1. Know who you are buying from: A salesperson can and may tell you anything.  Don’t take their word for it.  Do your research and check the Better Business Bureau.  See if there were complaints and if there were, how quickly were they resolved?  Also, review the company’s website and get a feel for their values and style, does it match yours?
  2. Know the professional affiliations and certifications:  It can be very important to know if the company you are considering is a member of established and respected trade organizations. PLANET,  the Professional Landcare Network (national landscape trade organization) or OLCA, the Oregon Landscape  Contractor’s Association, are both organizations that promote safe practices and ethical business. Has the contractor committed time and effort to improve their operations by achieving business certifications like EarthWise or Eco-biz.  
  3. Know the company’s history:  How long has the company been in business?  How long have they been in your area?  There is really no substitute for experience.
  4. Is the company local, regional or national?  National and regional companies can brag of their size and status, but how much “hands on” contact are you going to have with one of them?  How many layers of phone calls to reach your contact?  How important is your contract in the scheme of a multi million, or now with a recent merger, billion dollar company?  A local company can always provide the personal contact most clients are looking for.
  5. What is their warranty for installation work? It is inevitable that you may consider some upgrades and improvements for your property. When that work is designed and completed, how will the company stand behind the installation?
  6. Know that cheaper is not always better: Landscape maintenance contracts are made up of many factors, but the largest percentage of the contract is labor.  Doesn’t it make sense that a lower price translates into less labor?  Less labor means fewer hours on your jobsite at each visit.  Is that what you want?
  7. Know all of your options:  Examine closely what is included in the scope of maintenance work your contract offers.  Be careful of hidden costs for extra mulch, spray services and mowings.  Many contractors are masters of surprising you with the extra cost of six mowings at the end of the year because they only included twenty in their contract. This is just one example of tactics less scrupulous contractors may use.
  8. Know your contractor’s capacity and size:  Is the contractor you are considering capable of handling a job of your size, be it big or small? If you are in need of major renovations or large remediation of drainage issues for example, does the contractor have the machinery and internal processes and knowledge to handle a complex job? 
  9. Examine the contract:  Know what you may be signing.  Keep an eye open for the exit clause.  Is it gracious or does it have penalties?  If you are not satisfied with your contractor, how do you get out of the contract without causing you pain or added expense?  Additionally, make sure you fully understand the length of the contract and how the billing is broken down during the contract terms.
  10.  Experience of the management staff:  Make sure you examine and analyze the experience level of the manager assigned to your property. Young college graduates just out of school may have all of the enthusiasm in the world, but do they have the experience to make critical site decisions?  You don’t want them gaining that experience at your site, with your money.

 Excerpted from the website

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