I too was drawn in to read every single word Dan. Unbelievable post that was obviously very honest and extremely uplifting. I for one am glad that your season ended on a positive note. I feel like good things are going to happen for you in the upcoming season. Stay focused!
Well let's see.......what I don't like is the weather. I can't stand being backed up on deck work. Then when it dries out all the decks are ready at once and people start complaining even though you've explained it to them before hand. But I voted for dealing with plants around the deck. This is something I've really started paying attention to and I'll up my sq ft price if there are PITA plants everywhere. I love it when the bushes are so overgrown that they are bursting between the spindles and growing ON the deck, NOT! Or when overgrown trees and shrubs are draped all over the railings and you can't even see the handrails. I hate it so much that I found a better way! I washed a partially elevated deck (5 ft above ground level) today with a jungle of overgrown bushes around it. I grabbed my 6' wand that I use for fleet washing and was able to stand outside all the bushes instead of in them. I stayed half way dry and was able to see better and manipulate the wand in, around, behind, and above all the bushes without fighting them. It was way better than using my usual 3 footer, getting all soaked, and getting tangled up.
I agree with Mudduck. It isn't raising the bar it's actually lowering it. Basically Jeff is using the "brushing" pitch as a marketing gimmick to land jobs. It is his way of selling value, only problem with that is it is also hindering his profits. I also agree with the fact that now the customer thinks brushing is a necessity. But it is the next guys job to re-educate if he wants the work. It's dog eat dog and that is fair but it does suck when someone mis-educates or misinforms a customer. I have a competitor here that advertises "specializing in hot water washing" and his pitch is HIS hot water is better and he applies wet wax with it so it's more effective. Every time I follow after this guy on a bid I get asked "do you use hot water." So I have to educate them that the end result with cold water and the proper chems is the same. That hot water can warp the siding and can be detrimental to plants. I even had a brochure made up that educates them about it in case he does his estimate after me. It's just a marketing gimmick and again the customer only cares about the end result period!
Jeff, I do have a brush out when the customer chooses my more detailed package which includes gutter scrubbing. But believe me, I charge for it. Our minimum house wash starts at $329 even for a small ranch. Most houses take me 1-1.5 hours with gutter scrubbing. Public perception is I know what I'm doing and obviously I'm good at it. We have a guarantee that "it's the most detailed exterior cleaning ever or it's FREE!" So when I'm in and out in less than 2 hours and they are happy to pay then that is the perception I want. I've never had anyone say "hey you didn't work hard enough!" It's the end result they are paying for. It's the experience of doing business with me and how I was in and out so they could get on with their lives WITH a clean home. Again Jeff, I doubt your houses are any cleaner than mine. Sure I scrub spots if necessary like water streaks under windows or marks on the metal around windows if they need it and like I said the gutters if they choose that package. But once a house is clean it's clean. I understand your point that you aren't debating methods, but rather perception. What would your perception be of a contractor push mowing a huge yard? My perception would be he is new, unestablished, and even unprofessional, NOT that he is a hard worker or doing a better job. I want the company that has a couple of guy's on big fast riders with sharp blades to get in and out with the same results (fresh cut grass). Or in this case a nice clean house. This is why I was reluctant to debate this, you don't get it and you won't get it. That's fine I really don't care. I mean no disrespect Jeff. I just know a thing or two about washing houses, public perception, customer loyalty, efficiency, and profits. But never mind me, I'll go away now and I wish you luck in your business I hope you remain successful. Enjoy your holiday weekend!
Anything posted on a public forum IS debatable, sorry. If you don't want debate then don't post. It's what makes the forums so valuable or at least it used to. Jeff, I was going to let this go because I don't have the time anymore to argue with guys who don't listen anyway. But I couldn't disagree more with your statement, "brushing will get you more work." Having your caveman methods and your own opinion is cool, but don't make bold untrue statements like this on a public forum, please. Larry makes an excellent point with the lawn mowing example. I hope that makes sense to you. Working harder is not good business practice and it won't bring you more work. Just being out there working brings you more work. Just being in business year after year brings you more business. Giving a good end result to your customers will bring you more work. It doesn't matter HOW you do it, and IMO your methods are holding you back. How could you even handle more work if your methods are so slow. You are working harder than you need to. Put one of your houses next to one of mine and they are both dramatic and excellent results. A house can only get so clean. Some days we've done 3 house washes and maybe even a roof or driveway thrown in there. All excellent results and extremely pleased clients. Think about this; you are at one location all day working your ass off and a curious neighbor comes over and asks for an estimate or business card. The homeowner may also be happy with the end results and may refer you, great. Now I'm at 3 different locations because I use efficient methods (right chemicals, big GPM unit, efficient rig set up, and so on). I hand out 3 times as many business cards, get 3 times the referrals, and gain 3 new loyal customers. That is priceless my friend, do that every day and your business would grow at a much faster rate, guaranteed. It isn't rocket science, ever heard the expression work smarter not harder. That doesn't mean you're lazy or cutting corners, it means you have streamlined your methods and your business and putting more profit in your pocket. The ONLY measure of success IS profits, that's it. So I rebuttal your statement about brushing bringing more work with; educate yourself, invest in the right equipment, become more efficient, sell value, charge a premium, and deliver the results. That will bring you at least 3 times the work that you are experiencing now. Just my opinion of course, oh and my EXPERIENCE!
barry, chris from apple, here is some good stuff for your web site maybe ?
