I have an appraisal on an old cherry tree in Maryland and was wondering as to what appears to me to be somewhat vague reasonsing. The tree is probably 30+ years old, with many hollow branches. One of three main branches was taken out by a contractor during some work at the residence. The tree is located at the fron of the residence and next to the driveway. The location was rated as 83%(site=85, contibution=90, placement=75). First question, if this is 83%, what would be 100%? It seems to be located in a highly visible spot and so I fail to understand the 15% deduction. There appear to not be any measurements as to the crown size of the tree. Furthermore, length or volume of the damaged branch was not provided. The appraisor estimated the value of the damage to be 10% of the value of the tree. How would this be arrived to without knowing the size of the tree and the now missing branch?
The appraisor was hired by the contractor's insurance company. Should I be concerned?
Concerned? I don’t think so. The appraiser must make judgements about the various ratings factors—this is what appraisal is about. If it were just plugging numbers from a chart or list into a formula, anyone could do it. Appraisal goes far beyond just knowing about the condition of the tree.
The location factor is a depreciation based on the comparative weights of the characteristics of the tree’s location. The 9th edition of the Guide for Plant Appraisal broke this into 3 categories and gave them equal weight. However, that is not an absolute determination; it is a guide to deciding what the depreciation should be and provides a conceptual basis for that determination. The appraiser must still make judgements, and may elect to use a different scheme or system for arriving at a location rating. In this case, it seems the other appraiser chose to use the 3-part scale.
Using that system, we look at 3 parts: site, contribution, and placement. The site is where the tree is situated in the community. What is the nature of the property compared to other properties in the area? Is this the high-dollar end of the real estate market, or a more modest suburban property? What condition is the property in for that classification? Well kept, or a bit rundown? Heavily landscaped to a design, or no real plan to the landscape?
The contribution rating is a rating of how the tree contributes to the overall landscape of the property. Is it a key feature tree, or one of many? How much will its loss affect the total value of the landscape? Placement considers how well the tree being appraised serves its function in the landscape. Too close to the building, and potentially causing conflicts? IN a narrow tree lawn between sidewalk and curb? Shaded or crowded, or interfering with other desirable parts of the landscape?
Each of these factors can be considered separately, then averaged for a total location depreciation rating. If the appraiser thinks it appropriate, these factors can also be weighted differently, if one has more or less importance than the other two.
Without seeing the site and knowing the particulars of the case, I cannot say whether the ratings applied by you or the other appraiser are appropriate or not. The ones you quoted don’t seem extreme. How you rate them will depend on your expertise and knowledge of the situation. You don’t have to use the same numbers—you each rate them as you think best defines the situation. There is no one dollar amount that is the value of the tree—it is wholly dependent on the case, the definition of value, and the purpose of the appraisal. The only important thing is that you do it in an unbiased and independent way, without any regard for who your client is. IOW, you should end up with the same value whether you work for the homeowner or the contractor’s insurance company.
As to the partial loss, again it is the appraiser’s judgement as to how much of the value or benefits of the tree were lost. This is n to determined by a calculation of crown volume (although it could be done that way if appropriate). How well does the tree still function in the landscape for its intended purpose? How much harm has actually been done to the tree, in comparison to its total worth? If you count stems, then one-third is lost. If you measure diameter, it may be more or less than one third. IF you use cross-sectional area as the basis, you’ll get a third number. You can use a judgement assessment, as may have been done in this case, considering the amount of the total benefits lost.
Since you have the other appraisal, it would seem that you have been charged with critiquing that report, and perhaps making your own opinion of value. You have the opportunity to compare, and to explain why you think the value is different than stated in the other report. That doesn’t make the other opinion of value wrong. You can disagree on how you derive the opinion or estimate of value. Ultimately, it is not your decision to make, but your job is to provide the information that the decision makers need to arrive at the amount of damages, if any.
Russ Carlson, RCA, BCMA
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