Treescape Value

By Bruce Firestone | Uncategorized

Oct 20

I’ve argued since the 1990s that organized street tree planting adds a lot of value to a home. In the order of 6%.

This is what is known as a positive externality: if your neighbors or your city decides to plant trees on your street, your property value goes up without you having to do a thing.

Recently, I looked at two nearly identical bungalows for clients of mine in Ottawa–one east of Maitland avenue (at 1222 Castle Hill) on a nice leafy street and another one at 1252 Erindale, west of Maitland, on a roadway with many fewer trees/a less developed tree canopy.

Here’s the street view on Castle Hill:


Here’s Erindale:  


Here’s the bungalow at 1222 Castle Hill:


Here’s the bungalow at 1252 Erindale:


The asking price for Castle Hill is $399,999 and Erindale is $359,900, a whopping difference of $40,099. These houses are just blocks apart.

Not all the difference is due to treescape; I estimated that the finished basement at 1222 was worth more than the partly finished basement at 1252 (about $17,000 more).

So that left a difference of $23,099 attributable to something else, possibly a superior streetscape on Castle Hill.

If I’m right about that, then 6.4% of the asking price difference is due to a nicer tree canopy on Castle Hill.

Here’re my simple calculations:


So if you are ever so inclined, organizing a street tree planting weekend for your neighborhood instead of a block party (or better yet, along with a block party) is fun plus the payback in terms of beauty, shade, protection from wind, rain and snow, plus cold hard cash is terrific.

At a minimum, plant a tree in your frontyard, and, while you are at it, do something nice for a neighbor–plant one (with her permission) in her yard too at no cost to her except enjoyment of its nice shade, protection from the elements and all the nice bird  life and song. 

It’ll cost you about $80 but if you both own $400,000 homes, a 6% rise in value implies an ROI (return on investment) of about $24,000/$80 or 30,000%, just slightly better than bank interest these days of 1.5%.

Oh, and hay, why not plant edible fruit trees? Get both a boost in your home’s value and feed your family at the same time…

@ profbruce @ quantum_entity

postscript: better yet, why not plant an edible tree canopy, ie, fruit trees. I wrote about that here,

postscript 2: I also wrote about the value of treescapes and the value of creativity here,

postscript 3: finally, I analyzed the value of a creative profession (architecture) here,

note: of course, a nice tree canopy is not all you are looking for in the neighborhood. A high walk score (ie, somewhere to walk to), decent transit, good schools, a safe community, proximity to shops, entertainment and employment are nice along with an area where a decent ROI (in terms of high cap rate, increasing property values and rental demand) exists too. Even if it’s your principal residence, look at all these ROI factors since one day you may downsize or upsize, ie, not live there any more. Whether you sell it or keep it and add it to your investment portfolio, these factors will come into play… eventually.

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About the Author

Bruce is an entrepreneur/real estate broker/developer/coach/urban guru/keynote speaker/Sens founder/novelist/columnist/peerless husband/dad.