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Subject: Do you give your landscaper ALL landscaping work?
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JackJ9


Posts:0


07/12/2021 1:07 PM  
We have a landscaper on contract for weekly mow and blow and irrigation type work. They call this "landscape maintenance" in my neck of the woods.

We also have a lot of projects going on in my neighborhood, things that are called "landscape enhancements". Things like monument landscaping, landscaping improvements around playgrounds, parks renovations, etc.

We've made sure that all landscape maintenance is done by our landscaper, but sent out landscape enhancements to competitive bid as there are a number of landscaping vendors interested in doing the work. We then select the "best" proposal. Best is a combination of experience, cost, proposal details, etc. Oftentimes this has gone to other vendors besides the one that does our landscape maintenance.

The landscape maintenance contractor finally decided he was fed up with losing work, and called me today fuming mad about the work that he is not getting. Informed me, in essence, that he has no desire to continue the landscape maintenance contract if he doesn't get all of the enhancement work as well.

Is our board wrong to send landscape enhancements out to competitive bid? We have been specifically asked by our homeowners to solicit multiple bids so we spend homeowner dollars wisely. I really can't disagree.

MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1614


07/12/2021 1:20 PM  
And if you were in his shoes, then what?
JackJ9


Posts:0


07/12/2021 1:22 PM  
Posted By MaxB4 on 07/12/2021 1:20 PM
And if you were in his shoes, then what?




He claims that he underbids the maintenance contract and makes up for the losses when he gets the enhancement work. But since we don't give him the enhancement work, he's threatening to raise the maintenance contract cost when the contract is up.

I guess it's his prerogative as whether we wants to work with us or not.

I happen to really like sending out the enhancements to competitive bid. It's blown me away that one vendor can come in as much as 2x or 3x more than another on the same task, and we are saving lots of money by going with the lower cost proposals wherever possible.
BarbaraT1
(Texas)

Posts:591


07/12/2021 1:38 PM  
Typically, yes, you dance with the one that brought you.

Because the installer won't warranty work that they don't maintain and the maintenance company won't warranty work that they didn't install. And if you let multiple companies play with your irrigation system you're going to have a mess.

There are always exceptions of course. If I just want a dead tree cut to ground, I have a tree guy who can do it for less than the certified arborist who works for the landscape company. Not every company has tractor mowing capabilities, so that might be something I arrange for separately. And every landscaper in town subcontracts out to the same company for playground mulch so I go directly to them myself.

But for the most part, I don't want many hands in my landscape kitchen.



JohnT38
(South Carolina)

Posts:794


07/12/2021 1:42 PM  
We give our landscaper contracts for other projects in an effort to keep their base contract for mowing and blowing at a minimum. There have been some jobs that we did not give them but the bottom line is you have to keep good contractors around and that means giving them some incentive to do so. You treat them well, they treat you well.
JackJ9


Posts:0


07/12/2021 1:42 PM  
While I don't disagree, it's really hard to explain to homeowners why we went with a $45,000 bid for a landscape renovation when we had an alternative bid for $30,000, and the scope of work was identical for both bids. (Actual numbers). Homeowners don't like to see us throwing money away.

MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:844


07/12/2021 1:50 PM  
Jack,
I hear what you are saying about competitive pricing. The way I have done it in past contract pricing is to list all common area elements and as many possible extras that may pop up. Get them to give you the hourly rates for these jobs like sprinkler repairs, broken value replacement and Tree removal and replacement costs. I would also put any job that is over $5,000 will automatically go out for 3 bids.

I always would give the edge in close bids to the current vendor. You know they will do the job and that makes a 5% increase in cost worth it IMO. Who really wants to go out for all of those small bids? Landscape vendors will soon find out many times you are just wasting their time and will quick bidding on your HOA jobs.
JackJ9


Posts:0


07/12/2021 1:59 PM  
Posted By MarkM19 on 07/12/2021 1:50 PM
Jack,
I hear what you are saying about competitive pricing. The way I have done it in past contract pricing is to list all common area elements and as many possible extras that may pop up. Get them to give you the hourly rates for these jobs like sprinkler repairs, broken value replacement and Tree removal and replacement costs. I would also put any job that is over $5,000 will automatically go out for 3 bids.

