Tree Planting For Curb Appeal: Invest In Your Environment

by Silicon Valley Blogger on 2007-06-0547

Tree planting adds to your curb appeal and pays dividends for the environment and your pocket.

A while back, I came across Money Smart Life’s post on his incredible rate of return. I chuckled evilly as I recalled how I have beaten his returns in my own virtually no risk scenario, although it did take me three years to do and the wealth involved here is “tied up”.

Let me first say that in order to make this same investment work for you, there are a few prerequisites.

#1 Do you own the land you live on?
#2 Do you live in the city or in a suburb?

If you answered YES to these, then it could be worth reviewing what you can do with a little bit of your land and just a few dollars.

Despite vaguely sounding like an infomercial, my claim of making some big bucks out of a few is true, though it would entail thinking a little bit outside of the box. So what is this investment about?

It’s about how I spent a mere $80 for something that is now valued at around $5,000 (or possibly higher) for a tidy return of 6,150%. What that thing is, is no other than my back yard’s most prominent tree: a large Curly Willow, which started out as a lowly sapling bought for tens of dollars. The sapling was but a wisp of a stick with some tendrils at the end. Today, proudly it stands, three years later, soon to be a commanding presence.

When we went to the nursery to choose ourselves a tree, we purchased something that looks like this, except with a dramatically skimpier crown (image credit:

small tree at nursery

Here’s what it looked like this winter:

willow tree in winter

And now in the late spring:

willow tree in spring

So how did I get to thinking that this tree is worth $5,000? Well you can always get a tree appraised. I have a friend who is also a landscape designer (in California, the landscaping school of choice is Cal Poly, which apparently produces top graduates in this field) who tells me so. He told me how he charges at least $20,000 to install larger, mature trees on client projects.

In several more years, I’ve been told by appraisers that I’ll double that current value from $5,000 to $10,000. At its mature state at fifteen years old, this tree would be worth $20,000. But I won’t be seeing that money until after I sell my house as it’s going to be folded into our home valuation.

When I first heard how trees were priced this way — I mean, even a small Japanese Maple all of 5 feet tall can command up to $2,000 in the Bay Area — I couldn’t believe it. But after reading up on this, I figured this would be a great way to contribute to the value of a home, as overall curb appeal adds 20% more to a property’s value, rivaling returns made by adding a new bathroom or kitchen. What’s also terribly interesting is that a swimming pool recovers only 20% – 50% of its installation costs, while curb appeal will recoup 100% to 200% upon resale.

So with all this talk, do you wonder what makes these trees so costly when they’re fully grown?

The Value Of Mature Trees (Or Why They Cost So Much)

They’re difficult to replace.
If anyone tried to damage your tree, you can potentially file for a homeowner’s or property insurance claim and collect. Imagine having to do this!

Trees are an investment of time.
They are highly valued because they take a while to mature and to reach their full glorious potential.

They are used for aesthetics and curb appeal.
It adds a significant first impression to your home. You get to be known as the house with the so-and-so tree. This is the obvious reason why you’d like to have a tree to mark your territory.

They offer great shade and insulation for your home.
I used to live in a neighborhood that hardly had any trees because it was a new suburb. Let me tell you how I boiled and baked in the summer months forcing us to install central air conditioning to survive. When I visit other homes that are surrounded by more mature landscapes, there’s a noticeable change in temperature around the home, and I am all but envious they can get away without needing central air conditioning. They also insulate you from wind and snow.

They offer some recreation.
Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy the outdoors right where you live? A big tree is a nice place to hang out to have yard picnics or just to relax. You can hang swings on your tree if it has larger, sturdier branches, or even build a tree house in the way numerous families have done.

They offer privacy and screening.
Even a fence is no longer enough sometimes. This is the main reason we have the tree where it is. I don’t see my neighbors sliding glass doors anymore.

Trees counter pollution.
What do I mean? Trees improve air quality, with one huge 30 foot tree providing an average household a clean source of air and enough oxygen for a whole day. Beyond providing the usual and expected green effect, trees also block noise and light.

They limit erosion.
If you live on a hill or on an area with slopes, then trees will help you keep your ground intact and prevent erosion and flooding.

If you’re keen on starting a planting project, check out a tree planting guide first for best results.

