E X P R E S S I O N
How to pick the right landscaper for you... and not get ripped off!
25 April 2020
There are an abundance of landscaping services on the Gold Coast! If you type, "landscapers" into Google, you will be bombarded with landscaping service after landscaping service. So how do you know what landscaper to pick? Even more importantly, how can you make sure you're not getting ripped off?
First, who exactly do you need?
Landscape Gardener vs. Structural Landscaper
A landscape gardener is someone that will typically handle the maintenance of your garden and sometimes will install new plants. A structural landscaper focuses on the installation of all your hardscaping such as decking, retaining walls, fencing etc., and will offer garden installations too. They typically won't offer gardening services for maintenance. If you want an all-round company that will install your hardscaping and softscaping and maintain it, make sure you ask about these services before starting your project.
Landscaping Company vs. Landscaping Contractor
Landscaping contractors are not running under a company structure, this means they are a lot less regulated. Contractors will often quote very low to bypass company competition and will not give you the quality, long lasting landscaping you are after. It is also harder to find quality information on contractors such as their experience, recommendations or licensing requirements.
Look for quality companies who have experience with all the services you are after and have reviews you can access. Some landscapers only handle designs and others only install, some landscapers will work with you from beginning to end from generating and designing landscape solutions to installation.
Now that you've found the who, how do you make sure they are the right 'who'?
Licensing and Insurance
If you're reading this in Queensland and are searching for Gold Coast Landscapers, you're in luck! Tradesmen in QLD are regulated by QBCC. In order to complete projects over $3,600.00, Gold Coast landscaping tradesmen have to be licensed. To get licensing with QBCC, you must be fully qualified in your trade, be insured and have completed training in management.
By asking to see the landscapers QBCC license, you are ensuring you are dealing with a regulated tradesmen. Beware people advertising for jobs under $3,600.00! These people are bypassing licensing and could be as close to a qualified landscaper as your shoe! There is also no guarantee the person is operating with insurance so if anything goes wrong, you could be in for a massive expense with no way to hold the landscaper accountable.
Any company operating with a client-based approach will have an abundance of recommendations that they are more than happy to show off! If your landscaper's website or social pages don't have reviews listed, be wary. Who wouldn't want to show off their happy clients and job well done?
Again, a landscaper with quality work will want to use social media and their website to advertise for works they have completed. If examples of what they are "selling" you are not available, question this! Don't just check for positive reviews, check for negative too! Look into these negative reviews and work out what exactly went wrong. Look at the reviews that are available to you and make sure they outline the company's transparency, integrity and communication.
Full service companies will save you time and money. It is better to be able to call in one company to handle your project from start to finish than to have to juggle multiple tradesmen. Do their services meet your needs? Can they offer low maintenance, curb appeal, pool surrounds and compliance? Do they tailor their services to your needs? Or do they take a 'one way fits all' method?
Find out how they handle the services they are offering. Some companies run multiple projects at one time which can leave you going days or weeks with a half finished landscape. Find out how they handle their projects and make sure you get a clear understanding of your timeline.
Are they experienced in the services they are offering? Make sure your landscaper has an understanding of building to code, approvals that are needed and how to ensure compliance. You don't want to get a nasty surprise down the track because that lovely retaining wall hasn't been certified and built to code! Or, your lovely new outdoor space turns into a pond after rain because grading wasn't considered!
Philosophy and Business Model
You want a company that has a reliable and quality team behind them. You also want to make sure you have a single point of contact, someone who will be completely aware of all your project steps and are managing your landscaping from start to finish. There is nothing more frustrating than getting different answers from different people and constantly being bumped from person to person when trying to get information about your project. This can easily end up in mistakes and miscommunication happening on your project. Choose someone who identifies their single point of contact clearly.
Are they open to communication? Seek companies that discuss a client-focus and are willing to answer lots of questions and discuss your design options with you. You want someone who can give you a complete understanding of your project before and after its completion including any maintenance or care tips. If you're having trouble communicating with your landscaper before the project has even started, it's not going to be an easy process for you once it's begun!
Don't be afraid to ask how they handle challenges or issues that arise during the project or in the future. Every company has their challenges so if their answer is, "we haven't had any" they are not being honest with you. The most important thing is to pick someone who addresses challenges and honours warranties by fixing any problems that may arise. It is also wise to pick someone who is experienced enough to identify and address issues that may later impact your landscape such as drainage problems.
When you talk to your landscaper, make sure it is a real conversation. You want someone who listens to your ideas, concerns and vision and is able to provide practical and knowledgeable information in return. Find the right balance! You don't want someone who is too pushy with their ideas and is leading the conversation and you don't want a "yes man." A qualified and experienced landscaper will know best practice to achieve your vision, someone standing there and nodding at everything without supplying expertise... well, let's face it, he or she doesn't know what they are doing.
Is that even possible? Unfortunately, yes, yes it is. We've been around long enough to have experience with many people within the industry and unfortunately there are many unregulated companies and contractors out there. A big part of our portfolio has been fixing or *wince* completely redoing work clients have already paid a 'Youtube' landscaper a fortune for. Yep, that is someone who YouTube's how to do your landscaping when they get home from your quote.
Quotes and Estimates
First off, it is common place for companies to offer free measure and quotes, some companies however charge for these services. Make sure you ask this question up front. A quote is an agreed upon price for your project, it should only change in rare circumstances due to unforeseen circumstances such as things popping up during excavation or extra work requested later by the client. An estimate is an estimated price and is not the final price! Check to see what measures are in place to finalise your costs before agreeing to an estimate. See our measures here.
There are people out there who aren't transparent in their quoting and hit you with additional costs later. Make sure to read your quote carefully and make sure everything you've discussed has been listed. Please don't trust someone's word, making sure everything is in writing will eliminate the possibility of confusion or arguments later.
Make sure your quote includes a price and payment schedule, timeline and the complete nature of the work including installation and supplies.
Beware of the cheapest quote! Generally, you get what you pay for and there are reasons these quotes are so much lower. Dodgey landscapers will cut corners by opting out of quality practice and standards to save themselves time and get a bigger profit margin. Landscaping is definitely an investment and you want to make sure your investment will last! Learn how you can make money from your landscaping project here.
If you've found a landscaper that you're comfortable with, don't be afraid to discuss your budget. Unless you've spent a lot of time researching about the costs associated with certain landscaping projects, your big ideas may come in with a big, and less exciting, price tag. If you discuss your ideas with your landscaper and provide a budget, they will be able to recommend the best services to get you exactly what you want at the price you want.
If you want to get a better understanding of how different elements of your landscaping can affect your budget, check out our pricing post for more information.
Most importantly, trust your gut!
The best resource for picking the right landscaper for you is your gut! How do you feel when you talk to them? Does the conversation flow? Do you get answers to all your questions with transparency? Are their medias and websites updated and informative? Go with who makes you feel comfortable.
Get excited! You're one step closer to creating your oasis! What are your landscaping plans?