Whether recovering from landscaping loss or planning to sell your house, knowing the value of your planted trees gives you concrete numbers to use.
Planted trees add anywhere from 2% to 20% of value to your property. Trees add aesthetics and resources to your land, and where you choose to plant them also has an impact. What you plant, how, and where all factor in maximizing return.
The rest of this article will explain how trees add value, how to determine the value of the trees on your property, and how to add value to your property with newly planted trees.
To Plant or Not To Plant?
Trees add value to your property, but you can’t just plant any tree in any spot. There are several things to consider and ways to answer the question of tree value.
Trees add property value in three ways:
- Increasing the overall real estate value to potential buyers.
- In the event of replacement or if the trees will be turned into timber.
- Benefiting the land and maximizing resources.
Let’s get into the specifics.
Values Vary by Location
Property values vary on local and regional scales. So a multi-tree lot with a three-bedroom house in a deteriorating neighborhood won’t fetch the same price as a comparable house in an established and well-maintained neighborhood.
Furthermore, the same tree additions to one lot won’t yield the same boost as comparable additions in a different location. Thus, you can’t rely on exact tree figures to generate reciprocal amounts in sales.
As such, the added value of planted trees is always given as a range. Some estimates can be as high as 20% or as low as 2%.
Lastly, all of this depends on the market. Homeowners looking to attract more buyers can add trees to:
- Increase their appeal and sellability.
- Reduce time on the market.
- Boost sale prices.
Real Estate Value
There is a perceived value addition when buyers look at pictures of homes surrounded by beautiful trees. They serve to make them feel more at home. This can also make individual buyers shell out more money for a spot with mature trees, thereby increasing the property’s value.
The reason for this is threefold:
- They won’t have to wait for the trees to grow. Prospective buyers often like to see themselves in finished spaces, and mature trees make the yard move-in ready.
- People often prefer to live amongst trees and landscaping, so much so that we bring plants inside — even those made from synthetic materials. A house or apartment complex nestled in lush trees makes the home feel protected, cozy, and vibrant.
- The property communicates something about the house. If everything outside looks good, buyers feel at ease and more prepared to like the rest. Buyers can put up defenses pretty quickly if the outside looks bad, anticipating negative things later. Consider how often people are willing to overlook flaws because attractive points weigh heavier in their minds.
Since some studies show a range of actual increases in sales prices with homes surrounded by trees, people are generally paying more for houses with trees. How exactly this translates to real-life examples depends on the market and the rest of the lot.
As long as the landscaping is in good shape and looks decent, the type of plants doesn’t make much difference to buyers, according to one study. They determined that “a good landscape adds 5 to 11% to the perceived value of a home,” regardless of plant species.
However, this species-irrelevance is limited because invasive and diseased flora needs removal or extra care, adding to the ownership cost. From an appraisal perspective, species matters because the discussion centers around replacement cost.
If healthy, mature trees are already present on the property, a buyer is more likely to be interested given the fact that they don’t necessarily need to maintain or replace them anytime soon.
Loss or Use Value
Suppose any damage to your property includes damaged trees. In that case, the replacement cost for those trees is calculated based on factors such as:
- Their species
Lost mature trees are almost always replaced by much younger plants, so the value of the lost tree exceeds its replacement cost.
If you plan to turn the trees on your lot into timber, you will price them according to how much usable timber they produce. The species and how much lumber they will produce determine the price.
This value also comes into play when considering homeowners association restrictions and city ordinates, which may require the replacement of damaged or lost trees. An adjuster would assess the value and provide a replacement cost.
A trained arborist evaluates the trees to determine their value in each case.
Just because a tree has a specific appraisal value doesn’t mean that much money is tacked onto the end of the listing price. This is because the appraisal value of the tree has to be determined by various interactions with it.
In addition to the aesthetic appeal and lumber potential, trees give back to their surroundings in specific ways that improve your property’s incalculable values.
