Building Landscaping Scopes of Work for RFPs

September 29, 2022 | By: Kathryn Kavanagh

“A SOW is an acronym for a scope of work, and it’s important to have one to avoid contractors making assumptions about what you may or may not want, or what your ownership may or may not want with regards to the level of service and quality of your landscape management. It is important to be clear with your scope of work and what your expectations are, so you’re getting a service that will meet your needs” explains John Wetherald, Director of Business Development at Russell Landscape.

SOWs are in place to define the expectations or end result of an RFP. RFP stands for request for proposal and is used by property managers and owners to define the scope of work, evaluation standards, pricing, and more. An RFP usually includes an SOW, job requirements and specifications, a pricing matrix, scheduling information, bid form requirements, and more.

Having well-defined and detailed SOWs included in RFPs is incredibly helpful towards making expectations and standards clear. Confusion can bring conflict and misunderstandings that hinder progress in projects.


Wetherald emphasizes the importance of performance expectations. If performance expectations are explicit in an SOW, there is little room for confusion and miscommunication.

Industry standards can differ by state. “Industry standard in Atlanta is typically 51 visits, but in somewhere like Nashville, it’s usually 42 where you visit biweekly,” explains Wetherald.

Understanding the different industry standards in your city or state help our property make more informed decisions about your expectations. Often, the expectations at properties are aesthetic and outcome based. This is another reason why performance specifications are so important when curating an SOW for a project.

“The expectation, in my opinion, is that you do whatever it needs to be done to make sure that the properties look the way that you expect it to,” says Wetherald.

Dos and Don’ts of SOWs

Wetherald advises against exclusively using past SOWs to curate RFPs.

“One of the one of the problems that we see a lot is that people take scopes from other previously used documents, and they don’t always apply to the level of expectation that they have on a property,” explains Wetherald.

Using past SOWs for current RFPs can create miscommunications between property management and contractors because they might not include the level of service that meets the property’s expectations on a specific project.

This issue can be avoided by utilizing advice from service providers to guide their curation of an SOW or an RFP.

Wetherald advises that “Property managers or owners should reach out to their service providers to help them write scopes of work for each of their individual and different traits.”

“I am always more than happy to help a customer or friend go through what their expectations are and how to put together a scope of work that their confident will get similar pricing and scopes from their vendors.”

“One of the things that I always ask for people to avoid are our frequency charts and getting caught up with the number of times that you’re doing certain operations. I typically encourage people to use performance standards and specifications versus frequencies” says Wetherald.

Performance standards help contractors understand specific expectations as opposed to operations specifications. Frequency charts can still be useful to include but are not as vital as performance standards and specifications.

“Everybody is always trying to get a good representation of what the things cost to meet a certain scope and a phrase I hear all the time from property managers and owners is ‘apples to apples’ and when you are evaluating a service contract rather than landscape or janitorial or anything that involves labor there is almost no way to ever get an apples to apples comparison unless you’re talking about total annual labor hours budgeted for whatever your project is,” explains Wetherald.

Understanding and contemplating the realistic expectations of a project aid in clear portrayal of an SOW. When property managers and owners understand and clarify their own expectations for a property it is much easier to relay those expectations in an SOW.

Best Practices

“In all cases you should have a pre bid meeting with all of the contractors that you would like to price the work to ensure that everybody is clear on what the level of expectation is at any given site. Walk the site, discuss your expectations, and set clear goals.” Says Wetherald.

“Always allow enough time for your contractors to do proper takeoffs and evaluations to make sure that they have the right answer to your question.”

Clarity is integral to the success of an SOW. As explained by John Wetherald, setting clear expectations and specifications in an SOW is the most important part of defining a scope.


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