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andyjoneslawncare
06-09-2009, 10:42 AM
A realtor friend called yesterday and asked if I'd mow a vacant yard for him that's a vacant, pending short sale. I stopped by and took care of it for him (He's one of my best friends so there was no need to talk money or anything). Anyway, aftrwards he said he'd put a $500 lawn fee in the HUD at closing. This got me thinking (of course). Anyway, he emailed me a list of distressed, vacant, or forclosed homes in the area and I'm in the process of emailing them all (200 or so!) The problem is that there's no guarantee of getting paid. The house has to sell first. My friend said that in todays market, short sales, forclosures, etc are very likely to sell in a 6 month listing period. In this area most lots are in the 7500 square foot range and lot size is listed in the mls, but I thought I'd be better off setting a flat $100/ yard/ month rather than visit 200 properties. From the realtors perspective, the home looks nicer and can sell faster, they know my price up front, and they don't have to pay me while they're waiting for it to sell. Actually, the bank would end up paying it so its really no cost at all to them. Here's a copy of the email I'm sending. Any feedback would be great. I'm kinda nervous about it, as it could be risky and it goes against the whole "never give a quote without seeing the property" thing. Most RE contracts are 6 months and after the sale, I'd have an "in" to mow for the new owners. I'll let you know what kind of replies I get, but it seems like a RE agent would have a hard time saying no to this!
" Hi, my name is Andy Jones of Andy Jones Lawn Care, and I was hoping to help you out with your property at 3153 Lockwood Lake. I have an offer that's a little bit different that I think you'll like. I'm currently helping realtors that are selling distressed properties, short sales, forclosures, vacant, etc. Here's the part you'll like. I'll keep the property looking great for you to show, as well as making vacant properties appear "lived in" from the curb preventing theft or vandalism. My fees are a flat $100/ month to be paid AT CLOSING, so there is no money out of your pocket. I don't get paid until you do! My fees could be added to the HUD at closing, and if the property doesn't sell, I don't get paid. Together, we get your home sold faster, and you don't risk spending more time and money into a home that may not sell. I live in sarasota and would love to be able to help you, and I thought that by putting off my paycheck until closing, it would be more helpful to you and you'd know I'd have an added interest in making your property look beautiful. Let me know if I can help. Thanks, Andy ajones1217@live.com"
Well, am I out of my mind?

Steve
06-09-2009, 01:46 PM
Andy,

I can understand the logic behind a 1 price fits all email however. Any of these properties could be absolute disasters. You never know whats gonna be in those tall lawns. Garbage, debris etc etc.

How many mows are you expecting to do per month for $100? What size yard range?

How long do you feel each mow would take?

What if you show up and the grass is 3ft tall? How long would that take?

andyjoneslawncare
06-09-2009, 05:49 PM
Andy,

I can understand the logic behind a 1 price fits all email however. Any of these properties could be absolute disasters. You never know whats gonna be in those tall lawns. Garbage, debris etc etc.
These properties are already listed on mls so I'm assuming the major cleaning up has already been done, its just that no one wants to keep up with it when its vacant.

How many mows are you expecting to do per month for $100? What size yard range?
I was planning on 2-3. Normally, my "pay per cut" yards are being mowed every ten days or so right now. In a week my clients feel like I'm just taking their money and every other week they're wondering why I let it get so high. Soon it should be every week though with the rains coming consistently. Anyway, to that point, I sent 40 emails this morning and so far I recieved 2 replies stating that they don't think the bank would pay for $100/month and were asking about per mow rates. Here's an example: "I appreciate your email. For this particular property, i don't think the bank will want to mow weekly and I actually don't think it needs it. But, what would you charge per visit to that property? Thanks, janis" At least I'm getting feedback right? She seemed to assume a weekly mow even though I never mentioned frequency in my email to her.

How long do you feel each mow would take?
On the MLS entries that my buddy sent me, it gives the lots square footage, 100% are from 6000 to 12000 with 7500 being average. Throw on a 2000ft home with a garage, deck, driveway, etc and the lawns are pretty small. 20 minutes by myself, max?

What if you show up and the grass is 3ft tall? How long would that take?

