· Check referrals and reviews. It is always advisable to check references or reviews before hiring a contractor for a job. Make sure the prospective landscaper has completed a project with a similar design to the one you envision.

· Get permission. For many homeowners, including those living in housing communities, it may be necessary to receive permission prior to starting a new project. Many homeowner associations have strict guidelines on what residents can do to change their property. If those rules are violated, homeowners might find themselves embroiled in a lengthy dispute. To avoid potential conflicts, make sure your project is approved by the association board beforehand.

· Be mindful of permits. Landscapers should be able to present various permits, depending upon the scope of the project. Steer clear of penalties and fines by checking with the local buildings department before starting a project, such as the construction of a patio with a fire pit. Large landscaping projects usually require a permit.

· Factor in maintenance: Putting in that water element might look great on paper, but keep in mind it will have maintenance attached to it as well.