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jstonemo
03-12-2011, 01:32 PM
My name is John, and I own and operate Artisan Home & Lawn Maintenance in the Kansas City area. This year is my first year working on my own in lawn maintenance.

I have 4 years experience in yard care for foreclosed homes. I worked for a local contractor who was involved with Cyprexx in Florida. I decided to go on my own after getting burned out on foreclosures which is really too much work for much too little pay. I am starting out with 4 of my own customers and am working on getting the advertising going.

I figure that after 4 years of mowing the worst possible yards, that private customers should be a lot easier. I have good word of mouth advertising already going for my home maintenance side of the business, so I need to just get it rolling on the lawn side.

Thanks to Steve for having a site like this to help out startups.

Steve
03-14-2011, 03:20 AM
Hi John,

Welcome to our forum!

I have 4 years experience in yard care for foreclosed homes. I worked for a local contractor who was involved with Cyprexx in Florida. I decided to go on my own after getting burned out on foreclosures which is really too much work for much too little pay.

A lot of people who aren't in this industry tend to think foreclosed home work has a lot of money in it?

What is your take on it and what would you warn others about this industry if they were looking to get into it?

jstonemo
03-14-2011, 01:08 PM
I think it is a lot like other "opportunities" that people might think would be easy money. When you really get involved with it, it is anything but easy money.

The hardest part of the foreclosure mowing work is that you have absolutely NO way to negotiate rates based on the amount of work involved. They pay a flat rate, usually $35, 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 they most you could get is around $75.

The part that burned me out was when we started to do work for Fannie Mae. They are notorious for being extremely difficult to work for. 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 5 old growth maple trees. I had 4 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.

On a side note, I have used a Hustler Fastrak mower for those 4 years of punishment on equipment and it has held up great. Still have the original hydros and tires. Have had to replace the usual belts and pulleys over time, but it is built like a tank.

Steve
03-16-2011, 02:30 AM
That is very insightful!

How do you feel all that experience helped prep you for running your own business now?

What do you find are the biggest differences between your business now and the previous business you worked with?

jstonemo
03-28-2011, 10:38 AM
The first thing I have learned is to keep good records. Not just invoicing, expenses, and the like, but also taking pictures. I had to take before and after pics 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 pics more often. It is a 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 to try it out. 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 you would have proof.

The biggest difference would be actually talking to a customer face-to-face. With foreclosure work, you never see anyone except the guy at the dump when you unload the trash from the houses. It is better to be able to talk to your customer and build a rapport with them. Helps to grow the business the way you want to grow and not just rely on assignments from banks or asset management companies.

Steve
03-29-2011, 12:46 PM
Are you finding it more enjoyable to work with homeowners now than with banks? Also, have you found your marketing methods have changed since changing those who you are targeting as customers?