Damage & Prevention

Home Inspections Outside the House

Imagine purchasing a nice, new home, only to have a large, old oak tree fall on your roof a few weeks later. Or imagine learning that an old poplar tree is plagued with dangerous root rot and will cost $6,000 to be removed.

“Wouldn’t it be better to know the condition of large trees on a property before the purchase-and-sales agreement is executed? “ asks Tchukki Andersen, CTSP, BCMA* and staff arborist with the Tree Care Industry Association. There are many factors to consider when assessing the trees and landscaping on a property, but many homeowners overlook these unless there is a serious, visible problem.

Some of these concerns include:

  • poor past care or previous topping;
  • improper planting of the trees;
  • too much mulch on the root system;
  • damage during construction;
  • the wrong tree in the wrong place;
  • insect or disease damage;
  • overwatering from the lawn’s irrigation system; or
  • limbs rubbing on the siding or roof.

deciduous trees with high crowns provide the best shade

All these things can be dealt with after the purchase of a home but can be expensive. According to Lew Bloch, a registered consulting arborist in Potomac, Maryland, “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,” advises Andersen. “Quite often these defects are hidden from view. They may be underground in the roots, or they could be hidden in the tree trunk. Depending on the location of the tree and other factors, treating or removing the tree could cost thousands of dollars.”

This situation becomes dangerous when the hidden defects are so serious that the tree falls over without any warning. This can happen during a severe weather event or even on a calm day. It can cause heavy property damage or personal injuries or fatalities.

If your tree falls on a neighboring home, there may even be a negligence lawsuit. Therefore, before purchasing a home with large trees, always have the trees inspected by a qualified arborist. Most home inspection companies do not even look at the trees or have the expertise to analyze them. An experienced arborist 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,” says Bloch. “Healthy-looking trees with structural defects, however, require a professional diagnosis.” A professional arborist can also advise the purchaser of a new home about future maintenance the trees will need and how to care for them.

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