Is it just me or have gardeners became ridiculously expensive? Personally, I hate paying for yard work. Why pay when you can do it yourself? Besides, yard work builds character. I pity the kids who have never done yard work. How else do you learn that physical labor pays very little? Anyway, I’m letting off some steam today because of our shared backyard at the rental duplex. Apparently, we’ll pay $360 for a “lawn guy” to come blow the leaves and haul them away. I think this price is ridiculous, but I’m trying to be a good neighbor and I’ll just vent here instead doing it in person. Am I too cheap for wanting to do yard work? The back yard arrangement is a bit unusual so read on…
Shared back yard
At our duplex, we have a shared back yard. This space is shared between 4 houses. We purchased the duplex in 2014 and this arrangement has been in place long before that. All 4 homes pay $240 per year into a backyard fund which is saved for tree trimming. There is a huge old willow tree there, for which the small HOA is named.
I’m fine with paying $240 per year for tree trimming and usually we don’t have to pay for anything else. However, one of the neighbors has their own lawn guy. I’m not sure what this lawn guy does exactly because I’ve never seen him. We don’t live there now and only drop by occasionally. That’s one of the issues here. The living arrangement is atypical.
- We’ll call our duplex – Duplex1. Currently, it is rented out. The tenants rarely (if ever) use the backyard. We plan to move in when the tenants leave.
- Duplex2. The owner lives in one unit in the summer and winter break. The other unit is rented out. I have never seen the tenant.
- House3. A single family home which was sold in 2016. Currently, the owner lives in California. House3 is undergoing a major basement remodeling.
- House4. A single family home which is owner occupied. This house is also getting a major renovation. They are the only family onsite year round and they use the backyard pretty often.
Whew, that’s complicated. The main point is only one of the owners live there currently. House4 is the one that has a lawn guy. Actually, I think House3 and House4 shared the lawn guy before House3 was sold in 2016. I’m not sure about the current arrangement. Anyway, the lawn guy must not be a very good at his job because the lawn is in terrible shape. It doesn’t get much sun back there and it is pretty scraggly. I really don’t mind it because I’m not a big fan of lawns. They take a bunch of water and they are pretty useless. I prefer low maintenance landscape, but I digress. The scraggly lawn is fine with me for occasional uses.
I hate leaves
Now we come to the point. House4 proposed paying the lawn guy to haul away the leaves for $360. Since we don’t live there, I tried to be a good neighbor and replied “sure.” The next day, I dropped by to turn off the external water faucet for the winter and check the backyard. House4 already raked some leaves and the rest doesn’t look that bad. To me, it is not worth paying $360 to get rid of them.
So I came home and proposed that I’ll blow the leaves into a big pile and we’ll put them in the yard debris bin as time permitted. Of course, it was too late and the lawn guy was already scheduled. So, that’s the reason for this long gripe. The price seems insane to me.
By the way, we didn’t contribute to backyard leaf hauling in previous years. I’m not exactly sure why, but this issue never came up before this year. I suspect this is mainly due to House3 being sold.
Alternatives to paying the lawn guy
Fine, I’ll kick in 90 bucks this year, but never again. I’ll remember this and put it on my 2018 New Year resolutions. It’s not like there aren’t any alternatives to paying the overpriced lawn guy. Let’s explore a few of them.
- Leaf pickup day. Ironically, we could have avoided this whole issue if we dumped all the leaves in the street. Unfortunately, the leaf pick up day was 2 weeks ago… The city charges $30 for leaf pick up day and I blew all the leaves from the front yard and sidewalk into the street. The city truck came by and swept the whole neighborhood. Next year, I’ll dump the leaves from the backyard into the street as well. The city encourages this in their newsletter so I’m not breaking any rules.
- Pay the kids. Collectively, there are at least 5 kids in these 4 houses. Once we live there, I’ll propose paying the kids to rake/blow and bag the leaves. I can haul them to the recycling center, dump them in the street for leaf pickup day, or put them in the bins gradually. I’m sure they will be happy with 25 bucks each, probably even less than that. Let’s build some character instead of playing with their devices.
- Get a lawn mower. We could pool the money and invest in a good lawn mower. It’s better for the yard to just mow and mulch all the leaves anyway. Leaves fall in the forest and nobody has to haul them to the recycling center.
- Day labor. I’m pretty sure it’ll cost 120 bucks at the most to get 2 day laborers to do this same job. I’d have to haul the leaves to the recycling center, though.
Let me know if you have a good alternative to paying the lawn guy $360 to haul off the leaves. That seems ludicrous to me.
The downside of having rich neighbors
Man, that’s the downside of having rich neighbors. Money is the solution to everything. Well, I think they are rich anyway. $360 is probably nothing to them. I’m sure a few hours of their time is worth much more than that. It’s different for an early retiree like me. I have time and I don’t want to spend frivolously. I don’t mind spending a few hours doing yard work. It’s good exercise.
Also, $360 seems very excessive. What the heck does this lawn guy do anyway? Hand massages the lawn and sprinkles mineral water? The results sure don’t look impressive.
All right, that’s already over 1,000 words. I’d better stop for now. Someday, my ultimate goal will come true and we’ll get our 5 acres on Hawaii. We’ll have privacy then and neighbor problems will be a thing of the past… Besides, I really shouldn’t complain about our duplex this year. It will generate about $11,000 in 2017 so we could splurge a bit on the yard work. I guess the leaf guy needs to buy Christmas presents too.
What about you? How much do you pay to have someone haul the leaves away? Any complaints about your neighbors? Here is the chance to air your grievances without repercussions. (I’m pretty sure my neighbors don’t read this blog. If they do, then they’d know how I feel about their lawn guy…)
WTF, this is after $360! Wow, this must be the easiest $360 the lawn guy ever made. He only did half the yard. Now I remember, it was done like this in previous years. Duplex2 then rake up the leaves on our side when they’re in town for the holidays.
I spent an hour blowing and raking the rest into 2 big piles. Check it out. Personally, I think we could get rid of all the leaves in 2-3 weeks if we put them into 4 bins every week. No need for hauling. Maybe I should unretire and become the neighborhood yard guy. I’d make way more money than blogging, that’s for sure.
Final update: It seems there was some miscommunication with the lawn guy. House4 called and he came to do the rest of the yard. I still think this guy charges way too much. Next year, I’ll see if the neighbors will pay me to get rid of the leaves.
For 2018, Joe plans to diversify his passive income by investing in US heartland real estate through RealtyShares. He has 3 rental units in Portland and he believes the local market is getting overpriced.
Joe highly recommends Personal Capital for DIY investors. He logs on to Personal Capital almost daily to check his cash flow and net worth. They have many useful tools that will help every investor analyze their portfolio and plan for retirement.