape company started gouging us and because of the cozy relationship the committee had with the vendor they started covering for the company. Don't let this happen to you.


I would not sign any contract for more than a year. I would tell them that we hope they will be the vendor of choice for the next fifty years but they will have to prove it every year.
SueW6
(Michigan)

Posts:489


01/15/2019 1:14 PM  
Hopefully they all bid on the same things, as listed by the HOA landscape committee.

One will prune bushes, another won't touch any landscape. Some plant annuals, some won't. some will weed gardens,some don't.

Local business, fully insured, good references, cleanly dressed and identified staff, head staff person on site during job, confirm agreeable hours and days of contract, quiet machinery,
RoyalP
(South Carolina)

Posts:701


01/15/2019 2:19 PM  
Posted By BarbaraT1 on 01/15/2019 11:29 AM
"Appear to be similar" - why aren't they identical?

Vendors should be given a scope of work to bid on that is exactly the same for each vendor. Same number of service visits for mowing, trimming irrigation inspections chemical applications etc, same square footage of mulch, same number of 4' flowers in the beds, etc.


Don't just interview them. Walk the property with them. Ask them what they think your landscape priorities should be or what suggestions they have. You don't just want someone who will follow directions, you want someone proactive. Ask them how they've solved challenging situations in the past. Ask to meet whomever would be your account manager. How long has he been with the company? How big is the crew? What's the turnover like? Do they have a 24/7 on call service for irrigation emergencies? Do they have an in house licensed irrigator, arborist or chemical applicator or do they subcontract out those services?

I would never sign a multi year contract with a new vendor. You're the client, you call the shots. One year, with the option to terminate without penalty with 30 days notice.








PRECISELY
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:675


01/15/2019 5:28 PM  
Posted By JohnC46 on 01/15/2019 10:36 AM
Ask them for references from associations similar to your own. Contact the references.




Not only ask for references, VISIT the other properties that they tend to. Stop in and ask the homeowners if they are happy with the level of service they receive.
MelissaP1
(Alabama)

Posts:8080


01/15/2019 8:55 PM  
Do not sign multi-year agreements no matter if offered a discount. Also make sure you include a proper "out" clause that works for both parties. It sucks if have to fire in middle of the season but do you want to be stuck all season with a bad lawncare?

What I did is took a plot map of the entire HOA. It was a map of all 107 properties. I then put notes of each property for each lot. Each lot had different issues or requests. So identifying those helped all parties. We knew which ones did not want backyard mowed. Who had pets in back yard. If there were special plantings or landscaping issues.

Understand your needs and label them really helped. We also allowed them to be able to do "extra" work if a member wanted to hire them to address their own issues. We did not pay them for that. We also did not penalize them for it.

It's not the expense but the quality. You all know best what the needs are. Just write them down and then negotiate for a good deal.

Former HOA President
KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1366


01/16/2019 7:34 AM  
Posted By RobertW31 on 01/15/2019 10:21 AM
We are currently sorting out bids for Lawn Care for our HOA. We have 3 bids one of which is way more costly than the other two and will be ruled out because of that and no experience with HOA and inexperienced supervision.

The other two are $11000 apart and in all other respects appear to be similar.

The board and 4 residents will be reviewing the bids and deciding who to interview and what questions to ask.

As the board president I want to give maximum input to all. My feeling is that we ought to interview the two low bidders.

When we do that I am looking for suggestions for questions and before we interview we will be checking references.

We have several requirements which both have indicated they will meet.

The bid is for a two year contract.

One of the questions I have in mind is if there is any way they can lower their bid. Other than that I am open for any suggestions for questions.

Thanks.






Landscapers will often bid based on the time needed, weekly, to service your property. Nearby companies likely can give you solid service at better prices than a company that faces a longer commute to your property. Drive time is expensive.

1. How big is the company making the bid?

2. How large are their crews?

3. Will the company use internal employees to service or property or are they sub-contracting w/ independent crews to service you?

4. Can they prove they carry both workers compensation and liability insurance on their crews?

5. What redundancy for crews in case of sickness and emergency on their end?

6. Do they focus mainly on residential lawn service or commercial (HOAs are commercial properties)?

7. Can the two-year contract simply continue into subsequent years unless the HOA opts-out at the end of Year Two?

8. If the contract can easily continue beyond two years, then ensure that it does NOT include automatic escalators. Make the company come to you and ask for a rate increase.