I always would give the edge in close bids to the current vendor. You know they will do the job and that makes a 5% increase in cost worth it IMO. Who really wants to go out for all of those small bids? Landscape vendors will soon find out many times you are just wasting their time and will quick bidding on your HOA jobs.




No, I'm not talking small stuff. Anything less than $5,000 goes to the landscaping maintenance vendor as long as their proposals are reasonable.

I'm talking about the projects from $30,000 to $60,000 that we send out to multiple vendors. This vendor wants to be sole source contractor on all enhancements, and I just can't justify not sending a $60,000 project out to multiple bid, and can't justify paying 30% more just because this vendor is a good price for the maintenance costs.
MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:844


07/12/2021 2:05 PM  
Jack,
Sounds like you are doing the right thing. They are lucky to having you serving on your board.

The $30K to $50K jobs are where the fat can get trimmed and that could mean 10 to 20% savings. This depends on how busy the vendors are that are bidding on the jobs. I always say you can tell how bad a vendor wants the work by the proposals they give you.
CathyA3
(Ohio)

Posts:2607


07/12/2021 2:38 PM  
I think the answer will depend to some extent on the individual companies and the market in your area (how competitive is it, for example).

When I was on the board, we had our go-to vendor who did most of our work plus snow removal - so he had a bit more flexibility when it came to pricing landscaping services because he had the entire year to make budget. This seems to be the norm in my area.

The advantages to working with one vendor were that he would give us the occasional freebie or discounted rate since he valued the relationship. He would also tell us if he thought a different company would give us better pricing for special services, such as tree removal. In turn, because we valued the relationship, we didn't try to get something for nothing or go behind his back. We were also more willing to go up in pricing on landscaping because this guy was top notch at snow removal, and snow removal has a bigger impact on safety and quality of life in the community.

This situation benefited both parties and it worked because both parties were straightforward and honest. We also had a PM who was very skilled at getting vendors to do their best for us. Basically everyone was bringing their A game.

My personal preference is to have longer-term relationships with vendors as long as nobody gets complacent. From what our vendor told me, it isn't unusual for HOAs and COAs to change vendors pretty regularly, though. We have enough companies in my area to make this possible, so I'd say our market is competitive but not cut-throat. The one real stinker in the group managed to put itself out of business some years ago.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1614


07/12/2021 2:38 PM  
I am curious, with an annual operating budget of $250K, how are you doing all these landscaping upgrades?

If in your shoes, I would been upfront with the landscaper on how the Association does it's bidding. When I send out bids for landscaping for a community, I will always include irrigation repairs, upgrades and enhancements as part of the bid.

This would hold true for pool vendors, gate vendors, etc.

MarkM19
(Texas)

Posts:844


07/12/2021 2:47 PM  
Max,
You bring up a good point. When I last went out for a new Landscape company in Ca with our board. We had a pretty good idea about what we needed done weekly, monthly and annually. What I did say to the vendors when they came out is it is their job to see what is in our community and bid it according. We did provide the RFP details but I did not want to have them coming back with any extras for things they forgot to include. If you get the monthly contract for services it is like you are responsible to make it look like it was your community. The only additional items were for things outside of the scope of work.
LetA
(Nevada)

Posts:1469


07/12/2021 3:50 PM  
Yes, Our landscapers do about 90% of landscape and maintenance. They re landscaped both of our entrances, and offered a lifetime warranty on the plants they used. They also maintain all the community irrigation watering systems as well including all front of home service as well. The only service our landscaper does not offer is palm tree trimming, for that we bid it out to another company.

I suppose it makes sense to get an all inclusive landscaper, they will bid the project at one price, but expect some variables to come up in your budget, and plan for those accordingly like back flow valves etc.

KellyM3
(North Carolina)

Posts:1811


07/12/2021 4:00 PM  
Jack,

You are absolutely within reason to bid a job, especially now that you know your internal lawn maintenance vendor is likely to be 50% higher priced. Also, a really good lawn care company may not be as efficient or competent with landscape infrastructure improvements. If your vendor is true property maintenance company, then your challenge is a vendor, who knows your property and the time needed to serve your property, being $15,000 higher on a $30,000 job.

