The Money Tree
Trees increase property values
Trees provide one of the best returns on investment for home improvements because they keep on growing (literally) after the purchase is made. Liveable Places News reports that home sales prices increase $508 (in current dollars) for each front yard tree. Other studies show that people are willing to pay 3 to 7 percent more for a house in a well-treed neighborhood.
Real Estate, Trees and Lot Values
Urban trees are worth much more than their value of wood - 25 times more than their country cousins in the forest - since city trees enhance the value of real estate. In some cases, trees can raise the value of a lot compared to the same lot without trees by as much as 20 percent. On average, trees add between 5 and 7 percent to the value of a residential lot. Nationwide, that added value results in an extra $5,000 per lot, according to the U. S. Forest Service. Any property with trees invariably sells faster too.
Trees Do Their Part - Let's Do Ours
Gardening is America's favorite hobby. Although it takes time, energy and money to buy and plant a tree, prune and water it, and dispose of leaves, research shows that the annual benefits outweigh the costs by about $65 each year for every single tree.
In addition to being beautiful, shade trees are TREEmendous assets for urban communities. When the sun beats down on barren concrete, asphalt and glass, cities heat up nine degrees warmer that their rural counterparts, creating a phenomenon known as the "heat island effect." And since these surfaces retain heat, they stay hotter longer. After sunset, these hot surfaces continue to radiate stored heat back into the atmosphere well into the evening, making it feel warmer than outside city limits. Parking lots are real heat island culprits causing increased hydrocarbon vaporization and air pollution.
Shade trees can make individual neighborhoods and whole cities cooler by preventing the "heat island effect" in two ways. In the heat of the summer, temperatures are 10 degrees cooler under the shade of a mature tree. And as wind moves air through a shade canopy, it is cooled much like the way water is cooled when passing through a swamp cooler. A stand of trees can create a welcoming "oasis effect".
Check your treescaping to maximize benefits of the "oasis effect." Three strategically planted trees can provide shade that will lower cooling costs by 10 to 50 percent. Planting deciduous trees on the southeast, south and west sides of your home or office will protect it from the summer sun, whereas in winter the trees will drop their leaves and allow sun rays to warm the building. Besides the obvious savings in energy costs, this energy conservation translates directly to less carbon dioxide produced at the generating plant that provides the energy to cool your home.
A well-treed neighborhood is 5-10 degrees cooler than a new development.
10 Questions To Ask When Choosing A Tree
1. What do you want the tree to do? Provide cooling shade, add beauty, color accent, hide something, stem erosion, buffer noise, block wind?
2. Will it conflict with any overhead wires, underground cables, sewers or basements? Look to the sky before you plant.
3. What will the tree look like when it is fully grown? Keep it to scale with adjacent buildings.
4. How long will it take to reach its full size? Some species grow faster than others.
5. What are the physical characteristics of the tree: small, medium or large? Falling leaves or flowers? Fall color?
6. Does the tree grow well where I live? Don't fight Mother Nature.
7. Is it far enough away from the house, sidewalk, neighbors, other trees? Plan ahead.
8. Will it block any windows when it reaches full size? Do you want privacy or view?
9. How will it fit in? Will it drop leaves into a swimming pool or shade a vegetable garden?
10. What kind of special care, if any, does it require? Understand your obligations up front.
A Windfall From Trees
Trees are on the job 24 hours a day, 365 day a year. Just how much is their unceasing effort worth? The American Forestry Association did a study over 10 years ago and concluded that a single urban tree with a 50 year life span yields about $273 in environmental and economic benefits each year:
Air conditioning: $73 savings
Stemming erosion and storm water runoff: $75
Providing wildlife shelter: $75
Controlling air pollution: $50
Compounding $273 for 50 years at 5% yields $57,151 in economic and environmental benefits per urban tree.
How Much Are My Trees Worth?
The best way to determine the value of the trees on your property is to find out the retail replacement of similar sized trees at your local nursery. Make sure the quote includes planting and a one-year guarantee.
Tree experts sometimes use a formula method of estimating a tree's value based on its size and other factors. This method is especially useful for trees that are too mature to compare with nursery stock.
First, determine an average base value by measuring the diameter (in inches) of the tree's trunk 4-1/2 feet from the ground. Here are some average base values of trees of various sizes:
|Diameter at 4-1/2 feet||Average base value|
|10 inches||$ 1,729|
|14 inches||$ 3,388|
Adjust these figures for the species, location, and condition of your tree as follows:
100% for the best types of trees for your area.
70% for less desirable species.
100% for yard tree.
90% for a tree 15 to 20 feet from the corner of the house.
70% for one that is too close to the sidewalk, or directly in front of a picture window.
The health of your tree will obviously influence its value. Has it retained its natural shape or has it been degraded by bad pruning? Does it have a full canopy with many leaves and branches? If so, give it 100%. If not, decrease the percentage accordingly.
Add these three percentages together and divide by 3. Multiply the resulting percentage by the dollar figure you noted according to the diameter above, and that will give you a good general idea of the monetary value of your tree.
You may want to document your tree for appraisal purposes. Record the tree's diameter, species and age, if you know it. Take several photographs from a distance of 15 to 20 feet. Take several shots looking up the tree's canopy from beside the trunk. Keep detailed records of maintenance performed on the tree for future reference.
Excerpted from Growing Greener Cities, A Tree Planting Handbook, by Global ReLeaf, Living Planet Press, Los Angeles, 1992.