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8:00 am to 5:00 pm
4721 E. 146th Street

Carmel, IN  46033

Phone.  317-846-3778
Fax.       317-846-3788





Plant Appraisal

It is widely accepted that trees and landscapes have value.  Annual lawn and garden expenditures across the United States are in the billions.  Trees are recognized as contributing functional use to Architectural, Engineering, Aesthetic and Climate Control for an individual property and for a municipality as a whole(1).

Commonly in an Appraisal we are estimating the "contributory value of plants and landscapes for an asset standpoint or plants damaged by some occurrence."(2)  "The appraisal process can be defined as the act, manner, or technique of conditioning the steps of an appraisal method."(3)  

So how do you determine the value of a tree or landscape as an asset or when it has been damaged by fire, criminal mischief, vandalism or error?

Overview of Approaches to Appraisal of Trees and Landscapes
The Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers Guide for Plant Appraisal, ninth edition
(4) recognizes three main approaches to appraising a trees value.

  1. For the Cost Approach it is the assumption that the cost to repair or replace plants and landscape items (less depreciation) for Condition and possibly Location and Species can be added to the land value in order to arrive at the total property value.

    • Replacement Method

      • In this method the appraiser inventories the lost plants and calculates (usually using three nursery quotes or  catalogues) the cost of replacement.  To this cost is added any clean up expenses necessary.

    • Trunk Formula Method

      • The trunk formula method is used to attach a monetary value to a tree too large for reasonable transplant.  The determination of value is based on the "largest commonly available transplantable tree and the cost of installation plus the increase in value due to the larger size of the tree being appraised."(5)  This number is depreciated according to Species, Location and Condition.

      • The Cost of Repair Methods and the Cost of Cure Methods are appropriate for damaged plants that can be repaired and for properties that can be restored to previous condition.

  2. The Income Approach is used to appraise income-producing properties.  This approach is generally used for nurseries, orchards, and tree farms.  It could also be used where a property has a historic tree and admission can be charged to view it.

  3. The Market Approach is the third method in appraisal.  This technique relies on property sales:  that is comparing prices of comparable properties in order to estimate a property's value.  Comparable costs are taken for properties in the area.  One approach is this method is to consider what the property would cost with and without the tree and/or landscape.  This approach should only be used by a licensed real estate appraiser but can be used by an arborist to check for reasonability of his/her appraisal.

In all appraisals the appraiser is to be reasonable and objective.  In an appraisal the appraiser is not to take the role of an advocate but retain his/her independence.

Key definitions that need to be understood.

  • Cost - Individual prices needed to determine an appraisal.

  • Price - Price is what you'd pay in the market, "ready to wear" or "off the shelf."  What you'd play for an existing house, plant or tree(6).

  • Value - Value is the present worth of future benefits, IOW what this thing does for you today given X remaining life(7).

  • Appraisal - The act of determining the defined value of plants or trees in a landscape or woodland setting(8).

  • Reasonable - Being within bounds of reason:  not extreme(9).


Constructed by Judson R. Scott, Vine & Branch Inc.
(1) Guide for Plant Appraisal, Council of Tree and Landscape Appraisers, 9th edition, International Society of Arboriculture, Champaign, IL, 2000
(2) Ibid pg.19
(3) Ibid pg.19
(4) Ibid pg.19
(5) Ibid pg.19
(6) Scott Cullen, Registered Consulting Arborist, American Society of Consulting Arborist, personal communication.
(7) Scott Cullen, personal communication
(8) Scott Cullen, personal communication
(9)The Merriam Webster Dictionary, Merriam Webster Inc, Springfield MA 1997



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