Can tree care increase a home's resale value?

Can tree care increase a home's resale value?
Tree pruning

Unfortunately, money doesn't grow on trees. Or does it?

Arborists and tree experts say, if properly cared for, trees can greatly increase the aesthetic value of your home with that all-important curb appeal, meaning you’ll likely get more money back in your pocket when it comes time to sell it.

"If a potential buyer is looking at a home with nice trees, compared to a home without any trees, it can make a big difference," said William Sorgen, owner of highly rated Complete Tree Care in Bellingham, Wash.

But before you reap the benefits, you first need to maintain your trees. Start by having your trees pruned and evaluated regularly to increase their health and lifespan. Pruning is best done in the late fall or winter when sap is not running and insects are dormant.

"Pruning gets the branches away from structures, from over driveways and away from doorways," said John Nekola, owner of highly rated New Urban Landscaping in St. Louis. "Select pruning is also a good way to thin the tree out. You'll want omeone to do it by prescribed methods that won't harm the tree. Finding someone that knows what they're doing is essential."

The value of selective thinning

Select pruning, or crown thinning, will allow more light to pass through the tree, decrease wind resistance to make the tree stronger during a storm and generally give the tree a cleaner look. Another important step, Sorgen said, in maintaining your trees is a process called crown cleaning, or removing all the dead wood from the tree.

"It sometimes becomes a health issue," Sorgen said of crown cleaning. "Deadwood can cause the tree to not produce enough sugar. It can also hurt your aesthetic value and attract insects."

Removing deadwood can improve safety and prevent structure damage from falling branches, which cause millions of dollars in damage each year.

Find insect problems early

Insects can also be an enemy of trees by boring into the bark and weakening their structure. Trees in various areas of the country fight different insect infestations, such as emerald ash borer in the Midwest and pine beetles out West.

"You get different problems from region to region," Sorgen said. "You want to watch the condition of the tree and get to things early rather than late. There are different levels of severity when it comes to insects. Pine beetles will get on the inside of the bark, stopping the tree from producing sugar. You can't do a spray on it. You have to do trunk injection."

Tree topping, meanwhile, is a term that is frowned on by many in the arborist community because it can significantly damage the tree or kill it. Tree topping is removing the tops of trees or large branches. Many tree service companies that follow industry standards will refuse to top your tree. In cases where topping is done, Sorgen said it's important to continuously top the area, as sprouts will come out, making the tree more susceptible to insects and disease.

Extra care needed for newly planted trees

Be especially attentive to younger trees, which need more care — and water — than older trees. Also, make sure you're using the right type of soil for the trees you're planting.

"If it's a tree you planted, you want to do pruning and maintenance early on so it doesn't develop poor structure," Sorgen said. "You want to monitor any health issues."

Nekola recommends injecting a soluble fertilizer into the soil each year.

"Deep root feeding is a good idea, especially for flowering trees," he said. "Injecting the fertilizer 2 feet into the ground can really help the roots."

Do your research before hiring a tree company. Pruning a tree can be dangerous work that is better left to the professionals, who have the proper training and safety equipment. It's important to look for companies with a Certified Arborist on staff. An arborist is properly trained in the science of caring for trees. Look to see if the company has proper accreditations through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA), the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA) and the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA). Many arborists will provide a free consultation, but treatment can start at $75 to prune a small tree and go up to $1,000 depending on the tree’s size.

Check if the company has a working phone number and a physical location in your area. Never pay in full until the work is completed.

"The basics for any contractor is they should be licensed and insured," Sorgen said.