This is actually what I'm expecting unfortunately (well, maybe 2ft anyway). My mower does pretty well in the tall stuff but most of my time is wasted edging driveways with 18" of overgrown grass on it with dirt 4" deep at the edges. Yuck! Luckily, its only the first mow that's going to be hard labor. My biggest concern is that a 6 month listing will go by and expire without a sale and I get nothing. I'm trying to put myself in a realtor's mindset, since I used to have my RE license. You did all that marketing, paperwork, driving around, open houses, and then you could get absolutely nothing out of it! My buddy assured me that at least 90% of short sales are selling in 6 months, and he's going to get me the exact figure for sarasota. Its really an all around risk. Small gates to the backyard mean pushmowing, big drainage ditches, etc. Average rates around here are $80ish monthly year 'round but I thought considering my risk and the fact the bank is paying, I could push it a little. I'll keep you guys updated. If nothing else, I may get a few good old fashion accounts from it, which is always a good thing. BTW, here's the reply I sent "Janis". I'm hesitant about putting it up here because I know I'm making all kinds of rookie mistakes but here goes. Oh, I got to see this property today. Its nearby, small, and not overgrown. Very easy!

"I decided to make it an even $100/ month for all my bank owned properties that I don't get paid for until closing to help cover expenses for the homes that don't sell and I end up mowing for free. I could mow/trim/edge the property for $30 and go every other week until it sells if you'd like to do it that way. Let me know and I can be there as early as tomorrow if you need it. Whatever you need, I'll make it happen:) Would you recommend I offer bi-weekly service instead of just weekly to other realtors as well? Maybe every week is a bit much for vacant homes? I'd appreciate your opinion. Thanks! Andy"

Steve
06-09-2009, 09:12 PM
Well right now you are experimenting with this and maybe it will work for you maybe it wont. Have you seen the other posts on other services you could offer like the organic fert packages? Others seem to be doing well with them.

Maybe that is another direction you could investigate?

andyjoneslawncare
06-09-2009, 10:35 PM
Just got another reply from Jane (I figured I'd change her name...woops). She could really give me great realtor insight and may help me fine tune everything and figure out what my roadblocks will be. "Hey Andy,

Definitely. The banks wonít go for a weekly mowing if we can get by with less. Remember they are already losing a ton of money. I just think you should keep your options as open as possible to get more business. (Bi monthly is what you mean!)

Iíll contact the bank and let you know.

Thanks!

Jane"
The lesson here is that you can sit around wondering how things work, or just do it and figure it out as you go. I asked a few questions and she's kind enough to help me out!

Steve
06-09-2009, 11:03 PM
Keep us posted! Also will you be offering them other services to help clean up or fix up those homes?

andyjoneslawncare
06-10-2009, 05:21 PM
C'mon steve, you know me better than that! I'll clean the trash cans with clorox if they'll pay me! I sent 60ish emails so far and here are the replies so far, in addition to the one I already posted. Nothing promising, but hey, at least people will know I'm out here!
"I will keep this in mind" Hopefully she really will!
"I have forwarded your email to the attorney who is handling the property for the estate." At least its going in the right hands?
"My sellerís name is ****. I forwarded your email. Let me know if you hear from him, OK? Just copy me the email. I hope he calls. How bad is the property? I just returned from vacation and will have to drive over to see it. I heard the pool is bad too." Maybe I can rescreen a pool cage?
Then my buddy CC'ed me this one that he sent a realtor friend of his.
"I heard one of your listings may need the grass mowed... If so I CC; ajones1217@live.com Andrew Jones Lawn Care... He is the only one that I found that will except payment at closing or on the HUD. $100 a month for a 1200sqft lot or less... Large Acres need to be quoted out." This friend is definately staying on my xmas card list!
No work yet, but its only been 2 days and no cost, so I'm staying positive. Lots more to email tonight in front of the tv after kids go to bed! If nothing else, maybe realtors will start remembering me and refering me to each other. I need to come up with a follow up, or maybe a personal reply to everyone would be better so it doesn't come across as a mass spam effort and they'll see me as someone on their side thats willing to work with them. I'll get a couple accounts through this, I promise. I've lost 5 accounts in the last couple months. 2 bartenders that aren't making as much and are mowing themselves, 1 girl moved in with her ex, 1 single mom was broke and her dad bought her a mower and said "get pushin'!" and one landlord said he couldn't afford it anymore and the tenants are mowing themselves. I didn't lose any to other businesses, which I guess is good, otherwise I'd be taking it harder. If someone can't pay rent I suppose they should be mowing themselves. Higher end neighborhoods would probably not have this issue but I like the average homes because everyone's happy with my work and they aren't out there inspecting to see if my trimmer rubbed a mark in the base of a palm tree. I just have to pick up more toys and trim under more boat trailers!

