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Homeowners leave holiday lights to pros


Between tangled strands of lights, broken bulbs and bitterly cold weather, hanging the Christmas lights can become one of the most dreaded holiday traditions, and therefore, one that homeowners are willing to pay others to do.

Area lawn and landscaping companies that specialize in professional holiday lighting have found an overwhelming need for this service and charge several hundred to well over a thousand dollars for their work. Perficut Lawn & Landscape Inc. says it has more requests for its holiday lighting services than it can handle.

“We started with about 35 or 40 customers five years ago, and now we’re up to about 165,” said Matt Kovacevich, a division manager for Perficut. “We took off a little faster than we expected, and we could do as much work as we wanted to do, but we’ve started to level off in the last couple of years because there is such a small window of time to work within.”

Along with Perficut, A+ Lawn & Landscape, Bob Lenc Landscaping & Lawn Care Inc. and Iowa Outdoor Products Inc., have added customers each year. Each company began offering holiday lighting installation as a practical way to keep workers busy in the off season and provide another useful service for their clients.

“We’re in kind of a slow period for our business before the snow starts, plus there was a large need for this with our customers,” said Rich Newman, who oversees sales with A+ Lawn & Landscape’s 30 or so holiday lighting customers, a number which grows by five or 10 each year. “We have a lot of customers whom we do maintenance for with mowing, snow removal and landscaping, and this really rounded out our services for our clients.”

Chris Thomas, landscape operations manager for Iowa Outdoor Products, said the decision to get into holiday light installation was simple for his company. “It’s a relatively easy task to get into because there’s not a lot of overhead involved,” he said. “There’s the height element to consider, but we can rent special lifts if we need them to do some of the bigger jobs.”

Bob Lenc Landscaping, which was one of the first in the area to provide holiday light installation services about seven years ago, adds about 20 clients each year, and now has about 130, said Josh Massman, a night lighting manager. Even though the two company’s two crews start the holiday lighting work early in the season, more staff will be necessary to sustain the growth next year, he said.

“We start Oct. 1 with current clients, and then we usually start the second week in November with our new clients,” Massman said. “It can be a trick to fit this in the mix of things, especially because you can’t climb on roofs when the snow’s there. We would keep busy even if we didn’t have this service, but there’s a need for it, so we keep adding more clients, which will mean adding another crew as we climb over 140 homes next year.”

Each company specializing in holiday lighting differs slightly in the services it provides. Perficut, Iowa Outdoor Products and Bob Lenc are alike in that customers pay more the first year to purchase the hardware, which includes lights, cords, clips and timers. In the years that follow, customers only pay for the labor of hanging the lights and taking them down and to replace any broken items. At A+, the lights belong to the company in most cases, which loans them out to clients during the holiday season and stores them the rest of the year. Storage is also an option with the other three companies, but a fee may be involved.

Perficut is unique in that it has partnered with a national distributor, Brite Ideas Decorating of Omaha. Being a Brite Ideas affiliate provides the company with additional training and opportunities to attend industry seminars. Many of Perficut’s clients live in affluent neighborhoods, such as West Des Moines’ Glen Oaks and Ankeny’s Briarwood and Boulder Brook. Kovacevich estimates that the biggest residential project the company has done cost around $10,000.

“It was a big property, and of course, they had other things done besides just hanging the icicle lights,” Kovacevich said. “There were a couple of different designs that we created for it. An average project of ours comes in at around $1,500.”

Perficut has done Ankeny customer Terri Sawatzky’s holiday lighting for three seasons. Sawatzky says, “it’s worth every penny.”

“They do a very professional and thorough job, and it’s a wonderful service that makes life easier for us,” she said. “We don’t have to dig the lights out every year and see if they work. While our neighbors are out on the weekends doing their lights, we can sit back and wait for ours to get taken care of.”

Sawatzky said she likes the effect of the straight lines that follow the roof line and peaks of her two-story home, and that nearly every branch of her maple tree is covered with lights, making it look “really pretty.” Everything is taken care of for her, right up to the timers that turn the lights on and off.

Newman said he sees a good future for this service and for companies like A+ in general because of the mindset of many people today.

“It’s a service-oriented society that we live in, and people are in the habit now of paying to have things done,” he said. “I look around in my neighborhood, and most everybody puts up something. People might feel obligated to participate and show off their home, but they don’t want to mess with it, so we step in to help.”

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