So yes, if you want to raise your home’s valuation on the cheap, you don’t need to build a swimming pool, install a patio, hot tub or gazebo. You can just spend the money on some organic items and watch your valuation grow along with your trees and plants.

Copyright © 2007 The Digerati Life. All Rights Reserved.

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

A Tentative Personal Finance Blog June 5, 2007 at 8:47 am

I wonder what the value of fruit trees would be.

Lazy Man and Money June 5, 2007 at 12:51 pm

And here I was hating the tree in my old condo plex. The roots dug up the sidewalks and patios… The leaves (or other flowers) fell constantly from spring through fall… It was not a fun tree at all.

Growing up we lived near a forest of trees that didn’t belong to us. They started to die and the owner refused to care for them. One feel causing quite a bit of damage to our lawn and home. Another fell on my car. Obviously, damages were fixed, but it was a hassle and headache (ever try to rent a car when you are 16?) that we could have done without. Anyway, trees have not been very kind to me.

The Digerati Life June 5, 2007 at 4:27 pm

It seems like it depends on the kind of tree you have and its placement. Some trees can be a bear as they can attract bugs, caterpillars (like around here, giving all the kids hives) and who knows what else. But a nice healthy tree planted strategically in your yard adds lots to your environment. In the past, we’ve torn out old trees and replaced them before. That willow tree I display above was actually a replacement for an old willow that just about fell apart. The original tree was quite diseased so with heavy heart, we removed it only to replace it with this $80 one. And it grew so quickly in 3 years! We’re quite happy with how it turned out! 🙂

Ben June 5, 2007 at 6:39 pm

Okay, you’ve got me beat! The thing I love about trees, other than their natural benefits, is the great example they are of growing a small investment into a great asset.

Sure it takes time and some TLC but if you start early and treat it right you’ll end up with a ton of growth in the long run.

Super Saver June 5, 2007 at 8:23 pm


I live is a partially wooded lot. I wish I could sell my trees for appraised value to a lucky buyer 🙂

Matt June 6, 2007 at 6:43 am

It is very expensive to have a mature tree transplanted onto your property, but that doesn’t mean that the value of your property increases by the amount it costs to transplant the tree. Yes, it can cost $20,000 to add the tree. But when buyers compare your house to another house that is equal in all other ways except for that tree, your house is not going to command a $20,000 premium. As you admit, the tree cost $80 when you planted it. I could buy your neighbor’s house and spend $80 on the same type of tree. There’s no way anyone is paying $20,000 more for house because of a tree unless its leaves are dollar bills.

Ted June 6, 2007 at 6:59 am

Great, put on on your next loan application as an asset. You couldn’t sell that tree for $5000. In fact you’d probably have to PAY several hundred dollars to get rid of it. Except for maybe a palm tree in Florida or Cali, or a stand of timber, trees are not investments.

Silicon Valley Blogger June 6, 2007 at 7:41 am

I’d argue that overall curb appeal adds to a house’s premium. And trees are part of that picture. It is also probably true that in rural areas or places where trees are in great abundance, the idea of “curb appeal” may matter less. In this case, it’s a supply/demand issue. In suburbia or the city, however, where greens are less observed, there’s that first impression factor that makes a difference. In the extreme case that two homes are equal in all respects, a single tree may not command that premium, but landscaping would. Another point here is that you can spend $80 to plant a tree, but you’d wait heck of a long time for it to look any good. All things equal, people would pay for that final effect. There are also a myriad other benefits to having trees around beyond the cosmetics. But those living in highly wooded areas may not appreciate it as much as the urban dweller does. And it also matters what tree you have. A juniper tree over here is a No-No.

Interesting point about “paying to take out a tree”. I’d say the same thing about paying to take out a swimming pool or ponds, in a house that had them. Do swimming pools add to a home’s value? Some say yes, others say no. I suppose in this sense, certain things about a home are subjective, and whether they add to that bottom line price remains to be seen. Some things could depend on the eye of the beholder. Some of these things may not be HARD investments that you would write down as an “ASSET” but can make a difference in places that have it in demand.

