Spending Green, Staying Green Landscaping on a Budget

 These days, everybody is looking to save money—or dealing with the repercussions of not having saved enough in the past. And  while lawns and shrubbery might seem like luxury items to some condo and co-op  residents, aesthetics and curb appeal are crucial to a community’s longevity. In a depressed real estate market where every aspect of a property  is scrutinized by buyers, a community’s financial health and its maintenance fees, as well as its physical  attractiveness, are crucial selling points.  

 In some communities, maintenance costs can be higher than they need to be and  often, parts of a landscape maintenance plan can be tweaked to save money.  Lowering maintenance costs can help the community by easing the financial  burden placed on residents and by making units more attractive to potential  buyers. Following such a course isn’t a question of neglecting the lawn or letting the shrubs grow out of control,  but rather, it’s as simple as making smarter choices on how to spend money on landscaping.  

 How It’s Spent

 While it may seem that the spending for landscaping a community is not very  significant, annual costs for such work can range from $5,000 to $600,000,  depending upon the community. As much as 40 percent of a community’s annual maintenance budget could go to landscaping and snow removal, which  often are done by the same company. Every contractor and each community differ  from the next, but generally speaking, landscapers charge a certain percentage  of their contracts based upon materials costs, labor and for emergency work.  

 Costs vary from job to job, which is why contractors differ on their estimates  of average itemized percentages for such costs. Scott Scharaldi, New Jersey  branch manager for Maryland-based landscaping firm the Brickman Group, says  about 30 to 40 percent of an annual landscaping contract is comprised of labor  costs, and 20 to 30 percent of the contract is for materials and equipment.  Jody Shilan, president of the New Jersey Landscape Contractor’s Association and president of Jody Shilan Designs, LLC in Wyckoff, pegs such  costs at 70 percent for regular maintenance, 20 percent for repair of damages,  and 10 percent for seasonal planting. Some contractors also now are charging  customers for fuel costs, which have risen as much as 10 percent for some  companies.  

 Usually, landscapers bill communities at an annual contracted rate for the  season, which runs from April to November. In some communities, costs for  materials and plantings can be quite onerous, with mulching sometimes  accounting for 30 to 40 percent of a landscape renovation project’s overall price. When considering where a community could save money, it helps  to have a good plan from the start. A community’s landscaping plan always depends upon the long-term maintenance plan, and if  parts of that plan are out of whack, the community could be spending more than  is necessary.  

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