Steve
06-10-2009, 06:40 PM
You are making things happen. Good for you! I am sure more positive things will be coming your way.

andyjoneslawncare
06-11-2009, 02:11 AM
Drum roll please... Latest reply:
"I like your offer, Property at 6736 **** Dr. Sarasota, Fl 34241 is a short sale and needs mowing, would you do Lake Sarasota? If so go right ahead and cut.
Jim *****, Realtor Broker"
Next step, some kind of contract so I get paid? Kinda weird, now I have a yard to mow but I'm not sure how the details will work out. Once I figure this all out hopefully we (you!) can fine tune it, eliminate some of the issues, and duplicate. Definately venturing into the unknown here. He also left his number so I'll work out the details tomorrow. This is exciting, and I didn't spend a dime! If this actually works out, I'll ask my realtor buddy how he got the lists of short sale properties and specifics for you guys. Why do I feel like a guinea pig?

andyjoneslawncare
06-11-2009, 03:00 AM
I forgot to add something that may be important in getting success from emailing realtors. In the "subject" line, I just put the address of the property. This way, they have to read it because I could be someone interested in buying it! If I put "lawn care", it would just look like yet another business sending spam to delete.

andyjoneslawncare
06-22-2009, 12:58 AM
Quick update. Out of the 60 emails I sent, I've had a few replies that make me think I may work with them in the future, but I also aquired 3 yards at $100/month to be paid at closing and tomorrow I'm doing an odd job digging up roots at one of the realtor's personal residence for $150 (hopefully 2 or 3 hour job). This same realtor has a vacant home that is way overgown and I'm taking care of it this week to give it "curb appeal" for $1000 which he already cleared with the bank to be paid at closing. This is going to take massive bush/tree trimming, but also a great candidate for those before/ after pictures. This is also one of the 3 $100/month yards. These all seem like great people too, which is important because I really want to make sure I get paid. With forclosures/ short sales, you can't put a lien on the home since its already not covering the 1st lien, which is the mortgage, so its kind of a calculated act of faith. 2 of the homes are owned by the realtor, so I don't have to worry about the home not selling before the realtors contract running out, so it seems as safe as it could possibly be, but there is still a lot of risk involved. Anyway, I'm back in business, baby!

Steve
06-22-2009, 03:57 PM
That is fantastic! If you were to do it again now, what would you do differently with it? Would you change around the offer or the price or anything else?

andyjoneslawncare
06-22-2009, 10:59 PM
I just got another realtors account today. He put me in touch with the attorney handling the property and he's paying me cash per mow, and I got my $150 this morning from the other one time job I got (it was HOT! When I was done I went to the gas station, drank half of a mountain dew, and threw up). It only took 2 hours put sheesh! Swinging an axe at roots and shoveling dirt in my truck in 94 degree humid florida air is a lot different than cruising around in a tractor! Anyway, as far as changes, I'll have to see how long it takes to get paid, which would be my only forseeable problem. I need someone to come up with a contract stating that the owner or realtor is responsible for payment at closing, so if the bank refuses payment, the owner isn't just off the hook, that way I'm just dealing with one person, and whoever they get to pay it is fine, but they're ultimately responsible, whether its out of their commission, the bank pays, etc. One good thing is that its getting my name out there and people are using me even with traditional payments, and referring me to each other. Istill have more people to email but I haven't had the time to sit down and do it yet (which is a good thing I guess)

Steve
06-23-2009, 08:42 PM
How is doing all these jobs effecting your bidding process?

He put me in touch with the attorney handling the property and he's paying me cash per mow, and I got my $150 this morning from the other one time job I got (it was HOT! When I was done I went to the gas station, drank half of a mountain dew, and threw up). It only took 2 hours put sheesh! Swinging an axe at roots and shoveling dirt in my truck in 94 degree humid florida air is a lot different than cruising around in a tractor!

When you have a job like this, what are you thinking after you do it? Would you bid on such a job any differently in the future?

I need someone to come up with a contract stating that the owner or realtor is responsible for payment at closing, so if the bank refuses payment, the owner isn't just off the hook, that way I'm just dealing with one person, and whoever they get to pay it is fine, but they're ultimately responsible, whether its out of their commission, the bank pays, etc.