Will June 6, 2007 at 12:28 pm

What a wonderful story. I submitted it to reddit, I hope you don’t mind. =)

Silicon Valley Blogger June 6, 2007 at 1:03 pm

Hi Will, No I certainly don’t mind at all! 😀

Ladarzak June 6, 2007 at 2:29 pm

It really depends on the tree and the neighbourhood. Chinese elm — weed tree. There are some weedy fast growing, fast spreading maples, too. A well placed tree of an attractive species and preferable male (won’t drop fruit and seeds) that won’t grow to big can be a positive feature. However, they don’t grow much in 3 years. Crap trees like Chinese elm do grow fast, though. Fast = weed, generally, and they get too big for typical yards. Furthermore, many people loathe raking and cleaning up leaves and it seems for the most part a relatively bare yard is popular. I see a lot of stumps in yards in this area where there are a lot of older people. Young families may feel more positive about leaves and raking them.

Ambrose Q. O'Shaggybottom June 6, 2007 at 6:00 pm

Despite your undoubtedly good intentions, trees in temperate zones (where I assume this was written) in fact have a net warming effect on the planet, due to the typically dark, heat-absorbing color of their leaves (compared with plants in tropical zones) and the relatively poor quality and quantity of the sunlight they receive (again, compared to the light in the tropics.)

So while, yes, there are many reasons to plant trees, “to counteract global warming,” isn’t one of them, at least not for most Americans. Please make the necessary corrections.


Andrei June 6, 2007 at 6:38 pm

My neighbour on one side of my house asked me if I don’t mind to cut a spruce tree (30 or 40 years old to clear the view for his satellite dish. And new neighbour on the other side cut 20 year old pine tree a week after he moved in because it was dripping on his new car. Apparently, no appreciation to the tree value.

Harry June 6, 2007 at 7:10 pm

I don’t think it’s worth that much. Go ahead I dare yah, try and sell it for that amount or even half of it.

Golbguru June 6, 2007 at 7:38 pm

You say “I’d argue that overall curb appeal adds to a house’s premium.” …and i will second that.

You know, me and my wife usually roam around houses in our town – just to gaze at good houses and dream of owing a nice one sometime down the line. Invariably, the ones we like have some *nice* trees in their yards. It does add to the appeal – and may be to the premium too.

Although, when it comes to actually spending the money, given a choice between two houses in which everything is equal, except one has trees and other doesnt, I am not sure I would choose the one which has higher cost just because of the trees – I would probably love to get the other one and plant my own trees. 🙂

I would say there is some intrinsic value to having a pleasing foliage – one that cools your eyes when you come home from a hectic day at work. Such things are priceless and the rate of return is much larger than what can be accommodated on a piece of paper. 🙂

K.C. June 6, 2007 at 8:07 pm

Why there’s not a plethora of recommendations to grow trees of very pricey wood is beyond me.
Walnut’s one example (nuts included). $5 to $22 per board foot makes incredible sense.

Kelley June 7, 2007 at 11:02 am

I love trees. I have always loved trees. Climbing a tree kept me entertained for DAYS as a kid. Even after I fell out of one and busted my mouth…was in the tree later the same day.

Trees can be a major investment as well as a great selling point if you know how to sell them. (and depending on what kind of tree it is) Let’s look at a pecan tree. I got on ebay to get a look at how much the trees cost. I can get 3 trees for $19.99. If these are flowering pecans, that means a really big crop will be coming. Still on ebay, I started looking up how much people were trying to sell the pecans for. First one…$8.00/lb!!!! That’s not including the shipping. Of course these pecans are shelled and packaged. Here’s one auction that has the nuts still in-shell. Five pounds of nuts for almost $25. (again, not including shipping)

So for $20, you can make your money back plus some with pecan trees. Yes, you have to take care of the trees. Yes, you have to make sure you have the right pecan tree. But the rewards are wonderful!! You get shade, a place for a hammock, cleaner air, and a crop that can give you some extra income. And if you decide to move, that CAN give your buyers an extra push.

This can work for walnut, pecan, fruits, etc. More and more it seems like people want natural, “home-made” food. This would be a relatively easy way to cash in on that desire.

joey June 11, 2007 at 1:56 pm

it’s difficult to quantify the value of the energy costs saved due to shade provided by trees and enjoyment.

all things equal, trees = better than houses without trees.

EAC June 11, 2007 at 4:49 pm

Someone asked about fruit trees…Fruit trees are often less popular with home owners than you might think.

