Yardzen is an online landscape design service that markets to both homeowners and landscape contractors. They are part of a growing online landscape design service segment, with competitors such as ShrubHub and Tilly. Like other disrupters such as AirBnB and Uber, Yardzen seeks to be an all-digital platform to design and build landscapes. While Yardzen designs are affordable, for some clients there may be a hidden fee in the service’s partner program. We’ll get to that in a bit, but first a little background on the company and their services.
Over the past several years we have bid a few Yardzen designs provided by potential customers seeking bids. Yardzen design costs currently range from $650 to $2,400 depending on the design package. Here are a few impressions of their designs:
Yardzen’s strength is in their 3D renderings, which are quite good. The designs we have seen (half a dozen or so) tend to be similar- modern looks, with somewhat generic elements. Designs are conceptual, they don’t get into finer detail drawings. In plans we have bid, their understanding of site topography, grading, and drainage is often lacking.
A main reason for these issues is Yardzen never visits the property or meets face to face with the client. Their work is all done using digital using photos, aerial photography and other digital resources. All the technical work of fine grading, construction detailing, irrigation, permits and compliance fall on the owner and landscape contractor building the project.
Yardzen has grown rapidly, according to a sales rep we spoke with, from 30 employees to over 75 within the last couple of years with 200-300 independent contractor designers. Their designers are from all over the world, a quick LinkedIn search will show Yardzen designers offshored in central and eastern Europe and Asia.
So back to Yardzen partner program and the hidden $6,650 fee. We were repeatedly approached by Yardzen to join their partner program. This is an opportunity for Yardzen to make additional revenue from each design project. The partner program is a referral program for landscapers and costs nothing for the landscaper to get leads- a fact they heralded to us in repeated email solicitations. Once a landscaper signs the partner agreement and then contracts with a Yardzen client, Yardzen takes a 7% fee, dubbed a “revenue share” according to the 2021 agreement we were provided in the solicitation to join. So, a large project of say $95,000 would run $6,650 in this revenue sharing agreement. Fees drop to a 5% share of projects over $100,000 in size. This includes any and all work a contractor would do for a Yardzen partner program client. To put it mildly, these fees strike us a quite high for the service of mutual referral of client and contractor.
Do you think the partner landscaper is going to absorb a 5-7% fee in an industry where a 10-15% net profit is common? In all likelihood, those costs will get passed on to the client as part of the contractor’s overhead and will make the project that much more expensive for the customer.
Shortly after posting about the partner program, we were contacted by Yardzen’s COO. This post has been updated in response.