Homeowners contemplating landscaping projects frequently turn to Better Business Bureau for information on companies and industry tips. In the last three years, BBB has raked in 83,553 inquiries on "Landscape Contractors" in Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. Another 34,710 inquiries have piled up on local "Lawn Maintenance" companies.
"When hiring a full-service landscaper, gardener or lawn mower, consumers have to be willing to do the dirty work to find the right professional for the job," said Robert W.G. Andrew, CEO of BBB serving Alaska, Oregon and Western Washington. "No one wants to pay hard-earned money for patchy projects or rip-off results."
Take the hard work out of yard work with a few tips from BBB.
- Compile a list. Figure out which services are needed: mowing or lawn maintenance, landscaping, gardening, tree care, and pest control applications. Research average service costs to avoid getting gouged.
- Root through the options. Ask neighbors or friends for referrals. Get inspections and estimates from multiple landscapers; BBB suggests obtaining at least three bids. Don't trust price quotes from companies that haven't seen the yard.
- Ditch shady sellers. Do research before doing business with someone who comes to the door. If interested, take the company's information and verify their legitimacy. Contractors' business cards should have contact information and contractors' license numbers listed.
- Dig for details. Check for free BBB Business Reviews at bbb.org to see the company's background information and complaint history - if any. Find out if they're affiliated with any professional organizations within their industry.
- Get your hands dirty. Licensing requirements may vary so check with the Oregon Landscape Contractors Board. See if lawn care providers are licensed to apply lawn care products through the Oregon Department of Agriculture.
- In for the long haul. Determine if needs are short-term or long-term. Analyze annual costs compared to per treatment fees. If signing up for yearly service, examine service call policies and cancellation options.
- Pile up paperwork. Before paying, make sure written agreements include costs for services, supplies and labor. Also, notate the duration and expectations of each job. Request guarantees and refund policies in writing.
- Don't get dumped. Avoid paying in full upfront; payment plans are preferred to help ensure that jobs are completed as promised.