Tree Cutting
September 7, 2012 9:11 AM   Subscribe

How sketchy is this? And how overpriced? We have a big tree in our yard from Hurricane Isaac. The apartment complex behind us has a tree cutting guy in the back with a crane to cut down that tree, as its roots are on their property. There is a tree in our neighbor's yard that has its roots on our property, so it's our responsibility. The tree cutters with the crane came and gave me an estimate of $700 to remove the 2 fallen branches of our tree or $1500 to remove the whole tree. The prices are only good now while he already has the crane back there. I am very hesitant to do this without having gotten estimates, but on the other hand, if that's a good deal, it'd be gone now. We can't afford the $1500 right now, but could swing the $700 and just be poor for a while. Run away or take the deal? Also, we hate (HATE) the neighbors with the yard that our tree is in, so not dealing with them further would be excellent.

For a bit of extra information, our insurance deductible is at least $3000 and the adjuster hasn't come out yet, but we're assuming the damage won't add up to $3000. Our previous plan was to cut up the trees ourselves as much as we could and hire someone to do the parts we can't get to.
posted by artychoke to Home & Garden (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Is there any reason why you can't just pick up the phone call a few tree cutting people to get a couple of estimates?
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:14 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Virtually no one, in any business, will give you estimates over the phone. They will always want to come out to look at the thing/have you bring the thing in.
posted by curious nu at 9:20 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know the market in New Orleans, but for truly BIG trees, $1500 doesn't sound that bad. It doesn't sound all that great, either, but it doesn't sound like you would be getting screwed, as long as that includes stump removal too.
posted by TinWhistle at 9:21 AM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

We have, they haven't called back yet. There are trees down everywhere. We might not be able to get someone else for a while.

Here are terrible pictures of the trees:
Tree that's still standing.

On preview, I wasn't expecting phone estimates or askme estimates. I just want to know if this is sketchy or the sketchiest thing ever? It seems like textbook "How to get ripped off after a hurricane."
posted by artychoke at 9:22 AM on September 7, 2012

It doesn't include stump removal and it's a tall skinny trash tree covered with crap cats' claw vines.
posted by artychoke at 9:23 AM on September 7, 2012

Really, really depends on your locale, type of tree and size etc etc.

As aside, is the apartment complex is picking up the tree because it fell on their property ? My understanding (via Isabel, Irene, and other storms in my area) are that where the tree falls/lands, that's who pays to pick it up. Where the roots are has nothing to do with it.

That said, $1500 to drop a tree sounds like storm pricing. You'll pay a premium for a crane-removal, but during non-storm times, dropping the tree will cost somewhere around $300-600, depending on tree/complexity etc.

Dropping the tree *AND* hauling everything away *AND* stump grinding it can push into the $1000-1500 price range. (Again, in my locale)

So, yeah, to me, sounds like storm pricing. Not gauging per se, but more than you'd pay otherwise. How long can you wait to have anything done ?
posted by k5.user at 9:24 AM on September 7, 2012

I would pay the $700 to get rid of the current emergency problem. I would wait to remove standing trees or the grinding of stumps. Prices will go down later.
posted by Midnight Skulker at 9:28 AM on September 7, 2012

The apartment complex is picking up their tree in our yard and we are in charge of our tree in the other neighbor's yard. Apparently, Louisiana is the opposite of every where else in that regard, because it's Louisiana and contrary. This includes hauling, but not the stump or anything.
posted by artychoke at 9:30 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Sounds high to me. In the Midwest I paid $1600 to have two huge 100 year + trees cut down and all my trees topped. (9 big trees got major topping.) They also hauled the cut wood that I didn't want.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 9:30 AM on September 7, 2012

Just a brief reading of Louisiana Civil Code makes me think that your understanding of the law may be faulty:

Art. 688. Branches or roots of trees, bushes, or plants on neighboring property.

A landowner has the right to demand that the branches or roots of a neighbor's trees, bushes, or plants, that extend over or into his property be trimmed at the expense of the neighbor.

A landowner does not have this right if the roots or branches do not interfere with the enjoyment of his property.

Acts 1977, No. 514, §1.

His tree, his responsibility. I am not a lawyer, but I think this is a fairly clear reading.
posted by inturnaround at 9:34 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

Consider it an opportunity premium-- the tree-cutters are there *now* and if you say no and then put in call 10 seconds later, you're added to the bottom of their list of customers.

And try a little bargaining of $700 feels steep-- what can you get for $500?
posted by Sunburnt at 9:38 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'd go for it. Under the circumstances (every tree business is swamped and will stay swamped for a while), you're not going to do much better. The guy who's there is telling you he would charge you more if he had to come back with his crane. So would others. So if you turn him down, you're unlikely to do better and pretty likely to do worse.
posted by beagle at 9:50 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

Aren't there people who will pay YOU for the salvage of a tree? Anyone who takes the wood will sell it for firewood, if you're paying them to cut it up and cart it away they're just making double profit.
posted by L'Estrange Fruit at 9:58 AM on September 7, 2012

I'll second the dropping the tree *AND* hauling everything away *AND* stump grinding it can push into the $1000-1500 price range estimate. Just had one done for a big Willow.