By MICHAEL SASSO The Tampa Tribune
Published: June 2, 2008
NEW PORT RICHEY - Tired of the nagging letters from your neighborhood homeowners association, the threats of liens on your home?
Before you ignore the association, consider the fate of Gregory Green.
More than three years ago, Green's body seemed to be falling apart. Overweight, he suffered two blood clots in his lung, then he needed surgery for a back injury, then he was diagnosed with diabetes. On his doctor's advice, he left his job at an Alzheimer's care center in Tampa and began collecting disability benefits, which were about half his previous salary and put a strain on his family's finances, Green says.
By 2005, the family of five had fallen behind on dues to the homeowners association of The Glen at River Ridge, which represents about 150 homes in a west Pasco County subdivision. The result: In September, the homeowners association foreclosed on the house for owing $580.
"These are neighbors," Green said of the board of directors of the homeowners association. "Neighbors are supposed to be compassionate."
The Greens' story isn't the norm for association disputes, but foreclosures that end with the sale of a debtor's home have become surprisingly common in the Bay area and throughout Florida, according to two lawyers who represent hundreds of homeowners and condo associations between them, Bob Tankel of Dunedin and Ron Cotterill of Tampa. Tankel estimates such cases have increased tenfold in the past four years, based on his firm's caseload.
In many situations, homeowners are losing their properties over a few hundred dollars in delinquent homeowners assessments.
What's more, Tankel said he's advising his homeowners association clients to foreclose quickly, before the lender does. A homeowners association lien is inferior to a claim brought by a lender holding the mortgage, Tankel said. So if a bank files first, the association may not be able to collect the back dues.
"We're always in a race to the courthouse steps," Tankel said.
Foreclosing on someone's home may sound ruthless - Tankel prefers "aggressive" - but lawyers who represent homeowners associations insist the organizations are victims of the foreclosure mess in Florida.
Across the state, a record number of mortgage foreclosures have left many deed-restricted neighborhoods dotted with vacant homes. For financially distressed homeowners who still own their homes, paying association dues is often a low priority, Tankel said. Tankel, who said he represents as many as 600 homeowners and condo associations in Florida, has watched his collections business increase by 500 percent over the past four years.
Homeowners associations must provide drainage or landscaping in their communities as less money comes in. Homeowners who pay often face special assessments to make up for those who fail to pay, Tankel said.
Foreclosure lawyers are unsympathetic figures for many people, and Tankel jokes that he's occasionally thought of as Snidely Whiplash, the mustachioed, top-hatted villain in the old "Dudley Do-Right" cartoons.
"Am I ruthless, or am I protecting the interests of people who pay?" asked Tankel.
Most Owe Relatively Little
It's unclear how often associations force homes to be auctioned at the courthouse because local court clerks don't differentiate between foreclosure sales brought by homeowners associations and those brought by lenders.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that the number is relatively small, and most lawsuits brought by associations settle before reaching a sale at the courthouse. Nonetheless, the number has grown exponentially. A few years ago, perhaps one in every 3,000 association collection actions resulted in the sale of the person's house. Today, Tankel estimates the rate is one per 300 cases. Recently, he's been overseeing about three such foreclosure sales per month.
Cotterill estimated he's shepherding three to 10 cases per month to foreclosure sales.
"For lack of a better word, the increase has been dramatic over time," Cotterill said. "I don't know if it's reached its peak yet."
Aside from The Glen at River Ridge homeowners association, others that have foreclosed on homes recently include: Westchase Community Association, which recently foreclosed on at least two homes, according to court records; FishHawk Ranch Homeowners Association; Hyde Park Place II Condominium Association in Tampa; and Charleston Corners Property Owners Association in Lutz.
Both Tankel and Cotterill say they are stumped about why so many people are willing to surrender their homes for so little in delinquent dues. Tankel said the typical association foreclosure case involves less than $1,000 in delinquent homeowners assessments.
Some of the debtors are investors who have little equity in the homes and are willing to walk away from a bad investment, Cotterill said. However, in some cases, such as the Greens', the delinquent homeowners are living in the homes. Cotterill said people don't realize that homeowners associations have the power to foreclose, so they ignore warning letters.
Florida law grants four entities the power to foreclose: mortgage holders, such as banks and the investment companies that purchase packages of loans; the IRS; contractors who can foreclose on construction liens; and homeowners associations.
If homeowners associations decide to foreclose, time is critical, Tankel said. They need to seek foreclosure quickly before the value of the homes falls further and before banks foreclose, he said.
"Because of the real estate crisis, I have suggested that clients not give homeowners so much time and so many letters," Tankel said.