Mom n' Pop shops (grass mowers) always love the idea of a big property but can easily get swamped and either under-perform or spend too much time on site. They inherently offer lower prices.

Also, I suggest NOT asking bidders to lower their costs? Get more bids if you're unsure on market pricing. These companies are bidding what they think it will take to get your contract. Many vendors will try to raise rates on HOAs because they can be "sleepy" with negotiating and either immediately seek price reductions or just accept a high priced contract. You seem to be engaged.

While I'm a huge proponent of holding the line on service price increases once in a contract but I'm not a fan of taking bids and trying to hammer down on companies before signing a deal. Multiple bids from competing companies, in a closed bid system, will reveal the price for getting good service.



GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2896


01/16/2019 1:57 PM  
Posted By KellyM3 on 01/16/2019 7:34 AM
Also, I suggest NOT asking bidders to lower their costs? Get more bids if you're unsure on market pricing. These companies are bidding what they think it will take to get your contract. Many vendors will try to raise rates on HOAs because they can be "sleepy" with negotiating and either immediately seek price reductions or just accept a high priced contract. You seem to be engaged.

While I'm a huge proponent of holding the line on service price increases once in a contract but I'm not a fan of taking bids and trying to hammer down on companies before signing a deal. Multiple bids from competing companies, in a closed bid system, will reveal the price for getting good service.

I think this is really good. My HOA had the same landscape company for 12 years, happily accepting the escalator every other year. The contracts were essentially auto-renewed every 2 years because no one cared to do the work it takes to get bids. However much of an increase they wanted, the boards would just go along with it. Some owners on the landscape committee lied about getting bids because they were on good terms and friendly with the owner of the company. Their yards, of course, always looked the best.

We got some new blood involved last year, went out for bids, and found a new company that provides better service for $5,000 less per year. Our landscape contract is one of our biggest budget items every year being in the $100,000 range. $95,000 this year
RoyalP
(South Carolina)

Posts:701


01/16/2019 2:53 PM  
..... so ..... you canned a 12 year vendor with satisfactory performance over 5% .....


good luck to y'all down the road



RoyalP
(South Carolina)

Posts:701


01/16/2019 2:56 PM  
ps. assuming 500 homes, each home can now purchase 2 more Starbucks per YEAR

JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:8267


01/16/2019 3:36 PM  
Geno did say better service so this along with a 5% savings is worth exploring.
RoyalP
(South Carolina)

Posts:701


01/16/2019 4:58 PM  
..... worth exploring.


? was the existing co. party to said exploration ?


..... just say'n
GenoS
(Florida)

Posts:2896


01/16/2019 10:45 PM  
Posted By RoyalP on 01/16/2019 2:53 PM
..... so ..... you canned a 12 year vendor with satisfactory performance over 5% .....


good luck to y'all down the road




I must have left out the part where their performance was becoming more and more unsatisfactory over the years. The $5,000 savings was the difference between a $10 per month increase this year vs. a $15 increase.
ND
(PA)

Posts:283


01/17/2019 6:01 AM  
Posted By GenoS on 01/16/2019 10:45 PM
Posted By RoyalP on 01/16/2019 2:53 PM
..... so ..... you canned a 12 year vendor with satisfactory performance over 5% .....


good luck to y'all down the road




I must have left out the part where their performance was becoming more and more unsatisfactory over the years. The $5,000 savings was the difference between a $10 per month increase this year vs. a $15 increase.



Interesting that with a current $100k contract, a new bidder comes in and is only $5k different. That's an interestingly-close bid to what you were previously paying.
RoyalP
(South Carolina)

Posts:701


01/17/2019 6:29 AM  
Posted By GenoS on 01/16/2019 10:45 PM
Posted By RoyalP on 01/16/2019 2:53 PM
..... so ..... you canned a 12 year vendor with satisfactory performance over 5% .....


good luck to y'all down the road




I must have left out the part where their performance was becoming more and more unsatisfactory over the years. The $5,000 savings was the difference between a $10 per month increase this year vs. a $15 increase.




The facts,
all the facts,
nothing but the facts.

....Friday


(an old TV show quote from Dragnet)



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