Hiring a landscape maintenance company is the best way to keep your northern NJ yard looking beautiful, but choosing the right one may feel like an overwhelming task.
Who do you call? How do you know they are qualified? How do you make sure they will provide good service and do a good job for the price? Here’s a list of questions to ask that will help you make the best choice.
1. How long have you been in business?
Someone who has been in business more than five years has probably had time to work out kinks in the business operation. The first five years can be difficult. Business statistics show that most new businesses fail within the first five years.
Answer: If the answer is 10-20 years, chances are you have found a qualified, reputable landscape maintenance company. If it’s less than five years, you should ask for more information to qualify them. If it’s less than one year, beware.
2. How big is your company?
The size of the business doesn’t necessarily equate to good work, but it can be a good indicator for service commitments. A mid-size to large company can handle more projects. If there’s a problem, someone is always reachable.
Answer: A company with 50 or more employees is generating good business to pay all the employees. A small company, less than ten people, may do great work, but service could be less consistent. If the person works alone, your maintenance service could become irregular or non-existent.
3. What is your professional background?
Becoming a landscape contractor is a good business choice, but not all of them are “qualified.” In some areas of the country, a truck, lawn mower and blower make you qualified, but that’s far from the truth.
Answer: Most “qualified” professional landscape contractors have a background in landscape architecture or horticulture. They have an extensive knowledge on plants. If the answer is “None really, I just enjoy being outdoors and working with my hands,” move on.
4. Do you have references?
For your own protection, take the time to ask for references and speak to existing customers about the company’s work and services. It provides credibility and ensures good work.
Answer: A successful landscape maintenance company will be glad to give references. If the answer is “No” or “I can put you in touch with someone,” that’s not a good sign. If they have no references, why not? If they put you in touch with someone, who are you talking to.
5. Do I need a maintenance contract?
Find out how maintenance services are handled and how long the contract is.
Answer: A landscape maintenance company typically has a contract for services. This explains services and costs. If the answer is “no, I’ll let you know,” don’t sign anything.
6. Have you done work in my area?
A reputable company may not have projects in your Bergen County, NJ area, but they may have completed work or landscape maintenance services in nearby areas. If they have work in your area, it’s a good opportunity to see it first-hand.
Answer: If the answer is “No” or “I just moved to this area,” keep looking. That means they aren’t familiar with soil or temperature conditions in the area.
7. Are you busy right now?
Asking about their work load lets you know how they handle work. A good landscape company is always busy, even in winter months. They typically service numerous clients throughout the year.
Answer: If the answer is “Yes, we’re always busy, but we are equipped to handle the workload,” that’s great. If the answer is “No, I’m really slow right now and I need the work,” you may want to keep looking.
8. Do I have to pay a deposit?
Different companies handle payments different ways, but a contract will define payment terms.
Answer: A large upfront payment could signal a problem, but not always. Beware of upfront payments in full.
9. Are you licensed?
A reputable landscape maintenance company is usually licensed in the cities where they work. A business license shows that the contractor has gone through proper channels and filed the necessary paperwork to provide professional business services.
Answer: There are only two answers – yes or no. If the answer is yes, but you’re suspicious, ask to see the license. If the answer is no, that means they didn’t go through proper business procedures. What does that say about how your procedures might be handled?
10. Do you have liability insurance?
Liability insurance protects both you and the landscape contractor in case of property damage. Insurance coverage should be one of the most important considerations in choosing your landscape contractor.
Answer: Any reputable landscape maintenance company should have adequate insurance to cover property damages. If the answer is yes, but you’re suspicious, ask for proof of insurance. If the answer is no, you have no recourse from damages.
NOTE: Homeowner’s insurance typically does not cover any property damages caused by an uninsured workman on your property. Most homeowner policies require that work is done by a licensed and insured contractor.
11. Do you have worker’s compensation insurance?
Worker’s compensation is required if a company has one or more employees. It pays for any medical costs for employees’ work-related injuries. It also pays a portion of the employee’s salary if they’re out of work from the injury.
Answer: A reputable, established landscape maintenance company will make sure their workmen are covered. If the answer is “No,” beware. If the guy falls off a ladder and breaks his arm while pruning your trees, he’s likely to hold you responsible for the damages.
12. What landscape maintenance services do you provide?
Ask for a list of regular landscape maintenance services they offer. This will give you a clear understanding of all your service options.
Answer: Although specific services and prices will vary at each home in NJ, the company should have a standard list of maintenance services. If they don’t, it will be difficult to know what they do.
13. What are my payment options?
Find out how landscape maintenance services need to be paid for, so you can budget your finances.
Answer: A contract will explain payment terms. If there’s no contract or written agreement, it’s up for grabs. Unstructured payments lead to uncertainty and lack of organization, both of which are bad.
14. What about my dog in the backyard?
If your dog stays in the back yard while you’re working or out, make sure there’s a plan to keep the dog and workers safe. .
Answer: Many people have pets and landscape maintenance. You just need a workable plan. If the answer is “I’m great with dogs, he’ll be fine there,” he may be the one person the dog bites.
15. Will you be doing the work yourself?
When you’re talking to various landscape companies, you may be talking initially to the owner. Find out who will be handling the actual maintenance services at your home.
Answer: The company should explain how maintenance services are done and who will be at your home. If the answer is “no, it won’t be me, it will be someone else”, find out who ‘someone else” is.
16. How do you schedule services?
Discuss landscape maintenance services and schedules. Ask if you will have weekly, bi-weekly or monthly maintenance.
Answer: A professional landscape maintenance company will always schedule regular services on a certain day of the week. If they schedule Tuesday each week, they will be there on Tuesday each week. If the answer is “I’ll try to get by once a week,” good luck with the day and time.
17. Will I need to leave the gate unlocked?
If you work, ask about access to your property when you aren’t home. You want to know responsibility will be taken with access to your property.
Answer: Many homeowners are at work when landscape maintenance is done. You just need to work out a reliable arrangement that works for both parties. If the answer is “oh, don’t worry about it, I can get in,” – worry!
18. What if I need to cancel services?
It’s a good idea to find out what happens if you need to cancel maintenance services for any reason.
Answer: If you have a contract, terms will be spelled out clearly. If there’s no contract, neither party knows what the other is liable for.
19. Do you belong to any horticulture societies?
Membership in a trade association is an indication that they are serious about their professionalism.
Answer: Trade organizations promote learning and study, so they are encouraged among professionals.
20. Do you have a website?
A website these days is essential to good business and helpful to customers. You can review photos and services and review the company.
Answer: If the answer is no, it could mean they are not serious about business.