How Often Should You Bid Out HOA Landscaping Contracts?

Posted by Joseph Barnes on Aug 27, 2020 4:25:18 PM

If you’re an HOA board president or part of your community’s leadership, you know that it’s important to make wise decisions when it comes to the HOA bidding process. After all, the satisfaction of the residents in your community hinges upon those decisions. It can be the difference between having a lot of complaints and unhappy residents or keeping everyone satisfied.

Among the decisions that you must make is how often you should put your HOA landscaping contracts out for bid. It’s a process that can be time-consuming so it’s certainly not something you want to do every year, but you also don't want to miss out on the opportunity to improve your community in some important ways.

We understand that it can be daunting having so much pressure on you to make decisions that impact so many people and we want to help. We’ve always been a company committed to the spirit of education and to enlightening our customers. 

Here are a few things about the HOA bidding process, and the optimal timing, that may be helpful to know.

How Often Should You Bid Out HOA Landscaping Contracts?

Let’s start by answering your most pressing question. The optimal timing to bid out your HOA maintenance contracts is between 3 and 5 years. That is the average length of a typical maintenance contract.

Going out to bid every year is too often. And it’s probably something you don’t want to do anyway since the process can be time-consuming. But it’s also a red flag for a lot of landscape maintenance companies. Asking service providers to go through the process of re-bidding their work every single year can make them feel as though you don’t appreciate the work they’re doing for you and your community. It can be a frustration and can make it seem as though you’re just shopping around for a better price, which is never the best way to choose a landscaping company.

If you’re not unhappy with your landscaping services, there is really no reason to go out to bid any sooner than 3 years. 

In fact, that 3 to 5 year range really is the sweet spot. 

If you’re happy with the service you’re getting, 3 years could even be too soon. If your annual landscape budgeting builds in a 3 to 5 percent increase per year in what you pay for your HOA budget, then you’ll be keeping up with inflation (and your landscape company won’t have to come asking for an unplanned increase). And, you absolutely should expect that your landscape maintenance costs will increase. The cost of labor keeps going up and responsibly run landscape companies need to account for that. 

landscape maintenance on HOA property

At Yellowstone Landscape, we are always fully transparent about the fact that our costs will go up each year and work with our clients to help prepare for those increases. While we have found that other companies don’t like talking about cost, we find that well-managed HOAs appreciate transparency so that they can plan for their future budget.

With all that being said, you really don’t want to go longer than 5 years to go through the HOA bidding process. Yes, even if you’re still happy, you should go out to bid. Your landscape company should expect you to, as well. A good company will anticipate it and have no problem going through the process. 

We’ll explain why it matters.

Why Should I Go Through the HOA Bidding Process Every 3 to 5 Years?

The number one reason that you should go through the HOA bidding process every 3 to 5 years is to avoid complacency. Even if you’re happy with your landscaping contractor, it still makes sense to go out to bid at least every 5 years and make sure that your company hasn’t fallen into a routine and is now missing things. It always helps to bring in fresh eyes and to make sure that your vendor hasn’t missed anything or that there are ways that they can improve.

In that sense, it also keeps your landscape maintenance company on their toes and aware of the importance of keeping up with what’s new and continuing to provide you with the very best service. You’re not making them “jump through hoops” and bid the work every single year, but you are making sure that they’re keeping up with everything as they should.

Of course, you also want to make sure that your landscape contractor still has a competitive price, and going out to bid every 3 to 5 years will help ensure that, as well. A lot can change over even a few short years and you want to make sure that you’re not missing out on any improvement opportunities, or that your landscape company is really off the mark of what others in the industry are charging for services.

What Does the HOA Bidding Process Look Like?

To the commercial landscape maintenance company, the bidding process should look like an opportunity to show off what makes them great. It should be a chance to demonstrate how they can meet your needs as an HOA with the services that they can offer you.

community landscape with maintenance services

But there’s really only one way for this to be truly successful.

