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  • Estimating based on Square Feet or time?

    I am starting a new lawn care business this spring and I have a question in regards to estimating jobs. What is the most common method for estimating a lawn care job? For example, my turf area at my home is 9000 sq.ft. Over the past few years I have paid anywhere from $29-$35 per visit on a weekly schedule. I realize many factors go into estimating but I am trying to figure a starting point to work from. Last year the average time it took to finish this yard was a 1/2 hour. What is the best way to scale this up in terms of turf area? Should I assume that an 18000 sq.ft. yard would be $58-$70 per visit or as the turf area doubles the price doesn't? Our service will be mow, trim, and blow the first year. I have purchased a 48" Gravely ZTR and an Exmark 30" push mower. From the research I did about 75% of the fences had 52" gates. The others either had no fences or had 36" gates. So it looks like 75% of my production will be with the 48" ZTR which I'm hoping will increase my productivity.

    I hope my question make sense. I just want to figure out as the turf size increases does the price increase equally with it.

    Thanks for the help,

    Brad

  • #2
    What ever you do in a service industry it is its overhead plus time. If it takes x amount to cut x sq ft , your still cutting by the hour. Your estimation by sq ft has to be the time you put in and overhead recovery.

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    • #3
      What is the best way to scale this up in terms of turf area? Should I assume that an 18000 sq.ft. yard would be $58-$70 per visit or as the turf area doubles the price doesn't?
      If you double the property size and you can double your price, good for you, get the maximum income you can from each property.

      Something to consider, is for each job you will have transportation costs to get to the location. When you are on location longer and working longer, those transportation costs are spread out more. So say for that smaller $35 job, maybe $15 of it is transport fees to cover fuel and your time driving. If instead of a smaller property, you replace it with a larger property twice the size, and you charge twice the price to mow it, you are not paying twice the transport costs, so you are either going to make more money on this job, or you can charge less if you need to be more competitive and still make a profit.

      Does this help?
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      • #4
        When I got started back in 1996 I started off with a 52 inch Hydro walk behind. I was getting $45 an hour for the Hydro walk I soon bought a 60 inch X Mark laser zero turn with this I was able to charge $60 an hour by increased productivity. These were pricing standards back in 1996. we are basically selling time it's great to know your square footage so you can accurately equate that to time but square footage is not how we price. So in a nutshell figure out how long it will take you with equipment you use and go from there. I still screw up and bid a job lower than it should be. Just not as often as I used to but when I do it's my fault and I have to live with it. So in final thoughts when you get a property measure the square footage record it down and you should get a pretty good thought of a similar property with similar square footage to bid next time. I hope this helps

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        • #5
          We do it by the square foot. It does in fact translate into time by the hour if you want it to or let it.

          When we do it this way it allows every crew member to get it right by our figures as a minimum job, so if asked that crew can say " yes ma'am it will be about $xxx if you would like us to do it we will bill you when we get it done.

          And as for the price rising equal as the job size grows. This is correct but not practical, you will find it real hard to land larger jobs with everyone's prices being all over the board.

          The funniest thing I have ever seen is the My overhead is more then yours .. When all they do is mow and blow ( it matters but it's not as fearful as they think)

          I always bought new equipment , never borrowed money and I can say every by the hour guy is cheap and every sq.ft guy is to high
          The real reason why that is , is because everyone else wants to make more or less money..... And fail to realize the simple fact reguardless of rates we get what we are worth and what the client will pay.

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          • #6
            I was able to charge $60 an hour by increased productivity.
            Were these commercial properties or residential yards or did it not matter?
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            • #7
              I can not grasp working for $60.00 a hour as a business or a solo/ 2 man crew.
              Nothing is directed at anyone here I just can't imagine it.
              I was higher then that in 1998 and Basicly I have reached far past since .
              Those prices were not based on increasing overhead or inflation , just because I said so was my reasoning.
              I will guess all of our rates are well over $100.00 hour($50.00 per man hour)
              and closing on $200.00 (100.00 per man hour) in many of our trucks with cheap equipment.

