The issues with mowing and servicing forclosed properties.

If your area has been hard hit by the economy slow down, you might see ads to work for asset companies or banks to take care of foreclosed properties. To some, this opportunity may seem like a great chance at bringing in more income, but as we will see in this discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum, the work can be long and the pay meager.

One lawn care business owner wrote “this is my first year working on my own in lawn maintenance. I have 4 years of experience though in yard care working on foreclosed homes. I used to work for a local contractor doing this but decided to go on my own after getting burned out on foreclosures which is really too much work for much too little pay.

I started out with four of my own mowing customers I had gotten from people I knew as the word got out I was making a go of it on my own. After four years of mowing the worst possible yards, I figured that private customers would be a lot easier to work for and I was right. So far, I have good word of mouth advertising going for my lawn care services.

Working on foreclosed properties is a lot like other ‘opportunities’ where people think it is easy money. When you really get involved with it, it is anything but easy money.

Mowing foreclosed homes.

Mowing foreclosed homes.

The hardest part of the foreclosure mowing work is that you have absolutely NO way to negotiate mowing prices based on the amount of work involved. They pay a flat rate, usually $35 per mowing, no matter how large the yard is, or how high the grass is. I have mowed yards that took 10 minutes and then go on to the next yard, and it is 2 acres of 2 ft. high grass. You can call the asset company to get a bit more pay for a 2 acre yard, but usually the most you could get is around $75.

By the end of last year, I was mowing, trimming, blowing, hedge trimming, hauling dead limbs and trash for $25 per yard. They do pay $35, but the company I contracted with took out a part since they did all of the billing and fielding phone calls on properties. The last straw for me was in the fall when they required leaf cleanup for the same mowing rate and I had to clean up a 1/4 acre yard that had five old growth maple trees. I had four waist high windrows of leaves that stretched for 50 feet each. I just put on my gator blades and mulch plate and went to town. Two hours of dusty work for $25.

So if anyone thinks it is lucrative and wants to try it out, don’t say you weren’t warned.

An important lesson I learned dealing with the banks and foreclosure companies was to keep good records. Not just invoicing, expenses, and the like, but also taking pictures. I had to take before and after pictures of every yard which makes sense for the banks since they are in a different state and can’t do spot checks that often.

With the handyman and lawn care business, I find myself taking pictures more often. I feel it is a great way to protect myself from frivolous complaints and any possible legal issues since we live in a litigious happy culture. I would recommend lawn companies try it out and take pictures after every mowing. If you are mowing on a weekly basis, the customer may not always realize that the yard was cut if it is during a dry period, but with a picture, you would have proof.

The biggest difference I found with foreclosure work versus home owners is having the ability to actually talk face-to-face to the customer. With foreclosure work, you never see anyone except the guy at the dump when you unload the trash from the houses. I feel it is a lot better to be able to talk to your customer and build a rapport with them. That is what helps grow the business the way you want to grow and not just rely on assignments from banks or asset management companies. So keep all this in mind if you are considering this kind of work.”

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