Every parent, myself included, who has uttered the immortal words “money doesn’t grow on trees” was dead wrong. According to new academic research, money does grow on trees – to the tune of billions of dollars! 

A study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Bureau of Business Research found that, nationwide, trees collectively add more than $31.5 billion of value to private homes each year. The research, which was sponsored by the nonprofit Arbor Day Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Forest Service, also said neighborhood trees provide more than $73 billion worth of environmental benefits yearly. To top it off, the business of growing, selling, planting and maintaining our trees employs more than a half-million people and has an economic benefit of $35 billion. 

The study doesn’t say what trees are worth to individual homeowners, but other studies say “plenty.” That’s why homebuilders charge a premium for wooded lots, and why some buyers will gladly pay extra for mature trees.  

Whether their place came with large trees or not, one of the first things new homeowners do upon moving in – after putting up curtains and laying down doormats – is upgrade their landscaping. They might spruce up their flower beds, drop in some bushes and add a tree or two. 

$1K to $10K Boost 

If you do it right, landscaping can pay off handsomely: The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers said the value of mature trees runs between $1,000 and $10,000. A study from the Forest Service found that in Portland, Oregon, trees planted near houses increased their sales price by an average of $8,870.  

There’s an entire science behind establishing the value of individual trees. But you may not need to call in a professional to establish what yours are worth. 

Casey Trees, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that is “committed to restoring, enhancing and protecting the tree canopy of the nation’s capital,” has developed a tool that can help. Its tree benefit calculator (treebenefits.com/calculator) can give you an idea of how much value a particular species, at various circumferences, will add to your property. 

Of course, trees’ value isn’t only monetary: They also clean the air, provide homes for local wildlife and give us cool shade, beautiful springtime flowers and vibrant fall color. But even these can be translated into dollars, to some extent. 

In its 1992 book “Growing Greener Cities,” the American Forestry Association said that each year, a single deciduous tree can provide $73 worth of air conditioning, $75 worth of erosion control, $75 worth of wildlife shelter and $50 worth in air pollution reduction. Casey’s tree calculator measures the value of some of these factors as well. 

How Tree’s Value is Measured 

Generally, there are four main elements that can be measured in dollars: 

First is size. Obviously, the larger the tree, the more it’s worth. And after many years of growth, trees become literally irreplaceable. 

Next, what species is it? The most valuable trees are hardy, durable, highly adaptable and won’t drop debris like nuts or pods everywhere. They will have sturdy, well-shaped branches and pleasing foliage, and require little maintenance. 

Third, a tree’s condition. Of course, a healthy, well-maintained plant has a higher value. 

Lastly, location: A tree in the yard is usually worth more than one growing in the woods. Ditto for one standing alone versus growing in a group. A tree near your house, or one serving as a focal point in your landscape, also tends to have more value. 

If you have a hankering to do some landscaping, the American Society of Landscape Architects suggests investing about 5 percent to 10 percent of your home’s value. Admittedly, that can be expensive, but it’s less costly if you put in multiple trees at once, rather than adding them one at a time.  

Even so, you don’t have to do everything all at once, and you can save big bucks by doing some of the work yourself. Start with smaller trees, say from 5 feet to 15 feet tall, then let them grow in size and value. Anything larger than that will require professional installation. 

With a realistic budget in hand, start in the front yard with the largest shade tree you can afford. One that’s 4 feet to 6 feet in diameter (measured at a point 12 inches from the ground) will give your place an established look that would otherwise take a half-dozen years to create, and will give the yard a greater visual impact than several smaller trees. 

Lew Sichelman has been covering real estate for more than 50 years. He is a regular contributor to numerous shelter magazines and housing and housing-finance industry publications. Readers can contact him at lsichelman@aol.com. 

Money Does Grow on Trees, After All

by Lew Sichelman time to read: 3 min