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              • #8
                I can not grasp working for $60.00 a hour as a business or a solo/ 2 man crew.
                Nothing is directed at anyone here I just can't imagine it.
                I was higher then that in 1998 and Basicly I have reached far past since .
                Those prices were not based on increasing overhead or inflation , just because I said so was my reasoning.
                I will guess all of our rates are well over $100.00 hour($50.00 per man hour)
                and closing on $200.00 (100.00 per man hour) in many of our trucks with cheap equipment.
                That was 60$ per man hour in 1996ish yes it has greatly increased

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                • #9
                  I can not grasp working for $60.00 a hour as a business or a solo/ 2 man crew.
                  Nothing is directed at anyone here I just can't imagine it.
                  I was higher then that in 1998 and Basicly I have reached far past since .
                  Those prices were not based on increasing overhead or inflation , just because I said so was my reasoning.
                  I will guess all of our rates are well over $100.00 hour($50.00 per man hour)
                  and closing on $200.00 (100.00 per man hour) in many of our trucks with cheap equipment.
                  A 2 man crew would have billed 120 an hour in 1996 or 60 x2. Today it's closer to 100$per man hr when mowing.

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                  • #10
                    Were these commercial properties or residential yards or did it not matter?
                    Residential

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                    • #11
                      One thing is certain your equipment will dictate your amount per hr we cannot show up with a 36 walk behind and expect to make $100 per hr. This figure is based on a modern 60 zero turn with a good trimmer and a strong back pack blower. That's why good equipment is so crucial!

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                      • #12
                        A 2 man crew would have billed 120 an hour in 1996 or 60 x2. Today it's closer to 100$per man hr when mowing.
                        How much time would you say you spend on average per lawn? I wonder if this is a factor in how much you can charge per hour as well.
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                        • #13
                          One thing is certain your equipment will dictate your amount per hr we cannot show up with a 36 walk behind and expect to make $100 per hr. This figure is based on a modern 60 zero turn with a good trimmer and a strong back pack blower. That's why good equipment is so crucial!
                          No sir , my prices are based per job and that job dictates the mower the square footage dictates the fee and on small lawns I have crews mowing at 210.00 a hour with a single small Ztr. And at the same time a 60" Ztr is a different per 1000 sq ft rate but higher production makes larger or numerous jobs possible
                          Say it a open lawn at $2.10 per k and the lawns total 130.5k that bring in $ $274.05 per production hour so for my guys to mow this they must cover 2200 sqft of LOT SIZE A MINUTE
                          Now a 5' cut mower cutting 8mph =211.2 k so now some real math
                          The 130'500sqft of lot /5280/5= 4.94mph.

                          So it is obvious to me a 60" mower capable of flat mowing 8mph should be able to maintain a average 4.95 mph over the area .
                          Now 274.05/ 3 acres is 91.35 a acre which is high for a mow and go so how could I sell it? Either by targeting smaller lawns or by offering other included maintenance which is why I do just that in all my lawns. I charge a 1 price for everything that cost me nothing but time.
                          I place the most productive size on a lot I can 1 mower and the operator then the second guy does the string trimming,spraying, trimming, weeding, limbing, debris pickup, bed edging,then the mower operator drops the bill off as the blowing is finished.
                          My guy on most jobs keep the maintenance done so well it looks as if it's never in need of the maintenance only the grass cutting.

                          The longest we allow on a job is 18 minutes gate to gate.
                          I have a few pictures from last year at
                          www.facebook.com/prop.prfect

                          I can't post on sites so I found some old stuff from years back, nothing fancy but it gives you an idea why I can get high dollar jobs in our towns, why we don't lose customer and why I love this industry.

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                          • #14
                            How much time would you say you spend on average per lawn? I wonder if this is a factor in how much you can charge per hour as well.
                            Time is the game indeed.
                            I have even purchased a ferris 5000z 72"( production year one) just for mowing 1 acre lawns. I hated the mower sold it come years end to a guy for 5000 cash after giving $21,000 (it sucked so bad we named it the mole because of the dirt circles it left at every bump .considered buying Husqvarna 72"PZ mowers at 9800 cash and the dealer offered to trade back if it wasn't up to our standards , choose 61" mz units

                            A 18 minute time limit is about it we like 1 acre or less and it is the mower and lawn layout. that determines how how much time the crew gets.

                            We still charge for spring startup , fall clean up services , fertilize, weed control, and a lot more so upsales are nice as well.

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                            • #15
                              I honestly would guess we have jobs that reach a 4-5 dollar per minute rate.

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