Trees Increase Rent: A Shady Way to Add Value

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What’s a tree worth? Apparently to home renters in Portland, Oregon, about $5 a month.

A study published in September in Urban Forestry and Urban Greening analyzed the effects trees planted on the lots of single-family houses had on the unit’s monthly rent. Comparing data from Craigslist rental listings in Portland and tree data from Google earth, the study’s authors, Geoffrey Donovan of the U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Northwest Research Station and David Butry of the National Institute of Standards and Technology found that trees planted directly on a rental plot increased the monthly rent by $5.62.

The study also found that a tree in the public right of way increased rent of a nearby unit by $21.00. Why street trees might be more valuable that trees on a renter’s property isn’t quantified, but the authors suggest it might be because street trees are more visible to prospective tenants or because tenants think less about a communal tree’s maintenance (versus raking up leaves in their own backyards).

The comparison between lot trees and communal trees is interesting, the authors point out, as it shows that “people value the benefits that trees provide (beauty, shade, etc.) not the trees themselves. In consequence, not owning a tree is no impediment to enjoying the benefits that it provides.”

The study controlled for value differentials that might otherwise influence rent, such as neighborhood crime rates, number of bedrooms or bathrooms, and age of house, in order to determine the value associated with the less quantifiable market items like trees.

This analysis of the effects of trees on rental prices is consistent with an earlier study published by Donovan on the effects of trees on homebuyers, which found that a street tree increased a property’s value by an average of $7,130 and added a total of $12,828 to the sale price of houses within 100 feet. So, in other words—get your neighbor to plant a tree.

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