Keep us posted on what you come up with.

andyjoneslawncare
06-23-2009, 11:00 PM
I was thinking about my bidding/quotes today actually. Until I'm maxxed out I think I'll keep it close to the same, then I'll pick and choose, but if the choice is work for less money than I'd like or not work at all, well, I can't complain about my bills if I'm at home not willing to work! On the other side, who knows, I may have gotten all these jobs charging $10 more per cut. Soon I'll be comfortable getting turned down. Its a confidence thing and I'm almost there. When money's tight, every job is important. Even though yesterdays morning job was rough, it was only a couple hours, and I actually felt guilty taking that much. I need to get over that, huh? For the first time I'm getting busy. I also realize I need to take a day and do some maintenance and be more efficient. My trailer is wood and yesterday my back gate came off of the hinge, and I need a better latch system for the gate. Where it pulled off, the large screws just came out of the wood, so I had to put jack stands underneath to get the mower back on and again for another yard. As for the latch system, the hardware just seems too light and I noticed it also starting to pull out of the wood so I've been tying the gate up with a rope just in case (when nobody's looking of course!). Besides looking unprofessional and embarrassing, when I'm busy it takes up way too much of my time. Besides those obvious things that just came about in the last couple days, I'm using a trimmer with a blower attachment and a hedge trimmer attachment, and then I have a seperate edger. Too much time wasted changing out the trimmer to a hedger to a blower. It was a great way to get started without investing too much money, but a blower needs to be purchased now. Next is organization. Now that I'm doing more than just 6 of my friend's yards whenever I feel like it, I'm losing track in my mind and just sat down and listed all the addresses with a name and contact number so I can come up with a schedule that eliminates driving all over town. This way I can do maybe 5 or 6 yards in the same area each day, instead of driving a half hour in between stops. They are spread out all over sarasota, but if I keep all new accounts within my current borders, the odds are that I'll have more yards closer together. I have quickbooks but only use it to email invoices to an out of town land owner, instead of tracking payments,etc. This needs to change! (This is where you sell me on gopher software!) Seriously though, I think it would really help me out a lot with organization. Finally I used to sharpen the blades every now and then, but a couple days mowing tall grass, and my blades are really dull, causing me to go a lot slower or even make two passes, wasting lots of time. A 50" 22hp zrt with dull blades is like a porche with a governor set on 55. I'm not sure when I can take care of all this because I just got a call 3 hours ago from ANOTHER realtor who wants to meet me tomorrow and wants me to take care of 2 of her properties! On a sidenote, how do you guys sharpen your blades? I'm using a dremel and jacking up the front wheels, getting under and doing it that way. Is this faster than removing the deck or is there a better way? The dremel is small and squirrely and kinda hard to keep straight on the blade. Sorry this is so long.

Steve
06-24-2009, 10:17 PM
I am glad to hear you are getting busier. As you do, you will feel more comfortable raising your rates and testing out prices. Keep us posted on how all that goes.

Do you have a table grinder or anything like that for your blades? Maybe have a couple of them you can switch in and out and then sharpen them in a group?

andyjoneslawncare
06-25-2009, 11:13 PM
I'd get a table grinder if I knew it was quicker. I have an extra set of blades. I could get another set but it seems that the sharpening is the quick part, and changing them takes all the time. I haven't switch out the blades in about a year, but I remember it took a while taking of the belt, deck, and blades, then putting it back together. How quick can you switch out the blades? Do I have to remove the deck? Also, I think I'd have better blades that way. The table grinder would give easier, more consistent results. Yesterday I fixed all the trailer issues so the gate is all good now and I sharpened the blades with the dremel. Do you sharpen both sides of the blade (top and bottom I mean) or just the top? I sharpened both but I just have a feeling I could be doing it better. How often should I sharpen them? Once a week? I don't mean to be making a big deal out of this. If it takes an hour every saturday afternoon to switch out the blades, so be it. I'm just wondering how you would do it. I noticed I can go a lot faster today. Its just those tall shoots that come higher than the surroundind grass that seem to get pushed over instead of cut, but that might have more to do with the deck hieght and the front edge of the deck pushing long grass blades down. Would I be correct with that guess?

tuscangardens
06-29-2009, 10:51 AM
im going around today and taking pics of these propertys for sale with grass up to your knees, then walking into the said offices, show them the pics & my price, then ask them how they can sell a house looking like this?