1. Fruit trees can be high maintenance, due to the need to prune the trees and and gather fruit. And if you don’t gather the windfalls, they rot…
2. For some fruit trees, like apples, you need to have at least 2 on the property for pollination.
3. A tree grown and pruned for fruit harvesting often isn’t as “pretty” as you might think.
4. Fruit trees often have a relatively short life span for a tree – 10 to 50 years. Go ahead and insert your own examples here, but this is fairly standard.

That said, there are some ornamental plums that produce both attractive flowers and edible, manageable fruit. And in many warmer parts of the US, you can’t go wrong adding 2 – 3 citrus trees to a yard. Just be prepared to take care of them.

N'Awlins Kat July 7, 2007 at 9:55 pm

I’d certainly agree that trees add to curb appeal, but there are a boatload of caveats to go with that, depending on where in the country you live. I’m from the suburban New Orleans area, where the “piney woods” was always a huge selling point. Houses that commanded a premium price because they were on heavily wooded lots….were totalled when those 80 foot tall pine trees came crashing down. The first time you see one cut like a scythe, straight through a two-story house right down to the slab, is a sobering experience.

When I bought my house 12 years ago, the first thing I did was cut down all four monster slash pines in my yard (which is fairly small)…and I was the only one on my street without extensive tree damage to my house after Katrina. Well worth the $800 it cost to have the tree climbers rope the pieces down a decade ago.

Also, if your trees need to be taken down, or worked on by an arborist, the cost can be staggering. These guys make really good money. My family owns 6 acres of what used to be heavily wooded land that we were getting ready to build on last year. We’d planned to clear just enough so that the trees couldn’t hit the three houses we planned to build. When the hurricane hit, the only structure we’d finished (two weeks earlier) was my dad’s barn. We had a small twister that apparently didn’t touch down completely, but it broke off nearly every tree about 20 feet above ground, in a swirl pattern. That’s not counting the live oaks and magnolias that came up by the roots. It was $13,000 (not covered by insurance) to clear out the most dangerous of the broken trees, and before we could even have the work done, several people in our parish were killed by falling trees just like ours. We cut down the worst of them, but more have died since, and there will be another huge expense to take out another 1/3 of the trees on the property that won’t survive. We couldn’t even sell the timber, and we sure tried. Even the pulpwood plant didn’t want it.

Last month, a high wind brought down one of the dead pines on the electric lines to my sister’s FEMA trailer and started a brush fire. You can see why we’re not great fans of trees anymore. Almost all the new construction here (and there’s a lot of it) is beginning by clear-cutting everything. Hopefully, these people will later re-landscape with safer trees planted the right distance from their structures.

While trees can add to curb value, I’d have to say that, especially in coastal areas, or places prone to high winds, they can also do significant damage to your property. Before planting anything, I’d be certain to contact the local extension service to find out the proper native trees to plant for the area, and the proper setbacks for them, taking into account their mature size. For sure, when I build my new home, anything planted near it will have a diffuse crown. I’d rather use shrubbery for shade, combined with awnings and veranda overhangs. Much safer.

Also, EAC is right about fruit trees being messy…in my old neighborhood in Lakeview, New Orleans, I had mature fig and pecan trees. What figs the birds didn’t get, dropped, rotted and fermented in the backyard—-phhhhewww. And the squirrels sat on the electric lines and hurled pecans at me every time I mowed my lawn. Downed pecans were rough on my mower blades, too, and they fly out the side of the mower like shrapnel. The produce I managed to rescue for myself was sure good, though!

Silicon Valley Blogger July 7, 2007 at 10:10 pm

Thanks to everyone who shared their experience and opinions! Seems like with anything else, one’s personal history and experiences with something affect their take on the subject. I’d have to agree that homes in heavily wooded areas may have seen bad as well as good things from the trees that surround them. Though quite likely more bad than everyone else has. Hence I implied that if you live in either the city or a developed suburb, you might get better mileage out of trees.

It quite depends on the type of tree, where it’s located in the property and so forth. I had a friend who has an incredible, giant redwood smack in the middle of his yard in the suburbs. It’s a magnificent tree, but frankly too large for the place. It keeps dropping annoying needles and branches everywhere and could be quite a liability. So again, there are many parameters to consider when planting anything, in order to benefit the most out of it.

