HOA Landscape Budgets: How Much Should You Spend on Landscaping at Your Community Association

Posted by Joseph Barnes on Jul 27, 2020 8:57:51 AM

If you’re an HOA board member or in some form of leadership, you might be wondering, “How much should my HOA spend on landscaping?” 

It’s a common question that can get convoluted by the fact that many different commercial landscape companies appear to charge very different prices for seemingly the same services.

Since we understand that you have a number of homeowners who want to understand where their HOA dues are going, and whether they’re getting as much value out of their investment as possible, we want to be as transparent as possible in answering that question.

With that spirit of education in mind, we want to help you understand how we come up with our pricing. 

We have a broad range of customers with a broad range of property sizes (and expectations), so we’ll be honest that the answer as to exactly how much they’re spending will run the gamut. But, the way that we price our work remains the same across the board.

Here’s what we think will be helpful for you to know.

Understanding HOA Landscaping Costs 

As we mentioned, we have a broad range of customers. While some communities spend in excess of seven figures a year on their HOA landscape budget, the overwhelming majority of communities spend a much smaller sum.

landscaper working at community association

On average, from East Coast to West, the typical community that we care for is spending somewhere in the $45,000 to $60,000 range per year for landscape maintenance.

One thing that’s important to know is that no matter what the size of your association, landscaping will likely be one of your most expensive line items. We understand that and we know that’s a big deal. We completely get that with landscaping being the most expensive item in your total HOA budget, you and your residents want to fully comprehend what they’re receiving for their investment.

So, let’s take a closer look at how HOA landscaping costs are determined. There are going to be a few key factors that have a tremendous impact on price. And while there are plenty of companies who would prefer to keep you in the dark as to how they determine pricing, you can count on us to be honest and forthcoming in how we price jobs.

Here are some of the key factors we’re considering.

The Cost is Proportionate to the Amount of Time at Your Community

If you were to have one takeaway from this entire article, we’d want this to be it. The cost that you will pay for landscaping is going to be proportionate to the amount of time that a professional spends on your property.

After all, we’re a service business. Yes, you’re ultimately paying for the result but how we get to that result (and how good it is) is directly correlated with how much time we’re spending on your property.

You need to think about how many days a week is your professional landscaping company coming to your property and how long are they there during those days? Ultimately, that’s what drives pricing.

How Much Green Space You Have (and How Detailed It Is) Impacts Time

How much green space you have and how detailed that green space is will ultimately dictate how much time it takes to care for your property. So, while the size of the property obviously matters, it has even more to do with how much green space is on that property and what it will require to look its best.

View of community association landscape

For instance, you might have a community that has a lot of lawns and some simple plant beds at the entrance, but there’s nothing complicated. A different community of the same size that has many different types of plants or a variety of trees that require pruning and cleaning up is obviously going to cost more.

Inclusions can Add or Subtract Cost

Another impact factor to consider when thinking about an HOA landscape budget is that inclusions will also be a driver of price. For instance, will irrigation be included or do you just want that as an “on call service?” Similarly, will tree trimming be regularly included or will you pay for that as needed?  

You have to consider whether you want to “pay as you go” for certain services or if you want them in the initial contract, planned upfront in a more proactive manner.

If you’re sensitive or worried about the budget one year, then we can pull as much out of it as possible and then plan to add services if they really become needed. We understand that things can happen and budgets can differ from year to year. And even seemingly small services, like mulching, can get really expensive on a huge property. 

Maybe you have 500 palm trees and caring for them is going to take the HOA landscape budget out of range. We can work with you to pull that line item and hold off on it. We can do it when it’s really needed and when you’ve worked out the finances. 

What Percentage of HOA Dues Go Toward Landscaping?

When trying to figure out an appropriate HOA landscape budget, you might be wondering what percentage of total dues should be allocated for landscaping. We have received this question before and we understand that HOA board members and leaders want to be able to gauge what other HOAs are doing and where they fall.

It’s a difficult question to answer because it really does come down to expectations. The expectations of your board and of your HOA members can also play a major role in what you ultimately pay. You could take two different communities of similar size and similar make-up but if the expectations are higher for one, they’ll need to allocate more of their budget for landscaping.

Enhancements are one of the key areas where this makes a big difference. How much does your board and your community at large care about the seasonal flower displays at the entrance or at key gathering spots (like a clubhouse or at a community pool)? 

HOA property landscape with flowers and walkway

For some communities, this is a really huge point. They expect impressive displays. But others don’t mind forgoing those displays to save money on the HOA landscape budget.

With all that being said (and in understanding that expectations can alter this), we would say that landscaping is usually as much as half of the total budget. If expectations are exceptionally high, it could be more than that. If expectations are not as high, it could be less than half. 

