For Kim Ferrell, opting to hire someone to pick up her leaves was a fairly easy decision.

Consider the numbers: Ferrell says it used to take her at least two full weekend days — about eight hours a day — to rake and bag all the fallen leaves that cover her South Portland double-sized lot each year.

That’s about 16 hours of Ferrell’s valuable time.

“Maybe more than that,” said Ferrell, 55. “And that’s not counting trips to the dump.”

Ferrell works full time selling radio advertising. Her weekends are the only time she has to relax and do things she can’t do on workdays.

So for her, it’s definitely worth the $200 to $300 she now spends each fall to have her leaves picked up and carted away.

“It’s very cost-effective for me, based on the amount of time I would have spent on it, even with help,” she said. “I’m also at an age where all that heavy lifting is getting too difficult. I think the last time I did, I had 30 bags.”

Figuring out how much time you spend on raking leaves and how difficult it is for you is a good way to start figuring out how much it would be worth — to you — to hire someone to clear up your leaves.

This fall may be a good time to do some price comparisons for leaf removal. As the economy continues to slump, you might be able to find people doing leaf collection for some extra money or to tide themselves over between jobs.

And just the sheer number of people offering to rake or pick up leaves means prices will be competitive. Go to the services section of online classified websites and you’ll find dozens of individuals and small businesses offering to pick up your leaves.

Prices start at about $20 to $30 an hour, while some services charge a set price for a truckload of leaves.

Several lawn-care companies list their price range for an average greater Portland lot — somewhere between a quarter-acre and a half-acre — at $150 to $250.

“I think people are raking leaves to make extra money. I’ve been in business more than 10 years and have seen lots of people come and go, taking the family riding lawn mower out to make some extra money, then a season or two later they get tired of it,” said Corey Wallace, who runs Corey Wallace Lawn Mowing in Bath.

Wallace, who charges $30 an hour, works for the city of Bath’s parks department. But because that’s a seasonal job, he also rakes leaves, mows lawns and plows snow to supplement his income. He uses “zero turn” mowers and a lawn vacuum to pick up leaves.

PROTECT YOUR INTERESTS

When hiring anyone to do work around your home, it’s good to follow some ground rules to protect yourself. First, it’s usually best not to pay until you’ve seen the work done. Or at least not the full amount.

State law requires only that home improvement projects worth more than $3,000 have a written contract prohibiting payment up front of more than one-third of the contract price. Most leaf collection jobs at homes won’t come close to $3,000.

While tradesmen — plumbers, electricians, and oil burner technicians — are licensed in Maine, general home service contractors don’t have to be. But it is a good idea to ask for references — people who have had work done by the leaf collector in question. Then check with those references about the quality of work.

To find out if any contractor has been the subject of a consumer complaint to the Maine Attorney General, you can call the consumer protection division at (800) 436-2131.

A TYPICAL JOB

Ferrell has her leaves picked up by Nick Aloes of Aloes Family Landscaping in South Portland. She says Aloes usually makes two to three visits each fall to her home to get all the leaves.

She usually pays Aloes $200 to $300, which includes transporting the leaves. Some companies charge an additional fee for taking the leaves away.

Aloes doesn’t charge by the hour; he charges by the truckload. Usually it’s $100 to $150 for the first truckload, and less for each truckload after that.

Aloes says a typical Greater Portland yard usually takes him about two to three hours to do, and he’d probably charge about $150 to pick up and cart away the leaves. He uses a high-end riding lawn mower with a bag attachment that holds 120 gallons of compressed leaves.

Most of his leaf customers are people like Ferrell, who have decided the $150 or more they pay is definitely worth the many hours they’d spend doing it themselves.

Not to mention the aches and pains.

Justin Hayden of AC Yard Services in Buxton says his prices range from about $150 to $250 for most average-sized greater Portland yards. He and his crew use backpack leaf blowers and commercial lawn mowers that bag the leaves. He says an average leaf job usually takes his crew about six to eight “man hours.”

Hayden, whose business does year-round property maintenance, says that he too has seen an increase in people raking leaves for income.

“It seems around every corner there is someone with a pickup truck starting to get into the business of fall cleanups,” he said.

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]