For prospective home buyers, inspections outside the home can be just as important as those inside, according to the Tree Care Industry Association (TCIA).
“Wouldn’t it be better to know the condition of large trees on a property before the purchase and sales agreement is executed?” said Tchukki Andersen, CTSP, BCMA* and staff arborist with TCIA. “When homebuyers contemplate owning a home for many years, the quality and safety of the trees is usually overlooked in the negotiation.”
There are many things to consider when assessing the trees and landscaping on a property that many homeowners don’t think about until there is a serious problem. Some of these concerns include improper planting of the trees; too much mulch on the root system; damage during construction; wrong tree in the wrong place; poor past care or previous topping; insect or disease damage; over-watering from the lawn’s irrigation system; or limbs rubbing on the siding or roof.
All of these things can be dealt with after the purchase, but it can be expensive. According to Lew Bloch, a registered consulting arborist in Potomac, Md., “Large trees are usually an asset and a valuable amenity to the property, but weak, damaged or diseased trees are actually liabilities.”
“If a large tree has a serious defect, removal may be the best option,” said Andersen. “Quite often these defects are hidden from view as they may be underground in the roots or they could be hidden in the tree trunk. Depending on the location of the tree as well as other situations, this cost can be in the thousands of dollars.”
An even more serious situation may be that hidden defects are so serious in the roots or tree trunk that the tree falls over without any warning. This could happen during a severe weather event or even on a calm day. It could cause heavy property damage or personal injury or fatalities. If your tree falls on a neighboring home, there may even be a negligence lawsuit.
Therefore, as a professional arborist, advise clients and prospective clients about the importance of having trees on a property inspected by you — an experienced arborist — before they purchase a home with large trees. Inform clients that most home inspection companies do not even look at the trees or have the expertise to analyze them. But as an experienced arborist, you can often detect the hidden problems mentioned above and outline remedies.
“Obviously dead or declining trees are easy to spot – at least when leaves are out,” said Bloch. “Healthy-looking trees with structural defects, however, require a professional diagnosis.”
As a professional arborist, you can also advise the new home purchaser about future maintenance the trees will need and how to care for them.