By the way, your lawn company shouldn't enter deals that "lose money." Not your issue and, in fact, is a cut-rate complaint that is unsophisticated.

You can't trust your vendor's pricing (or to a get a "friends n' family" deal).
Your lawn maintenance has been shown he's too expensive or not your first choice beyond grass mowing.

The professional relationship will end sooner than later. You need to find a comprehensive company that can take care your community at a level and price that is fair to you and builds trust between an HOA (which aren't popular w/ vendors) and a company.
SheliaH
(Indiana)

Posts:4296


07/12/2021 4:09 PM  
It's the association's money and board members have a duty to spend it responsibly, so if the landscaper doesn't like it, he can either find a way to offer the service, focus on what he already does in the hopes you might ask him for a bid or drop you as a client.

That said I do understand him being a bit frosty - it doesn't sound like you've even given him a chance to bid on the work. You've already hired him - didn't it dawn on any of you that you might get some sort of discount because you're a current customer?

I understand getting multiple bids - it is a good idea, but to do this each and every time when you have a contractor who may be capable of doing the job can be a waste of time. The thing to do is ask if they've done this type of work before, ask for references and check them. You might then give him a smaller project to see how that goes. If it's sucessful, you can give more work and if this contractor is a decent businessman, he'll do the job right, not only to keep you as a customer, but your praises might result in more business. It's what people do when they buy things for their own home - same principle here.

Say, don't you have another conversation on this website about contracting with someone voicemail and now there's a dispute about the winterization of the irrigation system? If so, I'm beginning to wonder how your board goes about selecting contractors in general. Maybe you should go to the CAI website and get some educational materials on hiring and working with contractors. Or if you have a property manager, let him Or her do the research and you review it and make your decisions that way.
PeterG7
(Florida)

Posts:2


07/13/2021 9:02 AM  
I don't see your maintenance vendor as out of line, but you have taken appropriate action by getting competitive bids for ancillary work. Now however, you clearly should be getting competitive bids for recurring maintenance to prepare for his eventual termination of services. (You also should search the termination and any exclusivity clauses in the current contract.)
TimB4
(Tennessee)

Posts:17856


07/13/2021 3:21 PM  
I guess it's time to solicit bids for general mowing services.


In reality, this should be done at the end of every contract anyway as it's the only real way to know if you are paying market prices.

I would simply explain that he has the option, like every other contractor, to submit a bid. If he is underbid, then he should consider his prices. Then thank him for the heads up on the mowing contract.
BenA2
(Texas)

Posts:1114


07/14/2021 6:29 AM  
I think you are doing it the proper and responsible way. The only reason the landscaper should feel entitled to do all the work is if it is in his/her contract.
JjG
(California)

Posts:2


07/31/2021 4:10 PM  
It seems you're doing the right thing here especially if it's the will of the homeowners.

We do give our landscaper all the enhancement work too as it's easier for us and they don't feel they're getting screwed but our current landscaper was originally brought in for regular maintenance and defacto enhancement after they were winning most of the enhancement contract bids so I guess it's a different situation to you
MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:306


08/02/2021 4:22 PM  
Jack, our Association has three different vendors who are to do different work with our grounds. We have a grounds vendor to do the mowing, the edging, trim our shrubs and picking up the leaves. We use another vendor for our landscaping projects and a third vendor for tree maintenance and removals.
MaxB4
(California)

Posts:1614


08/02/2021 4:35 PM  
Posted By MichaelS56 on 08/02/2021 4:22 PM
Jack, our Association has three different vendors who are to do different work with our grounds. We have a grounds vendor to do the mowing, the edging, trim our shrubs and picking up the leaves. We use another vendor for our landscaping projects and a third vendor for tree maintenance and removals.



So, if you have a large tree removal project, do you bid out or give it to that third vendor automatically?
MichaelS56
(Minnesota)

Posts:306


08/03/2021 2:54 PM  
No, we put it out to bids, however, we have generally used the same vendor because of the quality of work and the extra effort in working with us that the other tree vendors do not.
JohnC46
(South Carolina)

Posts:11667


08/04/2021 8:47 AM  
We would want bids if a job was over $500 and if our landscaper bid, we would look favorably on his bid.
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