How I got into home preservation and foreclosure work.

There is no free lunch and this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum reaffirms that. If you are just getting your mowing business started and looking to get busy fast, sure you can sign up and do preservation work on foreclosed properties but as we will see, there are down sides to it. The biggest one being that one client can end up controlling the future of your company.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I am 30 years old and am a new owner and operator of a landscaping & lawn care company. I have seen better days and am hoping being my own boss will open some doors to help me enjoy my life again. I used to cut grass when I was younger but gave it up when girls and cars became a distraction for me. I worked many different jobs since then and late this spring I decided I wanted to be my own boss.

To get started, I printed a few flyers at home and made a small website. Then I decided to put a free ad on craigslist. Not two days later did I receive a call from an out of state contractor. He told me they sub-contract property preservation work on foreclosed homes for banks and real estate companies. This includes mowing lawns, lock changes, winterization, etc. I told them I would take on any work they had for me though I didn’t know what I was getting myself into at the time. I had no commercial equipment. My equipment list basically included a push mower, a rake, and a strong back!

The first property I went to had waist high grass and I was overwhelmed. Not expecting this, I had no one to turn to. I knew I needed some bigger and stronger mowing equipment. Unfortunately I have bad credit. I had to turn to good ol’ mom and ask her to co-sign on a loan. Thank god she did and I became the proud new owner of a 60″ commercial ztr.

Long story short, this general contractor has kept me very busy all summer but I’m not getting paid a premium for my work since I am a sub-contractor. I have come across some yard disasters but my new mower can mow through anything. I have no complaints with it thus far.

Now as fall is approaching very fast and I only have a few clients of my own, I decided that it’s time to buckle down and make this business grow! So I am doing all I can to attract more local customers.

One down side to all this sub-contractor work is the waist high grass I run into and that they send me an address of the foreclosed property and a due date. There is no other description so you never know what you are going to find when you get there. But once you cut the property they are on a bi-weekly schedule so it is only usually a pain the first few cuts.

They also have me running all over the place so a lot of fuel is wasted and since I’m the sub-contractor, I’m probably making half of what I should be making.

For instance I only get $45 per acre I mow. The plus side of doing this is I have a lot of properties and there is no homeowner breathing down my neck. Another downside to this kind of work is the hours I spend every night sending in pictures of the jobs to the general contractor as proof of my work. I guess all in all I am getting by but I would like to get some more clients of my own, get some more equipment, and a helper. Two people are more productive than one in this business.

The general contractor I work for has a price for different sized properties and the different tasks involved. Most of my yards range from $25-$45 depending on the size and height of the grass. I’m sure they are making just as much as I am, for picking up the phone and sending me the work. Also they require pictures of the street sign, the house number, all four sides of the property from every angle, yard stick shot showing the height, an action shot showing you and the mower in front of the house, and lastly before and after shots.”

A second lawn care business owner said “I do the same foreclosure work. It is not too bad. I can easily mow about 16 to 20 lawns in a day depending on the areas I am given. Getting the pictures taken is annoying but once you get into the routine it is quite easy. I upload the pictures to my computer, organize them by address/file, and put them into a zip file. After that I just upload them onto the general contractor’s ftp site.

I ask for 40 lawns every time they call me and I get paid $25.00 per lawn. For me, that is an easy $1,000 in two days if you can handle them in two days.

Sure it is great working with them but you start to think how much do they make? If they can afford to have you do it for $25.00 and take the pictures, etc. do they charge $50.00? Just something to ponder.

This is quick money but it’s not something that will last. No matter what you do, you have to keep marketing yourself and finding your own customers, otherwise these general contractors can pull the plug at any moment and leave you out of work.”

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