Few property amenities are as beneficial when selling a property as trees are. Their beauty increases a property’s curb appeal, while the shade they provide lowers cooling costs. They provide privacy and reduce street noise, and many will continue to appreciate for longer than you will live.
The precise dollar amount by which trees increase a particular property’s value varies greatly. The location, extent of canopy cover, species present and health of the trees all factor into the valuation. Accordingly, authorities offer a wide range of estimates:
The International City/County Management Association contends that well-tended, tree-laden landscapes may increase property values by up to 20 percent.
The USDA Forest Service is more conservative, contending that trees increase property values by about 10 percent.
The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers estimates that a single, mature, healthy tree increases a property’s value by up to 10,000 dollars.
As evident by this wide range of estimates, determining a precise value for a given property’s trees requires considerable knowledge, experience and expertise. Most property owners must solicit the services of a qualified tree professional to arrive at such a number, otherwise they may leave money on the table at closing.
Assets and Liabilities
Tree maintenance does represent a financial liability; but tree advocates have long contended that on balance, trees remain a net positive. The available empirical data supports this assertion.
In a 2003 cost-benefit analysis of ten street tree species in Modesto, California, author E. Gregory McPherson cited a 1999 study, which found that for every one dollar invested in the area’s street tree maintenance, local residents received $1.89 in benefits. (McPherson, 2003)
The study found that the most significant cost associated with the trees was pruning, which represented about 73 percent of the annual maintenance costs for the tree. In dollars, this value ranged from $6.14 for London plane trees (Platanus acerifolia), to $49.70 for sweetgums (Liquidambar stryaciflua). Plane trees created $7.66 in total annual maintenance costs, while it took $54.31 to maintain each sweetgum. These maintenance costs are easily offset by the $186.24 in value that plane trees contributed annually, or the $132.95 contributed by sweetgums.
You can mitigate some of the costs associated with trees through careful planning, species selection and design. For example, planting fruitless sweetgum cultivars rather than those that litter sidewalks and driveways with their infamous “spike balls”, will save in maintenance costs. Similarly, by planting trees it the correct place for their water needs, you can alleviate a great deal of the supplemental watering required to keep them healthy.
Aside from increasing the asking price of a property, trees increase the property’s overall appeal. This is especially true of properties with elegantly designed tree concepts that feature a variety of species, sizes and groupings. While an increasing number of buyers are considering the environmental benefits of trees (including the decrease in utility costs they provide), the aesthetic appeal that trees provide is attractive to the vast majority of buyers.
Those in the business of selling properties certainly find that trees are attractive to buyers. According to ArborDay.org, 83 percent of realtors surveyed in one study held that trees increase the appeal of moderately priced homes. Ninety-eight percent of those surveyed found that trees increased the appeal of high priced homes (those listed at more than $250,000). (Arbor Day Foundation, n.d.)
Trees Living on the Street
Street trees – those planted between the sidewalk and the road – also raise property values. According to a 2008 study by Geoffrey H. Donovana, David T. Butry, which examined the effects that street trees had on property values in Portland, Oregon, the increase in value is quite significant. Researchers found that a single tree with a 300-square-foot canopy, placed within 100 feet of a home, raised the property’s value by about 7,000 dollars – akin to increasing the home’s footprint by 100 square feet. (Geoffrey H. Donovana, 2010) These benefits do not exist in a vacuum; the researchers found that street trees also increase the values of properties within 100 feet by about 1,200 dollars each.
Even if you intend to rent your property, rather than sell it, trees will increase the relative appeal of the property and – in most cases – increase the amount of rent you can charge for the property. In 2011, Donovana and Butry tackled another aspect of Portland’s trees; this time, they investigated the effect trees had on rental rates. Perhaps unsurprisingly, they found that rental rates for properties with trees were greater than for those properties without trees.
According to the study, each additional tree on a given property increased the monthly rent by about $5.62 ($67.44 annually). Rental rates soar when the tree is located in the public right of way. According to the study, trees in the right of way increase the rent by $21 each month. Savvy renters may also appreciate the utility savings that trees provide, thus increasing the appeal of the property.
Arbor Day Foundation. (n.d.). Benefits of Trees. Retrieved from ArborDay.org: http://www.arborday.org/Trees/benefits.cfm
Geoffrey H. Donovana, D. T. (2010). Trees in the city: Valuing street trees in Portland, Oregon. Landscape and Urban Planning.
McPherson, E. G. (2003). A BENEFIT–COST ANALYSIS OF TEN STREET TREE SPECIES IN MODESTO, CALIFORNIA, U.S. Journal of Arboriculture.