Those kinds of hardball tactics have raised critics of homeowners associations and the lawyers they employ.
Jan Bergemann runs a DeLand-based watchdog group called Cyber Citizens for Justice, which is pushing for reform of Florida's homeowners association laws. Among his demands is that associations provide more notice to homeowners of the potential filing of a lien, without accruing attorney fees billable to the homeowner.
Bergemann faults many lawyers for taking the side of homeowners and condo association boards, rather than considering the interest of all of the association's members, including delinquent homeowners.
Often, the legal fees - especially in a foreclosure case - far exceed the association dues owed, he said. Several foreclosure cases the Tribune reviewed involved legal fees billed at a rate of $200 or more per hour, as well as paralegal fees of $95 an hour.
Foreclosure "causes hardship," Bergemann said. "It causes problems, and if a family has a problem paying $250 or whatever's at stake, they definitely have a problem when Tankel adds $800" in legal fees.
In New Port Richey, the Greens fell behind in their association dues and were quickly swamped by mounting court costs and attorney fees. The family consists of Gregory, 50, his wife, Patricia, 55, a 16-year-old daughter, Cherylin, and two adult sons, Jason and Aaron.
After notifying the family of the delinquency, the homeowners association board placed a lien on the house for $264 in November 2006, court records show. Their debt eventually grew to $580 in back dues.
Patricia Green said her homeowners association's board and its president, Jack Alwood, refused to negotiate with the family.
"They wouldn't take payments," she said. "They wouldn't work with us. They wanted a lump sum."
The association's attorney, Michael Brudny of Oldsmar, also would not return the family's calls seeking to work out a payment plan, the Greens said.
"They'd Brudny's office take messages and messages and nobody would ever call back," Gregory Green said.
Brudny wouldn't comment specifically on the Greens' case, preferring to speak generally about homeowners association foreclosures. However, he denied that his office failed to return the Greens' calls, and said his office wants to work out things with delinquent homeowners. Unfortunately, in the Greens' case, they were unable to make payments, he said.
In April 2007, The Glen at River Ridge association filed a foreclosure lawsuit against the family in Pasco County court. The case resulted in a summary judgment against the Greens in August for a total of $3,781. Only $580 was for the back dues the family owed. An additional $2,134 was for attorney fees and $605 was for court costs, among other charges.
Absent a quick payoff of the amount owed, the court set a foreclosure sale for Sept. 26. That day, the association purchased the home at the courthouse for $100, a typical low offer for a home with only one bidder and little or no equity beyond what's owed to the mortgage company. The Greens moved to a rental home four miles away.
Alwood, the association president, said the Greens' case was unfortunate, but the family consistently failed to pay their homeowners dues over three years. The family didn't respond to the association's letters, Alwood said.
"They just stonewalled; Gregory Green just would not respond," he said.
Eventually, the homeowners association tried to sell the property but was unable to. The association board decided against making the mortgage payments and the lender took back the home.
Today, Patricia Green notes the irony of the situation: The association foreclosed on her property to remove the Greens, get their delinquent dues and fill the home with someone who would pay the association's dues on time.
"Now the home is sitting empty," she said.
5 STEPS TO A FORECLOSURE OVER HOMEOWNERS GROUP FEES
An old wives' tale holds that homeowners dues in arrears don't need to be paid until the home is sold, at which time the new owner must pay off the debt, said Ron Cotterill, a homeowners association lawyer in Tampa. In reality, associations have the power to foreclose on liens and force the sale of a home.
Florida law lays out a process for starting a foreclosure action:
1. Provide notice of delinquent dues. An association must give a homeowner written notice for past-due assessments and any other amounts owed, and provide the owner with 45 days to make the payment. The association must send the letter by certified or registered mail as well as by first-class U.S. mail.
2. File a lien.
3. Provide notice of intent to foreclose. Again, the association must provide the homeowner with 45 days notice of its intent to foreclose on unpaid dues.
4. Start foreclosure proceedings.
5. Cause a foreclosure sale.
If the association receives a foreclosure judgment against a homeowner, and the owner fails to pay off all money owed, the association can have the home sold at the courthouse. In some cases, the homeowners association buys the home if there are no other bidders.
In recent years, associations have been prohibited from converting fines for such slights as failing to maintain the lawn into liens that can be foreclosed upon. However, legislation passed this year may change that somewhat. Peter Dunbar, a real estate and association law attorney in Tallahassee, said that in the future if the fine exceeds $1,000, the homeowners association may be able to file a lien, which is foreclosable. The legislation has not been signed by the governor, said David Muller, a community association lawyer for the Becker & Poliakoff firm.
Ron, What Ken is saying is that you are getting all worked up over nothing. That long tailed keyword you put into the search engine, "deck restoration company's 10 years old", has been searched zero times in the past year until now. Here's another one for you Ron. Search "$99 house wash services". I see a couple of guys on the first page that are reputable business' and message board members. They are surrounded by a bunch of hacks. But again it means nothing because that term has also been searched zero times in the last year, so who cares!