While it is obvious that trees have considerable ecological, societal, psychological and aesthetic value, it is often difficult to quantify this value. While property owners can estimate the general value of a given tree by using various calculators or formulae, determining a precise figure requires the services of a qualified tree professional.
Different Types of Value
Property owners may be interested in the value of their trees for many different reasons. They may have experienced storm damage and require guidance for making claims – this is known as the replacement value of a tree. Determining the replacement value of a tree requires comparing the tree in need of replacement with the market value of a comparable specimen. This is most commonly applied to small- and medium-sized trees, as it is rarely realistic for property owners to replace large specimens.
Alternatively, property owners may be planning to install new trees and want to know how they will affect the resell value of the property. Determining the real estate value of a tree (or group of trees) requires understanding the local ordinances, growing conditions and market conditions, as well as the characteristics and relative value of the trees in question.
In other circumstances, it is desirable to know the value of a tree in terms of utility savings. Trees can drastically alter the heating and cooling costs of a home, and several different protocols have been developed for determining the dollar value of these savings.
Arborists and tree appraisers consider a variety of criteria when determining the value of a tree. They consider the size, species, location and condition of the tree to determine the value to replace a given tree or group of trees.
Nature of the Value
Trees provide a variety of benefits for properties. Some of the most important ways trees do so include:
Reducing storm water runoff. Runoff water causes erosion problems and ferries pollutants from roads and parking lots to rivers, lakes and streams, where it harms many different aquatic organisms.
Absorbing and storing carbon dioxide. This helps to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which cause the Earth’s climate to change.
Reducing air pollution. The extensive surface area of trees helps give airborne particulate matter a surface to which it can adhere.
Cooling the surrounding area. Trees cool yards, neighborhoods and commercial areas by providing shade and through the process of transpiration. Trees needn’t mature before producing benefits: Even small trees can be placed so that they shade air conditioning units, which may significantly lower cooling costs (depending on the location of the unit and other factors).
Increasing property values. Home buyers often prefer those properties that feature numerous mature trees. This increases the curb appeal of a property and, ultimately, the sale price.
Providing food for wildlife. Trees are important components of local ecosystems. Properties that feature numerous trees with high wildlife value support the local wildlife community — a highly desirable benefit for most properties.
Improving the aesthetics of a property. Simply put, trees are pretty. They help make a property look mature, complete and visually balanced; all of which increase your enjoyment of the property as well as its value.
Determining the Yearly Savings
The best way to determine the value of your trees is to have a qualified arborist appraise them for you. By having an arborist carefully examine your property and analyze the location, size and species of trees present, you can learn not only the value of your trees, but also what steps you can take to raise their value further.
You can arrive at a ballpark figure for the replacement cost of a tree by researching the cost of similar trees. However, a homeowner’s assessment is usually insufficient for claim purposes; a professional opinion is necessary in almost all cases. Real estate value is slightly more subjective, and it is very difficult to make apples-to-apples comparisons by perusing the classified ads, making this another situation in which a professional opinion is necessary.
Determining the amount of energy savings a given tree produces usually requires the help of a professional. However, the USDA Forest Service has produced a tool, called i-Tree, which allows you to learn a great deal about the value of the trees in your yard. You needn’t be an expert to use the software either; you simply answer a few straight-forward questions, including the species in question, the tree’s size and condition and your location, and the software estimates the tree’s value.
The package only presents broad estimates – you still need a good arborist for detailed information – but it is a very helpful to for homeowners, landscapers and commercial property owners to understand how their trees are affecting their wallet.