Whether a tree or shrub is native or introduced to a property its aesthetic, engineering, architectural, and environmental functions are tangible and quantifiable. Because trees and shrubs increase the value of property a dollar value can be estimated for them individually. Tree and shrub value is linked to plant size, species, location, vigor and structural integrity. As population increases, especially in urban areas, the threat of accidental and intentional damage to landscape plants also increases. With good reason, plant appraisal is perceived as a process called upon when plant damage, destruction, or failure occurs. Unfortunately, “after-the-fact” situations are the
least desirable times to attempt the establishment of an accurate estimate of a plant’s worth. It is much easier and more accurate to evaluate and appraise landscape plants before damage occurs. Modern methods exist to establish monetary value on trees and shrubs before and after damage, destruction or failure occurs. The purpose of an appraisal is defined by a client’s needs or questions. Method(s) of appraisal utilized depend upon the type of property, the use and purpose of the appraisal, and the quality and quantity of information available for analysis.

Uses of Tree and Shrub Appraisals

BEFORE damage, destruction or failure occurs

  •  Justify the cost of saving a plant by landscape architects and designers
  •  Establish values of plants before construction projects in case of damage
  •  Establish and justify plant maintenance budgets by private and public entities
  •  Negotiate variances in zoning or building codes by municipal planners
  •  Establish and rate loss coverage levels and costs by insurance companies

AFTER damage, destruction or failure occurs

  •  Settlement for damage or death of plants through arbitration, insurance claims, or direct payment.
  •  Loss of property value for income tax purposes.
  •  Establishing value of plants damaged by construction.

Methods of Tree and Shrub Appraisal

  • Cost method – provides a value of the improvements, or the complimentary value that plants add to the landscape. The types of “cost” information commonly used for plant appraisal may include replacement cost, trunk size formula, cost of repair, and cost of cure.
  •  Income method – used to appraise income producing property such as orchards, nurseries, and tree farms.
  •  Market approach method – compares a client’s property to the sale price obtained from similar properties to estimate a value

Qualifications for Appraising Tree and Shrubs

Plant appraisal embodies the knowledge and skills of an arborist as well as a sound basic understanding of the economic concept of value, a thorough knowledge of the appraisal methods that are applicable to any particular appraisal, and effective reporting and communicating of results. A plant appraiser should also have knowledge of related issues that affect the assignment they may undertake such as geographical aspects, legal competence, and federal, state, and local requirements and certifications. The professional plant appraiser adheres to a strict code of ethics and standards of practice set out by professional organizations such as the International Society of
Arboriculture using the current edition of the Guide for Plant Appraisal.