The most underrated member of your team
When looking to renovate or simply upgrade the overall look of your investment property, either to flip or hold onto and rent, I believe the most underrated of all the members of your crew is the landscaper. It is the professional landscaper whose services tend to be the most overlooked, yet can provide the biggest bang for your investment property dollar, for every project. In many ways local landscaping companies provide the metaphorical icing to your extravagant birthday cake. What do landscapers do? Easy: they provide the instant attraction your potential buyer or tenants will have the very second they pull up to your investment property. And it is that attraction that will translate into increased dollars for you – either in a higher sales price, or being able to find the best tenants paying top market rents for units in your building.
Stick with local landscaping
Finding a good landscaper is all about judging talent. Once I found my landscaper and used him for my first project, I was hooked at the magic he could perform. I simply told him my budget for the project, and he offered suggestions as to how best to stretch that budget without running over. Good local landscaping companies are connected – big time. They work with several local nurseries and know where to pick up seasonal shrubs, trees and assorted plantings that will offer the biggest bang for your buck.
Developing a plan for all seasons
In addition, a good landscaper will know how to plan out the look of your plantings for all seasons. This includes, for example, planting evergreen shrubs or trees in the summer, knowing that they will draw the eye’s attention come the dead of winter, as well as create a wind break to your building to help reduce energy costs. Also, your landscaper will offer ideas for a “layered” effect of staggered blooms around the front of your investment property come Spring. For example, he may plant forsythias for early Spring, with rhododendrons to come in and bloom red, white or pink a month later after the forsythias yellow flowers have fallen off. I am no landscaper by any stretch – not even on a purely homeowner amateur level.
I have learned a great deal from years of hiring and observing a master landscaper at work. First, they always come up with a landscaping plan. Besides plantings, grass seeding, etc., they also will make suggestions to help improve your walkways and entry areas. Then comes the implementation of that plan to keep your budget in check. A good landscaper is above all creative, efficient, timely, works well within a budget, and makes suggestions to you without being asked – all to help you get a higher return on your investment property, either from rent or sale.
Finding a good landscaper
Now that you know what to look for, you’ll be able to winnow down the list of possible local landscaping companies to choose from. First, check out their previous and current work to see what they’ve done locally. (Naturally, you’ll be asking for their list of local homes they’ve worked on.) In addition, ask for recommendations from the homeowners of the houses you then visit. Remember to ask the previous clientele of the prospective landscaper if they came in on budget and on time for their project. You can also ask your real estate agent for referral as well. But always be sure to visit several local homes where their work is on display. In effect, you are responsible for recruiting the right talent for your project.
Testing the landscaping waters
After you make the decision to go with one landscaping company, consider the first project you give them as their “test.” How they perform on this test will determine if you’ll continue to use them over and over again. What you’d ideally love to have happen, is for you to forge a relationship with your landscaper much like the one you’d forge with your carpenter of general contractor. This will be another integral part of your investment property team. Make sure you get along with that person very well. You should ultimately feel you can call on your landscaper to help you ideate and show off your investment property in its best light and for the least cost.
How much does a landscaper cost?
And speaking of the expense, you might ask how much does a landscaper cost? Well, landscaping is very labor intensive. So expect the labor component to be high. Also, different plantings will obviously have different costs. But some evergreen shrubs cost far less than others …and to the untrained eye, like mine, a less expensive shrub may substitute well for a more expensive one. Again, I suggest laying down a set budget for your landscaping part of your project (whether it’s a thousand dollars or ten thousand) – then let the landscaper come up with his ideas for how best to meet that budget.
Bid out when starting
If it’s your first project with him, you might want to “bid out” the same budget to multiple local landscape companies in order to find a landscaper. And see what each comes up with that offer the biggest splash with your money. After you’re pleased with using a landscaper once, keep going back to him again and again. You’ll also find that his local nursery connections may afford you more discounts, yielding more plantings for your investment property at the same budgeted price, compared with some other local landscaper.
photos courtesy of diynetwork.com, usnews.com, eliteconstructionva.com, danzafamily.com, easyinsure.ca