I'll also second beagle's "go for it"
posted by Blake at 10:03 AM on September 7, 2012

I've worked in the tree biz, quote seems a little high from the photos, but not outrageous.

Looks like a real mess though. Not sure I'd want to try and do it myself unless you are quite good with a chainsaw. Also have at least a couple good chainsaws, easy to pinch a bar in a situation like that. Also harder with vines all over the place. How would you get rid of it?

If there are trees down everywhere I'd probably take his offer if the work he has already done is good. It will be hard to get a good crew out. They'll be booked solid for at least a month.
posted by meta87 at 10:06 AM on September 7, 2012 [2 favorites]

The price doesn't sound out of this world to me, I would probably take it, if it's just one guy and not some big company maybe see if he'll let you split up payments or something.
posted by yeahyeahyeahwhoo at 10:10 AM on September 7, 2012

We did three huge pine trees in Georgia and we paid $4,000. This was without being in a hurricane area.

If you have the dough, and the guy is there, it's not a terrible price. The crane costs a shit-load to move, and that's what you need to remove a whole tree. Ask if you can get the stump-ground at a future date, otherwise, it'll sprout shoots and all kinds of undesirable stuff.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 10:44 AM on September 7, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree it sounds high, but not crazy high. It’s really hard to tell from the photos, but estimates seem to be based on how hard and dangerous it is. But you just had a storm, trees are everywhere, and the tree guys can’t keep up with it. Why wouldn’t it be high?

We weigh the decision based on how much it’s going to cost if it comes down and damages someone’s property or health, probably a lot more.
posted by bongo_x at 10:47 AM on September 7, 2012

Thanks everyone! We are going against a lot of the advice and are going to wait. My husband asked at work and everyone said they have tree guys they know who charged, like a dollar to remove a gazillion trees off their property after Katrina and they all have chainsaws and will come help cut it down. Also, the tree guy we were waiting on called back and is coming in a week. I'd rather give all of my money to the guy my stepfather knows than to some unknown guy who shows up on our porch.
posted by artychoke at 11:05 AM on September 7, 2012

Just be careful about insurance. If someone is bringing down a tree and hurts themselves you can have all kinds of problems. Even a lot of professionals are not properly insured. It is very dangerous work.
posted by bongo_x at 11:10 AM on September 7, 2012

As long as they area bonded/insured operation, I happen to think $1500 is a good price for the work. I had one large and two much smaller cedar snags removed from my back yard in Sept 2008 and the bill, after shopping around, was $1900. (Seattle area)
posted by bz at 11:40 AM on September 7, 2012

The big price impact, in my experience, is the crane. If they need that crane to work on the tree and/or get it out of there then you're not in unreasonable territory. If it's not necessary, however, I think they're charging you based not so much on the work but on what they can command from people with urgent need if they go there instead.

As far as responsibility I don't think your situation is at all atypical, if I am understanding you correctly. If a tree currently growing in my yard falls over then I'm responsible for any damage it causes. If that wasn't the case then nobody would have any pressure to do preventative maint on trees that are close to the edges of their property and more likely to damage other people's stuff.

If it falls and doesn't damage anything then it's more nebulous, based on my life experience in Florida with trees and wind damage, but then again I have never had anyone contest their responsibility.

For my last tree removal up here in the DC/VA area I called several well-reviewed places from Angie's List. There was a lot of disparity in price and we picked the one that was cheapest (and which didn't seem any less trustworthy than the others). They climbed and took down a 130' tree - and hauled away but did not stump grind - for about what you're being quoted for that removal.

If you can live with the mess I'd wait; based on my post-hurricane Florida experience I think you're going to find there's going to be a glut of labor available when cleanup gets to a certain point. We always had a lot of folks descend on the area after a storm because they knew there'd be work. As the supply of jobs dwindle prices will come down fast.
posted by phearlez at 12:00 PM on September 7, 2012

You might be viewing this the wrong way.

They want to pressure you because *they* are there. It's a very easy sale for them. The crane is one site, the people are there, they know the scale and dynamics of the job.

It's classic sales technique to turn your (the salesperson's) time pressure into your customer's.

Haggle away. The *true* price is lower than market rates precisely because they are on site. If you are genuinely prepared to wait then even better. Stick in a lowball offer.
posted by MuffinMan at 12:10 PM on September 7, 2012 [4 favorites]

After Rita, we paid almost $2000 for a tree that fell on our house that needed to be removed via crane. We over paid. Lesson learned. You're making a smart choice waiting and doing what you can yourself.
posted by JacksonandFinch at 4:59 PM on September 7, 2012

I can tell you, as someone who burns wood for heat in the winter - You can get a good chainsaw for a hell of a lot less than $700.

On the "disposal" side... Hardwood, you can almost always sell (I don't recognize the species from your pics, sorry). If softwood, well, I doubt you need it for heating in your area, but you can have backyard camp-fires for the fun of it just about anywhere. Nightly small fires, or a few parties with a nice big bonfire, and you can get rid of a lot of wood/brush in short order.
posted by pla at 8:07 PM on September 7, 2012

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