Today, landscaping is a 115 billion-dollar industry and is growing rapidly. In order to make it big in this industry, you need to land your landscaping estimates perfectly.
Pricing varies drastically across different jobs in landscaping. Accurate and consistent landscaping estimates are the key to winning successful bids and earning a highly profitable business in our industry.
Table of Contents
Why are landscaping estimates so important?
Bid too high, and you risk losing clients to your competitors; bid too low, and you risk losing big and lowering the perceived value of your work. Accurate estimates are the key to winning bids. In order to build accurate estimates, you need to start with precise measurements.
It involves understanding your costs and pricing your services correctly to ensure maximum profits. Estimating your projects without analyzing your costs could lead to little or no profit from that job – or, even worse, a loss.
How to produce accurate landscaping estimates
In order to quickly & accurately estimate landscaping jobs, you need to have a thorough understanding of the scope of the work you’ll estimated as it relates to the project as a whole.
Visit the site first, preferably with the client present, and have a walk-through of the property. Get a thorough understanding of the property and ask as many questions as you can. What are the services needed, does the client have any special requests, what type of materials are required, etc.
Ensure efficiency by establishing a framework for your site analyses. While surveying a site, answer these questions:
- Who is the owner/client?
- Where is the project location? (Consider proximity to other work – existing or potential.)
- What are the services expected?
- What types of materials will be necessary?
- What kind of equipment will be needed?
- How many crew members will be required?
- Any additional factors to consider? (for example, site complexity, overhead, travel & load, insurance, etc.)
It might seem like a lot to keep track of when you are just getting your feet wet in the industry. But once you develop a framework, the consistency of the process can be carried from one bid to the next. Just check off your boxes and start your take-off.
Breaking down the estimating process
1. Landscaping takeoffs
Accurate site measurements are the most crucial part of landscape maintenance and snow removal estimates.
Manual measurements are tedious and time-consuming. Seasoned account managers may boast of giving accurate estimates just by “thumbing” the property during a drive-by, but the most successful landscape companies know that their best estimates start with precise measurements.
Accurate measurements are the key to getting accurate production rates so you can price your landscaping jobs right and win more profitable bids.
You can do this quantification analysis by measuring the area or linear feet of each feature present on the site. Then, calculate the totals for each feature group. A walk-through of the property will help you understand the site conditions before you finalize your takeoff and create your landscaping estimates.
There are a few ways to measure an existing property:
- Walking it off with or without a measuring wheel and keeping notes of your data
- Manually drawing polygons on scaled maps with online tools and perhaps keeping notes of your data
- Let Attentive.ai analyze and measure your sites on current high-definition imagery, package your data neatly, and notify you when it’s ready
2. Landscape production rates
Production rate is the time required to complete a certain task. Do you know exactly how long it takes an average crew member to perform each of your services over a certain area or linear measurement?
Figuring this out will allow you to standardize your production rates by using factors. Factors are standardized numbers that can be multiplied by measurements to determine production rates for each of your services. This allows you to create consistent landscaping estimates across your company for each property you or your team member takes off.
Though there are standard industry landscape production rates that can serve as benchmarks, the best way to determine your factors is to figure out how long your employees take to complete each task. Develop a simple production rate chart for manual labor-related tasks like planting flowers or weeding beds.
It’s imperative to know your equipment production rates as well. If standard industry production rates are not available, calculate the hourly rate by each type of equipment your crews will be using, including mowers, edgers, line trimmers, blowers, fertilizer spreaders, aerators, plows, snowblowers, and any other commonly used equipment.
3. How to estimate materials and labor costs
Estimate your material cost by having a catalog of all the materials needed for the job, the cost of each material respectively, and the amount based on your measurements and factors.
In addition to the direct costs associated with the materials, some of the additional factors that could affect your costs include availability, freight charges, especially if not local to the project, as well as local and state sales or use taxes. Consider the potential increase in material costs as well.
