Does a Shade Tree Increase a Home’s Value?


In Arizona, shade is a valuable commodity in the summertime. But does a shade tree really increase a home’s value?

Question from homeowner: “I have a dispute with my neighbor over his willow acacia tree - he is claiming that he will not cut it down because he plans to sell his home in the next 1-2 years and believes that this shade tree adds $30k value to his property. How can I find out if this is true? Can you appraise a home to determine the added value of a tree?”

There are several factors in this type of dispute and there are several issues with determining the effect on value if any from keeping or removing a large tree.


Value of Similar Homes with Shade Trees


First off, the limitations of the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) makes it very difficult to locate homes that have sold that have large trees as there is no search criteria notating trees.

As an appraiser, we would have to search satellite imagery in county records to locate sales of homes with similar trees and then locate sales of similar homes that do not have large trees to extract a difference in market value.

In addition if/when these sales are found the appraiser would have to determine if any difference in value is attributable to said trees or if it is due to some other factor (condition, remodeling, etc.).

Due to the time that this would require, the cost would be considerable. Not the average cost of a home appraisal.


Other Options to Resolve Dispute


Because the dispute is over keeping or removing the tree, it may be more cost effective to speak to a Real Estate Attorney.

I am not an attorney but have taken Real Estate law appraisal classes and my understanding is that you have the right to cut any limb that overhangs your property provided that you do not cross the property line of the neighbor.

From realestate.findlaw.com:

“Following are some things to keep in mind regarding trees and neighbor disputes:

  • Sometimes disputes arise between neighbors when trees belonging to one property owner fall on and damage or destroy adjacent property. In such cases, the tree owner is only responsible for damage if some failure to maintain the tree contributed to the damage.
  • If the damage was solely the result of a thunderstorm or act of God, the tree owner will not be responsible, as the damage could not have been foreseen.
  • If a tree limb appeared precarious and the owner failed to maintain the tree after warnings, the owner may well be responsible for resulting damage when a storm causes the limb to fall.
  • If the tree was well maintained and a storm causes a tree limb to crash into a neighbor's roof, the tree owner is not responsible.
  • If a tree owner allows the tree to grow so that it uproots a fence, it would be considered an encroachment onto the adjacent property. In that instance, the tree owner would be required to remove the offending tree.
  • A boundary tree is one planted on the boundary line itself and should not be removed without mutual agreement. Leaves, bean pods, or acorns which fall off and end up on adjacent property are considered a natural occurrence and are the responsibility of the landowner on whose property they ultimately come to rest.
  • Property owners in every state have the right to cut off branches and roots that stray into their property. In most cases this is the only help that is provided by the law, even when damage from a tree is substantial.
  • A property owner who finds a neighbor’s tree encroaching must first warn or give notice to the tree owner prior to commencing work and give the tree owner the chance to correct the problem. If the tree owner does nothing, the tree can still be trimmed.
  • As a general rule a property owner who trims an encroaching tree belonging to a neighbor can trim only up to the boundary line and must obtain permission to enter the tree owner's property, unless the limbs threaten to cause imminent and grave harm. A property owner cannot cut the entire tree down and cannot destroy the structural integrity or the cosmetic symmetry and appeal of a tree by improper trimming.”


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