Of course, we understand that expectations are one of those things that can be nearly impossible to measure. What’s okay with some residents may be completely not okay with others. That’s always one of the biggest challenges with HOAs as a whole. While it will never be possible to please everyone, we have found that most HOA boards have gotten quite good at gauging the collective expectations of the group as a whole—and that’s what we use to build out our service plans.

We also know that when people are spending as much as they are on landscaping that they tend to be really interested in it. We understand that you have a lot of voices to answer to and that when people are not happy, that you’re the one that will ultimately hear it. 

Making you look good so that people are satisfied with what they’re spending on dues, is always on our mind.

Planning for a Future HOA Landscape Budget

While we’re talking about HOA landscaping costs, we also want to be fully transparent that you should assume increases. When it comes to making sure that you are budgeting enough for an HOA landscape budget, this is important information.

Even so, over the years, we have found that other commercial landscape companies don't like talking about this and also fail to be fully transparent on their intentions. But that’s ultimately a disservice to HOA boards who we understand need to plan ahead for next year’s budget. 

The biggest reason that landscape companies need to raise their prices every year comes down to labor. Labor is the single biggest cost in pricing landscape services and it continues to rise.

If you want to have well-trained employees on your property with good equipment, it’s going to cost more next year because you can count on us to buy new equipment and to give raises. Both of those things are important and are not areas where we are willing to skimp to charge a little bit less. 

We’d rather continue to employ the same long-term team members and to invest in the best equipment that produces the best results. We find that most HOAs not only understand this but they welcome it as they understand how it impacts their property. They’d rather pay a little more and stick with a company they know and trust than to hire a new company just to save a few bucks.

We tell the HOAs that we work with to expect a roughly 3 percent increase in costs year over year. HOAs can build that number into their planning now so that they’re prepared for the future.

Are we Budgeting Enough for our HOA Landscape Budget?

Because we are so transparent in our pricing and we’re always willing to be forthcoming about the fact that we raise our price each year, we find that the HOAs we work with are easily able to answer this question.

That being said, it does come back to expectations.

If you’ve already been using our services (or the services of another professional landscape company) and you are happy with what you’re getting—then yes, you are budgeting enough. You still need to assume costs will rise no matter what company you’re using, because labor costs do keep going up. This industry is driven by the cost of labor and there’s no way around that.

But if you are not currently happy with your results, there’s a good chance that your not spending enough to meet your service expectations. The last thing that you want is to try to find a lowball price that’s going to give you more for less money. Chances are, that company is cutting corners somewhere.

Here’s an industry secret. All of the bids you receive shouldn’t be much more than 10 percent different from one another if they are truly qualified bidders. 

If someone throws out a price that is incredibly low, you can be pretty confident they’ve found a way to cut corners such as paying their people a low wage (which means under-qualified workers with lots of turnover) or shaving off time by skipping certain tasks (which means subpar results). 

This is a topic that we’ll cover in more depth in our next article but an issue important enough for us to raise here. Though we know you have to keep a lot of people happy and that you must adhere to a strict budget, you ought to be wary of anyone who is trying to convince you they can do the same work for a lot less money. 

Choosing a Landscape Maintenance Company to Help with Your HOA Landscape Budget

Hopefully this has provided some valuable insight that will help you better understand how pricing is determined and how you should plan for your HOA landscape budget. We completely understand that board leaders want to have a better grasp on what they’re investing in so that they know they’re making wise choices.

Yellowstone landscape employee working at community association landscape

At Yellowstone Landscape, we are always available to help support HOA boards that need help building or making adjustments to their budget. We understand that you want to get impactful results but that you still have to stay within a certain dollar amount. We can let you know which services might make sense to hold off on or which shouldn’t be overlooked. 

This can be really important in helping you get the most out of your investment—while also making sure that you aren’t making mistakes that could hurt you in the long run. You need to be able to trust that your landscape company is steering you in the right direction and being fully transparent about any services which need to be performed right away (and any that can wait).

Ultimately, your wise choice in landscaping services to be included in the HOA budget will help keep residents happy and will assist in improving the total value of your property, too. As stressful as it may seem, you really can come out a winner when making these smart budgeting decisions with the help of a landscape partner you can trust.

Are you ready to spend your HOA budget more wisely? Request a consultation today. We’ll meet to learn more about your property and its challenges and come up with a comprehensive plan to take care of all of the details for you.

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Joseph Barnes

About The Author

Joseph Barnes

Joseph Barnes has served as Marketing Manager of Yellowstone Landscape since 2013. He writes on a variety of topics related to the commercial landscaping industry.