Money grows on trees when it comes to residential and commercial property value, according to a professor of urban forestry at West Virginia University: trees boost appeal, lower energy consumption, and can mitigate sewage and stormwater problems.
That's good news for owners of property in urban and suburban West Virginia, says Dr. Greg Dahle, an associate professor of arboriculture and urban forestry at the university.
Yards that are landscaped with large trees may be valued as much as 15 percent higher than comparable properties, according to one study cited by the Arbor Foundation. So may yards on tree-lined streets.
"Tree cover will make a house more desirable and potentially increase its value, and it should help it sell faster—and West Virginia is in keeping with national studies on that account," Dahle says.
However, in West Virginia, where flash floods can spring up with precious little warning, property owners may be doing themselves and their neighbors a favor by encouraging tree growth.
"Storm-water mitigation is a concern here in communities where flooding and sewerage are concerns. Trees reduce the amount of water being released into sewers and increase the amount being released slowly into the ground," Dahle stressed.
"Even a bare tree can intercept some of that water and release it slowly, and while it might seem like a single tree would not achieve much, a collection of trees can certainly have a measurable impact."
Shade trees also significantly reduce energy consumption in both summer and winter, Dahle says. Traditionally, shade trees were planted on lawns around homes to keep the landscape cool.
"Shade is an important component of reducing the need to cool houses in summer, and, if planted in the right location, a tree can deflect winter winds that drive up heating costs."
Trees properly placed around buildings can reduce air conditioning needs by 30 percent and can save 20–50 percent in energy used for heating, according to the USDA Forest Service.
They can also help remove particulate pollution from the air, an obvious benefit of living in West Virginia, the most forested state per acre in the U.S.
"Trees capture carbon and can help slowly mitigate the effects of global warming," Dahle says.
Commercial property owners stand to benefit greatly. Retail areas are more attractive to shoppers, apartments rent more quickly, tenants stay longer, and space in a wooded setting is more valuable to sell or rent, according to the Arbor Day Foundation.
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In West Virginia, statistics that regard the value of trees appears consistent with national studies, Dahle says:
- Larger trees in yards (and as street trees) can add three to fifteen percent to home values throughout neighborhoods, according to a study by the University of Washington.
- Homebuilders can recover extra costs of preserving trees through higher sales prices and faster sales for houses on wooded lots, according to the Georgia Forestry Commission.
- Eighty-three percent of Realtors believe mature trees have a strong or moderate impact on the saleability of homes listed for under $150,000; on homes priced at more than $250,000, this perception increases to 98 percent, according to Arbor National Mortgage.
- Landscaping, especially with trees, can increase property values by as much as 20 percent, according to a study by the International City-County Management Association.
Dahle also recommends landowners in West Virginia consider planting fruit trees, which have obvious economic benefits when it comes to food consumption.
"I think property owners might consider including a few apple trees or pear trees. I think most Americans don't have enough fruit trees in their yard, though there's nothing as American as apple pie."
So, what's the full economic benefit? Tree appraisers are available to help guide owners; also, a National Tree-Benefit Calculator has been devised to help. Simply enter the location, size, and type of tree, and the calculator will approximate the benefits of an urban street-side planting.
To find out more about the value of trees, visit the National Arbor Day Foundation, which can help guide you on your way to planting, maintaining, and restoring trees for your benefit and that of your neighbors.
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