I am also doing this to the owners of the houses. you can look their addresses up online by just typing in the property address. its just you have to hard mail these.


lets see if this candle gets lit!!!!!!

andyjoneslawncare
06-29-2009, 10:41 PM
Just be sure not to offend home owners by telling themtheir yard looks like crap. Maybe say " I know you're probably busy, I can barely keep up my own yard, but I thought I'd offer to take care of it for you, since I have equipment that can get it done more quickly so you aren't pushing a mower in the hot sun on your day off". I found that a lot of these vacant yards need a good initial "cleanup" and I've been charging $100 for the first initial pruning/ edging/ etc and making it look nice, then going to the regular maintainance. I did 2 of those today actually, and 1 was a scheduled cleanup, the other was just a first time "mow" but it was so bad I spent hours there. The lesson is, try to charge more for the first time because its gonna cost you more. Even if they say "just mow it", your conscience won't let you leave a property looking like crap and you'll want to impress them with your job, i.e., spend all day there for $30. I've been really busy lately from these, partially because when you go to a yard thats been vacant for a year, you end up being there all day. Even though I offer to get paid at closing, about half are paying me right away. I might charge more for the "pay at closing" to encourage promp payment. It gets old driving around town, using all your gas, and not getting paid. If it takes me a while to get to the yard, I explain that because payment is deferred, I can't pay employees and have to do it myself which takes more time. Let me know how it works for you. I'm always looking for new ideas. I've driven by some bad looking "for sale" homes but wasn't sure how to approach it. I wrote down 2 numbers yesterday but I think emails are better (less confrontational). This strategy took me from slow to busy, I just need to see the $ soon. One is closing on 7/30. Also, I think I'll stay away from houses listed by realtors without some sort of contract, making them responsible for payment, in case their listing expires without them selling it. Luckily, I only have 2 of those, and 1 is the one closing soon. The other homes are for sale by realtor/ owners and a small investing business with a realtor and an owner. Emailing a list of realtors is very efficient time-wise though. Google your town and MLS and see if you can find a way to search for vacant homes. It might be hard because only realtors are supposed to access it but sometimes they put links on their websites.

Steve
06-30-2009, 04:14 AM
im going around today and taking pics of these propertys for sale with grass up to your knees, then walking into the said offices, show them the pics & my price, then ask them how they can sell a house looking like this?

I am also doing this to the owners of the houses. you can look their addresses up online by just typing in the property address. its just you have to hard mail these.


lets see if this candle gets lit!

I can't wait to hear what kind of response you get on this.

The Cleaning Doctor
11-22-2009, 12:19 PM
I am starting something similar to this in my cleaning but I have also hooked up with a carpet cleaner and I need a lawn care guy and a painter and we would have the entire thing covered. I am targeting this at the home owner and requiring a $99 deposit. This will at least cover gas and any cleaning solutions required. I am requiring them to pay if they pull the home off the market, change agents/agency or after 6 months.

With all that there is a higher cost to all this bucause I am waiting for the money or not getting paid at all. 20-30% markup is good if you have an agreement to get paid in 6 months. Hell they would pay that on a credit card. If you are taking all the risk then it should be more like 50% markup. The key is to keep in touch with the realtors.

Steve
11-22-2009, 12:52 PM
I am starting something similar to this in my cleaning but I have also hooked up with a carpet cleaner and I need a lawn care guy and a painter and we would have the entire thing covered. I am targeting this at the home owner and requiring a $99 deposit. This will at least cover gas and any cleaning solutions required. I am requiring them to pay if they pull the home off the market, change agents/agency or after 6 months.

With all that there is a higher cost to all this bucause I am waiting for the money or not getting paid at all. 20-30% markup is good if you have an agreement to get paid in 6 months. Hell they would pay that on a credit card. If you are taking all the risk then it should be more like 50% markup. The key is to keep in touch with the realtors

Can you tell us a little more about what it is you are doing with this? You are targeting the home owner and offering what kinds of services for a $99 deposit?

What are the variables where you would want a 20-30% markup versus a 50% markup?

The Cleaning Doctor
11-22-2009, 05:38 PM
As far as the rates the more risk you take the more you need to increase the pricing. For instance if you are taking the risk that if the house does not sell then your markup needs to be higher to cover for those that will not pay. If you are setting it up so you get paid after like 6 months then you can lower the rates because it is kind of a better guarantee. The percentages were just an example. If they put it on a credit card they would pay between 20 and 30% on the money.

As far as the kinds of services it can be anything to make the home look better. You have to pick and choose though because if you make the outside look great but they have a trashed interior the home may not sell. You also have to make sure there is equity in the property to cover the fees.

Steve
11-22-2009, 06:36 PM
As far as the kinds of services it can be anything to make the home look better. You have to pick and choose though because if you make the outside look great but they have a trashed interior the home may not sell. You also have to make sure there is equity in the property to cover the fees.

Have you noticed that the home owners are willing to spend within a certain range for such services? Or is it what ever it takes to get the maximum return on the home?

The Cleaning Doctor
11-22-2009, 08:40 PM
Just started this a few days ago but I already have a deck lined up for next April before the home goes on the market using this program.