Estimate your labor cost by finding the number of hours of work required and understanding the cumulative costs of the labor hours. To do this, multiply your factor(s) for each service by their respective feature measurements.
Three elements that influence the costs of labor are the actual hourly wage, the cost of burden (employee benefits and taxes), travel and load time, and costs (if not built into your factors).
When surveying your property take note of any steep hills, obstacles, presence of native versus non‐native plants. Also look for features that may increase the efforts of your crew or require special equipment or specialized crews.
Be sure to also consider any efficiencies that you can gain compared to your production factors. For example, extremely large sites, simple sites, or sites within close proximity to one another.
4. Services & features
Every project will have a variety of services. To ensure a good profit margin, price each service competitively according to its demand and degree of specialization.
Some services will offer higher profit margins, while other services may be commoditized low-margin services like mowing. It also varies as per the frequency of the service throughout the year.
5. Seasonal frequency
The time of year can play a role in influencing estimated landscaping costs. It affects the planning for labor, anticipated material price escalation, as well as weather that could potentially delay or interfere with the installation and placement of landscape planting.
6. Factor in overheads & taxes
Overhead costs are all the expenses that a business pays not allocated specifically to job costs. These costs may include office, sales, and management staff salaries, depreciation, utilities, business taxes, insurance, rent, truck and equipment rental, and fuel costs not included in your factors. Include an overhead allocation or percentage with your job costs.
Finally, determine your desired profit margin and add a corresponding markup percentage to the total cost. Your markup is the dollar amount you add to your cost to arrive at a final, profitable price. Besides, companies price commercial jobs differently than residential and the material will vary depending on the service required.
Now that we’ve factored in all possible variables to arrive at the correct landscaping estimates, it’s time to win the bid. Focus all of your energy and effort on getting the right price — the price that’s right for your company and right for your customer. And make sure you follow up with your client, remain at the top of their mind, and improve your chances of winning the bid.
Time to send out accurate & detailed cost-based landscaping estimates
If you use Attentive.ai, you can get your property takeoffs right in your inbox. This will help you estimate more accurately and reclaim countless hours that you can now invest in client relationships, site visits, and growing your portfolio instead.
Now, with Accelerate’s sales module, you can automate your entire sales process, straight from takeoffs, and landscaping estimates, to proposals. All you need to do is enter the property address, confirm the lot boundary, and hit proceed- the software will do the heavy lifting & share with you custom winning proposals.
By incorporating the power of automation, we help you save thousands of dollars and countless hours spent in manual measurements. Want to know how? Talk to us.
Meanwhile, happy estimating!
How much should I mark up landscape materials?
The markup on landscape materials typically ranges between 10% to 30%, depending on various factors like material cost, client type, and market competition. It’s crucial to balance a markup that covers your costs and desired profit margin while staying competitive. Keep in mind that the markup should also accommodate any potential increase in material costs, freight charges, and taxes.
How do I make a landscaping estimate?
Creating a landscaping estimate starts with a comprehensive site visit, ideally with the client, to fully understand the scope of work and any special requirements. Once you have accurate property measurements, calculate the production rates for both manual labor and equipment usage. Estimate material and labor costs by cataloging all required materials and their costs, and calculating labor based on the hours of work required. Overheads, taxes, service frequency, and seasonal considerations also play a crucial role in the estimation process. Finally, add a markup to ensure a profitable price point. Streamlining this process with Accelerate’s sales module can automate takeoffs, estimates, and proposal creation, enhancing efficiency and accuracy.
How do you estimate labor cost?
Estimating labor costs involves a detailed analysis of the time required to complete each task. This means factoring in the hourly wage of your crew and additional costs such as employee benefits and taxes. Travel and load times should also be considered, especially if not already incorporated into your standard rates. You should also account for unique site conditions that might increase labor efforts, like navigating steep hills or removing obstacles. Additionally, any efficiencies to reduce labor costs, such as working on large or straightforward sites or sites close to other projects, should be factored into the final labor cost estimation.