Common mistakes property owners make resulting in a waste of money and a system that doesn’t perform, is high maintenance and does not last !

Common mistakes property owners make resulting in a waste of money and a system that doesn’t perform, is high maintenance and does not last !

By Mike Gambino

The title of this article is a very long one but if you are considering a Custom landscape lighting system design build purchase then it is imperative that you read this so you can avoid making these common buying mistakes.

After 25 years of meeting with prospective property owners interested in a custom low voltage landscape lighting system I have found that many go about the process of hiring a professional in an inefficient and improper manner. Here are some of the mistakes I have found they make.

1- No established Budget– This is by far the number 1 most common and most important mistake I have found. Often when asked for what financial investment a property owner is desiring to make in the project the answer comes back ‘I don’t know”. Some truly have never thought about it and some don’t wish to disclose the information erroneously believing they will be sold something of lesser value than what they are willing to spend. This is detrimental to the process because without guidelines the lighting designer is simply spinning their wheels and playing blind archery making the process very inefficient and inefficiency costs money. Money that could have gone to the project and not the design process.

2– Insufficient Budget and unwillingness to phase the installation– Often times owners will have grand plans for the entire property to be completed at once however their budget does not allow without sacrificing system performance, quality and longevity. Some erroneously believe that they can find a “cheaper” provider and somehow everything will turn out alright. Only to find unscrupulous providers that will tell them whatever it is they want to hear to get the job. Then unbeknownst they will downgrade material quality and cut corners during the installation to meet an insufficient budget and the results are always disastrous.

3- No defined scope of work– Yes it’s hard to believe but sometimes I am faced with owners that when asked what they are trying to achieve with their landscape lighting, what are their likes, dislikes the answer is “You are the professional you tell me what you would do”. That is not how it works. I am not designing for myself, what my likes and dislikes are, are not primary to those of the property owner as they may have a totally different primary view or use of the space than what I perceive standing in the space for the first time. Call it indifference or lack of wanting to get involved in the process but it does not make for a good starting point when the owner holds back information or does not wish to partake in the design process. Owners are not expected to be versed in the term used to describe lighting effects but it helps a lot when they are specific about their wants, needs, hopes, desires etc.

4- No due diligence– Some owners purchase custom landscape lighting services like they are going to the market to purchase food for the week and do no research whatsoever before contacting service providers. Too often I am contacted and asked to come out to consult without the buyer ever even looking at my website to see if the type of work I do is what they are looking for or if it may be in their budget. Time is wasted on some questions from the owner to the provider when those answers are readily available from the company website. The internet has made it so simple to get information today but it does no good if the buyer doesn’t even spend minimal time viewing provider websites, Facebook page, state contractor license board websites, etc. Owners should seek referral recommendations from Friends, family , neighbors who have landscape lighting systems that the property owner likes. Custom landscape lighting is a costly but a worthwhile property improvement that should be done once and done right. Chances of that happening are greatly lessened when little to no research is done in the selection of the right person/company who will do the work.

5- No though or understanding of the ongoing costs to operate the lighting system– Initial installation costs aside there are going to be real costs associated with the everyday operation of the landscape lighting system. Electric bills will increase (albeit moderately with high efficient low voltage LED), scheduled maintenance of the system will be required and replacement parts like halogen or LED lamps will eventually need replacing. Like a high end automobile the care of a custom landscape lighting system should be left to the company that installed it.

6- More concern for initial cost than long term value and satisfaction– Some owners are solely focused on the initial investment and trying to keep it as low as possible than making sure they are getting the best long term value from their investment. Some have a hard time spending upfront money now that will save them money in the future.

7- Consulting with a pro with no intention of hiring to pick their brain for information or design ideas– Even if a pro collects a consultation fee it is not a profit generator but a minimal amount to compensate for their cost of travel and hopefully scare away those who are only looking for free information or to satisfy their curiosity of how much their neighbor paid for a lighting project. Unfortunately this nominal fee doesn’t always scare away some insincere prospects who make an appointment for a consultation under the guise that they are a serious buyer. In reality they already have their product supplier chosen and will attempt to do the project themselves or hire a cheaper installer to do the work. This deception is often very easy to detect by the pro when the owner shows technical concern far beyond what they would be interested in if they would be leaving it to the pro to work out on their own. For instance questions about fixture/lamp qty type and location , transformer type and location or any other technical design or installation question they could get answered that should be of the least interest to them otherwise. One can go out and buy the same canvas, easel, paint or brushes but this doesn’t make them Picasso or Monet or any other artist whose work they admire and they shouldn’t expect they’ll get the same results. This type of request for consulting should be disclosed upfront by the owner so the professional has the option to decline or charge appropriately for this type of service.

This landscape lighting blog is published by Mike Gambino of Gambino landscape lighting inc. all rights reserved. Mike is a professional landscape lighting system designer/ builder and has been designing, installing and maintaining landscape lighting systems for more than 29 years. Mike resides in the Los Angeles area with his wife and 2 sons. To visit his website go to www.Gambinolighting.com . To inquire about hiring Mike please click here .

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