N'Awlins Kat July 7, 2007 at 10:20 pm

Gosh, that sounds like I hate trees, and I really don’t. I love my beautiful magnolia trees, though I could live without the trashy sweet gums. They smell great when they’re burned in a fireplace, but they are sooo messy….and pretty ugly, too.I plan to plant native cypress trees to replace the stuff I’ve had to take out, and several kinds of citrus. Along with the requisite live oaks, of course….or maybe pin oaks so I don’t have to rake year round. Live oaks are unbelievably messy. I’ve noticed a lot of people here are also planting palm trees now, but I’m not sure how well they’ll do if we have a cold winter. Ditto for the banana trees. I’m looking at several types of citrus, as well. I cried when I had to take down the remaining halves of my two beautiful Bradford pears that broke during the storm; they were lovely additions to the neutral ground in front of my house, and I miss them terribly. My sycamore that I planted six years ago is still doing quite well, came through the storm unscathed (though leafless), and has quadrupled in height in six years. Even though it’s a relatively short-lived tree, it’s provided some nice shade for my front yard. Willow trees and river birches are trash trees here; they grow fast, but their roots always seem to go straight for the sewer lines.

Didn’t mean to natter on, but there are a lot of considerations in landscaping, not just choosing a cheap tree and ploinking it in the yard any old place. That’s what got a lot of folks here into trouble. That and that little matter of the storm surge and the levees, of course.

Oh, yes, I am in a developed suburb, but there are still pockets of piney woods even on the main drags in town. Planned construction was never a strong point in my ‘burb…we’re more about major growth spurts, broken up by 10 year stints of trying to figure out how to live with what we’ve done. Urban planning is still kind of a dream in the burbs here. I’d love to see a giant redwood in person, but yes, I don’t think I’d want it in my yard. 🙂

Silicon Valley Blogger July 8, 2007 at 12:24 am

Wow Kat, you sound like a real tree expert :). One of my favorite things in life is my yard — it relaxes me thoroughly after a long day. I share the same emotions as you have over my plants and trees…. 🙂 Very interesting how the concerns are different because of weather or other conditions in your area. We don’t have much weather here at all in Northern California. Though we do have levees and flood plains further inland. So don’t quite know how landscaping is affected over there, but I imagine every state and location has its pros and cons!

Am surprised how willows haven’t done as well in your area. Over here, willows have done quite well and are admired, maybe it’s because they’re not so ubiquitous? Ironically, my curly willow is installed above an easement but we’ve not had any trouble with its roots!

N'Awlins Kat July 8, 2007 at 6:49 pm

SVB–lol, no not a tree expert, but it’s amazing what you learn when you have to! Actually, I find willows to be quite attractive, and they do grow well here. The problem is that our soil stays quite damp, and they’re rather shallow-rooted trees. So a high wind tips them over quite easily.

You’re certainly right that each location has its own requirements/needs for landscaping. I’ve seen so many people plant non-native species, and then struggle to maintain them (or struggle to hold them back–kudzu vine and water hyacinth being two prime examples here). Planting native plants just ensures much less hassle in getting them to thrive. We’re fortunate here to have a wonderful growing season, so we have many options in planting.

What’s it like to have no “weather?” 🙂 I’ve lived all over the country, and I think I’ve seen most of it at some point, but I’ve never lived anywhere that didn’t have at least one “exciting” season. Tornadoes, hurricanes, droughts, sandstorms, blizzards–seen it all.

Karla (threadbndr) August 17, 2007 at 3:24 pm

Kat – reconsider the pin oaks. I have two mature ones on my lot. They need regular maintenence, too. The branches on the interiors die back naturally. Then you get a high wind and they are EVERYwhere. Like giant’s jackstraws!

Also tons of acorns! I have to de-acidify my lawn periodically and the sidewalks are ‘tie-dyed’ from the tannin.

But I do love them, they are tall and magnificant. They are probably close to 80 years old now (my area was built up in the 1920s and early 1930s – a lot of Craftsman bungalows). I love the shady streets of an old established neighborhood like this one.

Adventures In Money Making August 29, 2007 at 10:39 am

nice post!

unfortunately I don’t own any land within a 1000 miles radius.

but one of my ideas is to create a website where people can “adopt a tree” and once a month I’ll go out and plant them – initially in ‘volunteers’ yards, and then maybe when I can afford some damn land in Socal at a particular spot where people can go and vist their adopted trees.

