Tree Preservation And Its Impact On Residential Development And Real Estate Value
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Mature trees create more attractive residential neighborhoods and contribute a significant amount to the resale value of a home (Benotto, 2002). According to the National Arbor Day Foundation, one mature tree can amount to at least $10,000 of a home's resale value and will typically account for 15 percent of the property's value (Benotto 2002). In addition, the combined economic value of a street lined with mature trees is greater than the net sum of the value of the individual trees (Benotto 2002). While large, mature trees add substantial economic value to a residential development, tree growth is a slow process that delays full accrual of economic benefits. In fact, because it can take forty years or more for new trees to establish into a mature size, it would take half a lifetime for homeowners to realize the economic value of plantings in new neighborhoods established with young trees (Benotto 2002 and Kidd 44). And yet, many developers frequently remove all vegetation from a site before developing the land (Ewan 46-47). The hypothesis which generated this research is that using conservation-focused design techniques, such as minimizing site re-grading and tree removal, can be both profitable and cost saving for developers, enhancing the economic value for involved stakeholders. As many developers believe that accommodating designs to established vegetation and pre-existing site grades is more costly, this thesis investigates whether the preservation of trees and open space can yield economic rewards. As a result, the research in this paper challenges the notion that modifying the existing landscape by stripping a site of existing trees to accommodate new development is more profitable than preserving it. This paper includes an analysis of Montgomery Farm, a residential conservation development in North Texas, which contains a cost analysis of the site's preservation techniques used in the development process. The study finds that in some cases, such as where tree ordinances exist, land can be developed profitably while preserving, and transplanting, existing, mature trees. Due to the infancy of the Montgomery Farm development, further research was also conducted at Providence, another residential development in North Texas, which shares similar attributes to the Montgomery Farm development. The research at Providence included a real estate appraisal analysis of two separate sections within the development -- one where mature trees were preserved along a creek and another where no mature trees existed. This research compared real estate resale values between the two divisions within Providence to determine if lots with mature trees sold at a premium over lots without mature trees. While this study of the Providence development yielded no significant variation in resale value between the different parts of the development, other research has shown developments with mature trees to exhibit greater appreciation than comparable properties without mature trees. The lack of value appreciation that the data from this study exhibit stresses the importance for cities to place greater requirements on developers to preserve mature trees through ordinances. In addition, further study and investigation is recommended to fully understand the effects of tree preservation on the appreciation of real estate values.