A few examples include:
- Trees planted in strategic locations provide shade for structures. Shade cast on the house in sunny weather helps keep the house cooler, which uses less air conditioning.
- Tree shade shields lawns against fast water evaporation during hotter months, making watering more efficient and effective.
- Healthy trees attract wildlife.
- Energy savings, noise reduction, air purifying — these are all tangible, calculable ways trees add value.
They also subjectively add value based on a universal human desire to be around trees, which translates to greater home value. They can bring in money or help save money.
How to Find Existing Tree Values
Once you find the numbers for your property, you can compare them to other properties in your area to see if it makes sense. Expert tree appraiser Ed Steigerwaldt provides a more in-depth explanation of the following steps here.
Here’s how you can find your existing tree values:
- Find your total property value*. This is the sum of your land value (lot price, including trees) plus improvement value (anything added to the lot).
- Estimate how much trees and landscaping contribute to land value (Steigerwaldt cites surveys showing 10–25 percent).
- Apply a value to each tree based on several factors, such as species, location, and age, to separate tree value from other landscaping elements.
- See if the value makes sense — for example, the value of your trees cannot outweigh the value of your house.
*From Steigerwaldt’s article: “In the case of residential property, real estate brokers, appraisers, and tax assessors can assist you in arriving at an overall property value.“
Let’s look at how and what to plant and what to avoid.
Determining What Trees To Plant
To have successful, mature trees, it’s worth learning what you can and cannot do to make that happen. Careful planning increases your gains and minimizes your losses because you’ll find out what you need to plant and where, plus how to keep it thriving.
Not only must we concern ourselves with the aesthetics of the tree, but we must also understand its impact on the property. Good planning with the right plants helps your land flourish.
It’s worth bearing in mind that planting certain trees, irrespective of their natural environment, may lead to the introduction of invasive and destructive species. This matters because invasive species threaten wildlife and other plants.
Climate is also a huge concern because some trees may not be suited to certain temperatures or humidity levels won’t be able to survive.
Find Your Cold Hardiness Zone
The USDA provides a USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map where you can zoom in on your city and see precisely what zone it’s in.
This is important because each zone’s flora has adapted to its biome within each state and may not survive outside of its original zone.
Additionally, the zones often overlap, and sometimes a zone will have another zone within it; for example, zone 8a has several 7a islands, which can mean a 15º difference in temperature.
Select Species Native To Your Area
The cold, hardiness zones narrow down your plant options, and the list of species native to your area narrows the list further.
What can grow in your zone doesn’t necessarily need to grow in your immediate area. Wildlife in your area has already adapted to the native plants, so choose plants that grow well and attract necessary pollinators, defenders, and other beneficial organisms.
Furthermore, invasive species, which may or may not survive in the new soil, affect the soil’s microbiota. Soil microbiota consists of all the microorganisms in the soil that help improve nutrient absorption and provide natural defenses.
Sometimes the transplant works too well, as with bamboo. For example, running bamboo will take over the yard, whereas clumping bamboo grows only where you plant it, so you’ll need to bear this in mind when choosing the species.
Diversify Your Tree Selection
Diversifying native plants on your property creates a complex ecosystem that benefits from more natural contributors.
For example, pollinators don’t all gravitate toward the same sights and smells. Too few options result in fewer interactions and opportunities to cross-pollinate.
Greater plant diversity welcomes greater animal diversity and allows the ecosystem to thrive. Part of that ecosystem is the soil, to which trees contribute aeration, nutrients, and better drainage.
Plan for Energy Savings
Using evergreens to block winds in the winter and provide shade in the summer means knowing what species will accomplish these things.
Shade cast on the house blocks the sun’s rays from heating that area, reducing the heat for the cooling system to contend with. Tree shade can also block light streaming through windows and create a calmer atmosphere in the home.
Trees also clean the air and lessen the effects of climate change, which aids in energy use reduction.
Make New Trees Last
Once you’ve decided which trees you want to add to your property, you’ll want to know how to plant them properly to give them the best chance of surviving.
