Tree & Landscape Appraisals

Trees have value. Sometimes a negative value. Sometimes a value so high that it defies common sense.

In order to arrive at the value of a tree, an appraisal must be conducted. And here the marketplace offers a multiplicity of experts that claim to have the expertise to value a tree or groups of trees. The actual list of nationwide professionals with the experience to be able to place a value on a tree who will withstand cross-examination is a short list indeed.

Landscape appraisals encompass a great breadth of expertise that includes trees but also the ancillary components of landscapes such as turf grass, hardscapes, irrigation, mulches, and other features. There are also approaches to value that may include cures or repairs.

What differentiates me from other legitimate tree and landscape appraisers is my training in eminent domain over the past 25 years. Eminent domain is an exclusive area of law that deals with property rights and has its own legal precedents which address specific legal decisions regarding trees and plants. I was trained by the country’s finest property rights attorneys and have over 800 litigation assignments to my credit.

While worthy competitors attempt to achieve a lifetime goal of $1 million of tree and plant appraisals, my portfolio includes over $200 million of litigated value in trees and plants. My opinion of value followed an attorney to Florida’s Supreme Court and later into a class action suit where my opinion of value was charted in a matrix that withstood vigorous cross-examination and culminated in plaintiff’s favor. My opinions of value over $1 million have also been successful in federal court.

I am the past president of the Association of Eminent Domain Professionals. I have cataloged and maintained court decisions regarding trees and plants that prove indispensable with regard to assignments of tree and plant valuations.

My theory of using the canopy of a tree rather than the trunk resulted in a patent for intellectual property, and my abstract of canopy-based valuations was presented in an international tree conference in Washington, D.C. Two major cities in the state of Florida have adopted my formula for canopy-based valuations in their tree codes.

I also authored Rule Chapter 1440 of the Florida statutes, another intellectual property that became a formula for appraising the value of trees and plants and approved by the Attorney General in the state of Florida. I have been a guest speaker regarding tree and plant appraisals in scores of national, international and state conferences.

Nursery Appraisals

At the deepest end of the largest pool of knowledge regarding arboriculture and in particular valuations lies the tree farm or plant nursery analysis. There is no other area of valuation regarding trees and plants more complicated with more knowledge required than the analysis and assessment of a tree farm or plant nursery.

In this matter, a partnership was in the process of being dissolved. At the heart of the dissolution was the value of product.

The product was predictably found in varying stages of maturity, size, and species. From the smallest container possible to the largest field-grown material, the approach to value was key in determining this success of the opinions being rendered before the court.

It is often been said that tree and plant valuations and assessments are both an art and a science. But a few arborists or valuation experts can differentiate the definition of the two. The art of tree and plant appraisals is the legal approach applied in the valuation. The science is the knowledge of nursery operations and the plant species being grown.

To this point, the venerable expert across from me placed zero value on plants that were not yet mature. His reasoning was that they had no value in the marketplace; therefore, they had no value to the owners. But I knew of a nursery valuation case law that said otherwise. The expert across from me also placed a value on a plant that was not yet quite ready for the marketplace at the next smallest containerized sized value in the marketplace. But I also knew of another court case that differed with that expert’s opinion of value.

Despite approximately two hours of cross-examination of my approach to value regarding plants that had no value in the marketplace and plants that were not quite ready for the marketplace, the court ruling came down in favor of my approach to value.

Another matter was at the heart of my valuation of this particular nursery. And that matter regarded the percent of species that were present in the before situation of dissolving the partnership. It is a situation that must be regarded in every nursery valuation.

I have nicknamed this approach to valuation The Candy Store Phenomenon. This approach always works because it’s correct. If the nursery were a candy store that was going to be taken in part but not in totality, as many candy bars can be taken, is necessary to facilitate the legal end result. However, one cannot take every brand name of candy bar from the store owner. The store owner may have 1000 candy bars for sale. 400 of them can be taken from him for whatever reason (trespass, eminent domain, theft, bankruptcy, and cash flow – whatever). But if an entire brand name of candy bar is taken from him then his product mix puts him out of business because a customer will go to a candy store vendor that not only carries the brand of candy bar he wants but a multiplicity of other desired brand names.

This approach to valuation might well have been nicknamed, The Grocery Store Phenomenon. If a grocery store loses all of its dairy products, loyal customers are not going to go to two different grocery stores to purchase dairy products and everything else they need when it can be found under one roof.

The percentage of species population in a nursery must be considered in an analysis of that nursery and its viability in the after situation of impairment or impact. Case law regarding plants that have absolutely no value in the marketplace at the time of valuation and plants that are almost ready for the marketplace but do not qualify for marketability at the time of evaluation is addressed in case law which are required.

This explains to attorneys and owners the frustration of having to bear the costs of inventorying an entire nursery when only a portion of it may be negatively affected.

A nursery valuation must also take into account the knowledge of the numerous and varying costs that were required to get each plant into its container size at the time of valuation. As an example, what value should be placed on a species of plant which has just been stepped up from a 1-gallon container (valued at $2 each) to a 3-gallon container (valued at $7.50 each)? It is obvious that the plant just planted into a 3-gallon container is not yet ready for the marketplace. Now what value? And what value is placed on a 1-gallon container that must be stepped up to a 3-gallon container but was not stepped up to a 3-gallon container? What does it cost to fertilize a plant in a particular size container when broken into line item tables? And what is the per plant cost to apply pesticides on acres of product? Is there a difference in the bottom line accounting of a nursery if perlite is used in the growing media versus the use of vermiculite?

There is a multiplicity of knowledge required to appraise a tree farm or plant nursery. But perhaps the most elusive target for most arborists is the necessary and prerequisite case law applied to past scenarios in nurseries and tree farms. That is the art. And in most situations, that’s where the secret sauce is kept.