Property Management: Mowing the Grass

Push Reel Mower Backyard Clean Up September 04, 20112

You have seen those commercials in the dead of winter showing sunning beaches and in summer months the polar opposite; snowy peaks and almost frozen brews.  Well, this post is like those commercials. 

Landscaping is important.  In the property management, business spring is when we set up for the summer pool season.  Winter is the time to think about the spring growing season and how to best address grounds maintenance. Addressing landscaping, ground cover, plantings and soils seems like such a simple question.  At the very least it takes pre-planning to assure fixed price contracts in advance of service. 

If a plant scientist were to survey the grounds of your income property assets their report would say some like: there are  55 “species” of plants and three invasive varietals negatively impacting sustainability.  And your comment would be; “I only want my property to look good- neat and clean with green grass and pretty flowers.  What’s all this talk about invasive species!” 

Like farmers, property management requires having a well rounded skill set.  Alas, we must rely on our subject matter experts to get us through the necessary gory details.  For example, using the wrong seed in shady areas can be a flat out waste of money.  The use of plants that require high maintenance should be avoided when a suitable substitute with lower carry costs is appropriate.  Factor in water conservation.  Some plants truly drink like elephants. 

The importance of ground cover in landscaping really comes into play when the conversation includes any word similar to soils erosion or basement leaks.  When it comes to soil conservation, preservation and removing or re-directing run off we want ground cover to be our friend.  This requires planning. 

Too many people think of grounds as exclusively a cost center versus an asset to preserve.  For grounds work the two options available to most income property owners are self-service or contract. For commercial assets there is nothing wrong with having dedicated staff for grounds if this fits within the larger budget. 

I caution you to make sure the landscaping line item never becomes a jobs program whereas staff is mowing three times a week to look busy.  Like Professor Drucker taught us with just-in-time inventory management, sometimes contract providers can be far and away the best and most costs effective solution. 

Note to self – In asset management we spend a lot of time with our heads in the clouds; cap ex planning, mortgage re-structuring. Real estate investing requires manicured lawns and changing every light bulb that goes out in a timely fashion.   

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Multifamily Insight is dedicated to assisting current and future multifamily property owners, operators and investors in executing specific tasks that allow multifamily assets to operate at their highest level of efficiency. We discuss real world issues in multifamily property management and acquisitions. This blog is intended to be informational only and does not provide legal, financial or accounting advice. Seek professional counsel.  For more information, visit:

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