(To help get you started planting, refer to Texas A&M University Horticulture Department’s guide called “Planting a Tree.”)
Plant with the root ball top slightly above ground level. Trees prefer their roots to have access to the air, and trees planted too deeply won’t have adequate access to oxygen and don’t develop well, eventually becoming weak and losing limbs.
Plant in the time of year best suited for the species you’ve chosen. Bear in mind that a hot summer can make it harder for larger trees to survive.
Leave them alone to grow without staking unless they need it. Master Gardener Neil Sperry explains situations when staking is necessary. Still, helping them to develop strong roots and trunks will enable them to stay healthier longer.
Beneficial Tree Locations
Here are a few ways you can plant your trees that might potentially add value to your property:
- As house shade. Plant trees to block sun-exposed areas of the house, especially east-facing walls and windows that receive long periods of sunlight.
- As a windscreen. A dearth of breezes makes a backyard unpleasant, but a windy backyard is hard to function in. Trees break up the flow of gusts to shield you from windy conditions. Evergreen trees also help block cold winter winds.
- As a noise barrier. Enough dense trees and shrubs between you and your neighbors can block noises, including road noise. However, this can also backfire and amplify sound if the plants’ leaves aren’t dense enough and don’t reach the ground.
- As a privacy screen. Building a taller fence for privacy can be very expensive, so many homeowners opt to plant trees and bushes instead, beautifying the landscape and creating a private haven.
- Among other trees. Native plant and animal species in a region have evolved together in a way that most benefits the immediate flora and fauna. Planting more of them together synthesizes and magnifies their individual contributions.
- With room to grow. When trees and plants have ample space to spread out, you’ll spend less time pruning them. They receive maximum light, their branches aren’t crowded and rubbing together, and they live longer and healthier lives because they aren’t stressed.
Risky Tree Locations
Here are a few places you shouldn’t consider planting trees:
- Around concrete. Don’t plant too close to sidewalks, driveways, pads, or foundations. Root systems don’t always cause problems, but certain species have notorious walkway-crumbling tendencies. Research the species you’re planting to see whether or not its roots can become a nuisance.
- By sprinkler lines. As roots get thicker and longer, they can encroach on sprinkler lines, forcing them to crack or break clean through. If you plant near a sprinkler head, ensure the tree isn’t blocking the watering area, which also risks overwatering the tree.
- Near structures. Don’t plant sprawling trees next to houses, sheds, or pools. Besides filling gutters and skimmer baskets with leaves and flowers and clogging pool pumps, tree limbs can poke holes in your roof and smash windows. If you plant a tree near a structure, evaluate it at least once weekly to keep limbs away and clear out debris.
- In crowded spaces. If you plant trees too close together you force them to compete for light, water, soil, and nutrients. Their limbs and roots will intersect, inviting disease and harmful insects. You’ll also end up with far more pruning on your hands.
- On neglected land. Avoid planting more than you can care for. The tree needs to be in good condition to add property value. Neglected trees fall victim to drought, disease, and infestation, becoming an eyesore rather than curb appeal.
- In swamps. Poor drainage can kill a tree quickly because the roots rot due to a lack of oxygen. Low spots in the lawn amenable to water collection are a great example of a bad place for a tree. Choose a site that drains away, and plant the tree on level ground, with the tops of the roots showing, not below.
- Without headroom. Don’t plant where future spread requires excessive pruning or threatens the branches of another tree. Even if you planned for most of the tree’s growth, you still have to account for its fully mature height and canopy circumference. Use the higher number of mature dimensions to allow for wiggle room.
Planted trees can add to your property value in three ways:
- Increasing the real estate value by prompting prospective buyers to pay more
- Adding specific values for usable timber and damaged or lost trees
- Making your property more resource-efficient and lowering energy costs
For these reasons, taking care of the existing trees and planting new ones increases your property’s appeal and functionality, making it more valuable in the long term.
Ensuring you have the right trees for your lot goes a long way toward having a lovely, valuable property you can enjoy for a long time.