We can’t emphasize enough that how the HOA bidding process looks is going to be dictated by the RFP that you create. If you don’t have this document, or it’s in some way incomplete, you’re not going to get the most out of the HOA bidding process. After all, you want to make sure that all of the vendors are following the same guidelines, or else there’s really no way to compare “apples to apples.” 

Without a strong RFP, you’re likely going to bring in a really wide range of proposals with widely varied service plans and price points, and that can make narrowing down your choices difficult. In all honesty, if you’ve had a bad experience with a landscaping contractor in the past, it would benefit you to go back and look at your RFP and determine if it might need revisions. 

Maybe you’ve been unclear from the start and you’re attracting subpar vendors as a result. The RFP is as much as an opportunity for the HOA to get what they want as it is an opportunity for the landscape contractor to bid wisely.

Read Our HOA Board of Directors Cheat Sheet

Why Do I Need an RFP to get the Best HOA Landscaping Contracts

Using an RFP helps to spell out all of your expectations and doesn’t leave anything up for misinterpretation. And because each of the companies that bids the work will be answering all of the questions in their proposals, you’ll truly be able to compare them side by side.

What Should the RFP Include?

Your RFP should include details such as expected frequency of service, square footage to be maintained, what services should be included in the contract, and what level of service you expect. It needs to clearly spell out all of the details so that everyone is going in on the same level. 

Providing as much detail as possible is important. This is your opportunity to be crystal clear about what you want. You shouldn’t be leaving anything up to guessing, or it can only hurt you in the long run.

HOA landscaping mowing

Having all of this information written out will give you a basis for scoring the responses and determining which landscaping company is going to best fit your needs.

Including Your Budget in the RFP

This concept admittedly makes a lot of people uncomfortable. But it’s really important that your RFP includes your expected budget so that it can take price out of the equation as you “shop” your options. 

By removing price from the equation, you avoid the inclination to even shop on price alone but instead are able to choose who you like best (that is, who truly meets your needs) for the budget that you have available. We know that people don’t like to talk about budget upfront but the fact is, your budget is your budget and our costs are our costs. 

It’s not like avoiding the conversation is going to change any of these things. We are a company that believes in transparency and we find that many HOAs feel the same way. Playing a guessing game with costs only creates confusion.

Yes, you might sometimes get that random high bid or something that is way out of line, but for the most part, the whole point of the RFP is to have those bidding all come in on a level playing field.

With all that being said, you can see how it’s a big red flag when HOAs do not have an RFP or they tell us “just give us your best price.” 

In fact, we often choose not to participate in that type of bidding process. We need to know your expectations or we’re only going to be set up to fail. If we were to enter into an arrangement blindly, we know that both of us will ultimately be dissatisfied. Our goal is always to create working relationships where we become a trusted partner.

A Trusted Partner in the HOA Bidding Process

At Yellowstone Landscape, it has always been our goal to become true and trusted partners of the HOAs that we work with. We think that an educated HOA makes our industry as a whole better, and that’s why we’re always here to answer questions and to offer as much information as we can.

retirement community landscape

Some may see it as revealing trade secrets but frankly, we don’t believe there should be any secrets. We think that the clearer the entire bidding process is, the more likely it is that everyone is happy in the long run.

That is why we feel that you can never ask too many questions. 

Whether it’s questions about the bidding process itself or questions of the landscaping companies you are considering in the RFP, there’s no such thing as gathering too much information. You deserve to be armed with knowledge. It’s what will help you make the best decision for your residents.

That’s why we love it when a potential HOA client takes the time to analyze the bids we offer—we’re up for that challenge because we know it will make both of us happier in the long run. Expectations should never have to be guessed. They should be known and understood from the very start.

Because we are transparent and act as a partner while walking HOA property managers or board presidents through the bidding process, you know you can count on us to be just as clear and helpful once we begin the work. We want to instill that confidence so that you can know without a doubt that you’ve made a wise choice. That benefits you with reduced hassles and headaches and more satisfied residents.

Are you ready to feel confident in making a wise choice in the bidding process? 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.