Kenneth Short September 25, 2007 at 10:40 am

I planted about 5000 pine seedlings on about 10 acres about 8 years ago. I wonder how much they might be worth now or 15 years further into the future.

Sarasota Real Estate April 26, 2008 at 5:03 pm

I agree with Matt. Just because you plant a tree worth $20k on your property does not mean that the value of the property goes up by that amount. It is like adding a $50k swimming pool. The pool does not increase the properties value by $50k.

Very interesting post. The light bulb went off. I have almost an acre that can hold a few trees. 😉

Jim B August 22, 2008 at 10:23 pm

i am planting trees all this week…i hope it turns out good.

Scully September 5, 2008 at 10:35 am

I imagine such a large tree would help cut down air conditioning costs on your home as well.

Chris September 8, 2008 at 7:39 am

“if you want to raise your home’s valuation on the cheap, you don’t need to build a swimming pool, install a patio, hot tub or gazebo.”…

Yeah but a gazebo is a big plus for me!

Ed: Yeah, I’ll bet.

Tony Carter November 25, 2008 at 7:18 am

I never realized how much tree’s appreciate in value so quickly. Not only are you improving the value of your home, but your also helping the planet.

Retractable Awnings January 12, 2009 at 5:59 pm

I like your post. It’s very environment-friendly. Keep it up! By the way, setting up an awning with your patio is a good way to provide needed shading against sun rays. Plus, you can enjoy your time in your patio even if the sun is right up there and need not to worry of sunburns.

Martin February 20, 2009 at 5:40 pm

Nice article! Here in the Northeast, we consider the “Japanese Maple” as a exotic tree that adds curb appeal.. They’re a beautiful looking tree to gaze at and you don’t find too many homes that have them due to the costs.

However, in high class neighborhoods you’ll find quite a few. I love how they look year-round with their red colored leaf.
What are you thoughts on this type of tree Silicon Valley Blogger?

Joe March 17, 2009 at 1:21 pm

Now there is an idea that I’d never have come up with myself. Who’d a thunk it! Well I guess there are tons of people who thunk it but I certainly wouldn’t have. I have a pretty big property and I can certainly see this as an additional revenue stream. Thanks so much for the idea!


world of signs May 19, 2009 at 2:14 am

wow! what an amazing idea. and i absolutely love it, its not only a green idea, but it’s something that almost anyone can do, with a very minor set back if you dont have your own space. and super low on the maintenance, i mean you dont have to spend 3-4 hrs a day to get that much money.

thank you for sharing this.

Sean July 8, 2009 at 10:50 am

Negative and city…wish it was the other way, own a home in the suburbs 🙂 Thx for the post;/

Fencing NJ July 31, 2009 at 1:06 pm

Nice! It’s amazing something so ordinary could be so valuable in the right situation!

Emily Roesly March 18, 2010 at 10:39 am

Our yard is filled with trees – 2 and a half acres of them. Fall is a nightmare of raking, but the rest of the time we think of our trees as guardians of our property. One fine old oak gave its life to stop a speeding car from careening into our yard. The rest of the trees give us shade in the summer and protection from the wind in the winter. They house numerous beautiful birds, squirrels and other creatures. We love our trees!

Silicon Valley Blogger March 18, 2010 at 10:49 am

Thanks for describing how lovely your trees are. I certainly love mine as well! Nature is just so exquisite! 🙂

David from Palm Trees July 22, 2010 at 11:31 pm

Good for you Silicon Valley Blogger!

I have been thinking on about the same lines but not exactly the same. I work online for a living and gardening is my passion. The amount of time and money I spend on gardening, especially time, I thought why not capitalize on it. As I cut my plants, I was thinking why not grow newer ones from these cuttings and sell them off?

And it was a good read!

Julius August 7, 2010 at 3:57 am

Beautiful houses for me, when there is no “green” around it looks dead. When there are trees, there is life! Trees add appeal, but it’s not just simple planting, there are things to consider even just for gardening to be appealing. And with the “global warming” talk, don’t we want to do what we can to help out nature?

WP Bonds October 7, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Trees really are a great investment. I really like trees and they do add a great amount of value to houses.

Leave a Comment