This apartment complex lawn care bid may be too big for me.

Once in a while, lawn care jobs bigger than you can handle will appear. When they do, you need to think about what it would take to service such properties. Do you have the man power to perform the work? Do you have the mowing equipment? If not, do you have the money to be able to scale up to take on the job? Here is a discussion from the Gopher Lawn Care Business Forum in which one entrepreneur ponders if he should take on a much larger job than he is used to.

One lawn care business owner wrote “I just got a call from a property management company to get a mowing bid on two commercial properties of theirs.

I haven’t even checked them out yet, but from what I was told, one is an apartment complex with 72 units, and the other is a business plaza with 15 suites.

If I were to get this it would be the biggest job I ever had. The only other time I had a chance to bid larger properties was with a small apartment, the largest being a single unit with 10 doors/addresses. Other then that, I have a 4-plex that I mow weekly.

A little background about me. I am currently a one man show. I use a 21-inch commercial mower, trimmer, blower, etc. This apartment job would practically require me to buy new equipment right away. I don’t think I would have to hire anyone else, as I’m not to a point yet that I can’t do all the work I have (close, but not yet).

Basically, I would like to know what I even should look for when I go to these places. She did mention that she wants season flowers included in the bid. So I’m thinking she wants something that is complete and all inclusive.

I know I can calculate my time based on square footage with mowing and trimming, etc, with a typical home. But how does it work then you are looking at something on this scale?

I was once told that an easy way to bid for apartments is $19 per door (I’m assuming per month). So that 72 unit apartment complex would be $1,400 per month (rounding up). But does that count fertilizer, weed spray, pruning, planting, etc?

The next day I measured everything with my measuring-wheel, so I have pretty accurate dimensions. All told, I am looking at just under 20,000 square feet of just mowing. It is all very flat, but there are many trees there as well that I would have to navigate around, so there would be no way to use a 48-inch mower on much of the lawn.

There are 2 ditches that are steep (approximately 6,400 square feet total). These are the areas I forgot to measure while there.

I also walked out just under 3,500 linear feet of edging. This is including having to edge around the circles just under the trees. They have many bushes. Like a typical apartment complex, there are beds of bushes surrounding every building.

There are 8 buildings, with a total of 72 units. The total area is about 150,000 sq-ft, so roughly 3.5 acres. I’m not sure how long this would take to blow off either.

  • 3,500 feet of edging
  • 20,000 sq-ft of mowing.

There are three areas, with a total of around 200 flowers that need to be maintained.

The apartment manager told me the reason they are shopping around for a new mowing company started with a few dead bushes. A tenant who takes care of her own little oasis, with flowers, and potted plants, she even put down her own bark, wanted these dead bushes removed and was constantly urging the last mowing company to remove them. Ultimately they did and cut out the areas of dead bushes without talking to the property manager first. When the property manager saw what they did they were fired on the spot.

The apartment manager told me that the current bids they have been getting have been 2-3 times higher than what they were previously paying. So I need to figure all this out.

At this point in time, the issue I am wrestling with is buying the larger mowing equipment I would need to service this property. My money is tied up with an investment, and I owe the IRS from last year. So after spending some time thinking about all this I have decided to decline to bid. I’m still very small, and feel that I would be getting in over my head with this job.

The following the what I am sent her. Hopefully I’m not burning a bridge. But I am really small and can’t take on the costs to do the work.

I wanted to thank you for giving me the opportunity to bid on the ABC Apartments. At this point in time I’m still a one-man-show who focuses primarily on residential homes and small commercial properties, so I still have a hard time judging just how much work might be warranted on larger properties (such as apartments). With respect, I would have to decline the offer at the time. I feel that my company is still just too small. And while I would really appreciate the work, I feel that because I am still a small company I would be getting myself in just a little too deep.

I would recommend contacting XXX Landscape Maintenance Inc. Jeff, the owner, has helped me in the past with advice when I was just starting out. Even now I still ask him for advice from time to time. You can reach them at XXX-XXX-XXXX. They have been around for far longer then I have.

Again, I really appreciated the opportunity.

A second lawn care business owner suggested “here is what I would charge.

I mow a place similar to this one. The full service contract account includes:

  • Spring Clean Up
  • Weekly Maintenance
  • Shrub Trimming
  • 8 Application Chemical Program
  • Fall Cleanup

The price is 10 equal payments of $1,700.00 per month.

The chemical applications program would include the following:

  • April - Dimension w/fertilizer
  • May - Dimension no fertilizer
  • May - Crosscheck w/fertilizer
  • June - Momentum
  • July - Allectus w/fertilizer
  • August - Momentum Q
  • September - Fertilizer
  • November - Winter Fertilizer

I think you made a wise choice not to take on this large job. It is better to grow slowly, in steps you can afford to fund, than it is to go broke trying to buy the mowing equipment for larger jobs and potentially way under bid the jobs.”

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