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Money doesn't grow on trees. Or does it?

A house with healthy shade trees in the yard is as much as 20 percent more marketable than one without, a recent survey of more than 1,350 real estate professionals in 10 states indicates.The study, conducted by ARBOR National Mortgage Inc., polled a sampling of the real estate industry on the impact of trees on property values and sales potential.

Respondents said trees contribute to privacy and aesthetics, increased property value, environ- mental contributions and energy saving values.

Michael Kuhns, forest specialist for Utah State University Extension, said the survey confirms what most people acknowledge anecdot- ally: People like trees.

"What it comes down to is the amenity value of a tree. There are some real dollar values that can be assessed to a tree based on real physical values. For example, if you have a black walnut tree, there is a prime value for the wood," Kuhns said.

"When it comes down to property values, it's really a `nicety' type of thing. It looks nice and it makes the house look nice."

Other highlights of the survey were:

- 56 percent said healthy shade trees are a strong factor in a home's "sellability."

- 60 percent said healthy shade trees have a big effect on a buyer's first impression.

- 62 percent said the presence of healthy shade trees strongly impacts a potential buyer's impression of a block or neighborhood.

Prospective homebuyers should not summarily reject an area because its streets are not topped by a canopy of trees. Few residential areas in the Salt Lake Valley have native vegetation, Kuhns said.

"In Utah and throughout most of the West, if you're going to have a good landscape in terms of trees and shrubs, it will have been planted. Usually in the West, if you're moving into areas that have native trees, you've got big problems with fire danger," he said.

The reason many of Salt Lake City's older neighborhoods have good size trees was that homeowners and builders planted the trees when the homes were built. "It is a rare neighborhood that's older that doesn't have a lot of trees because of the perennial nature of trees," Kuhns said.

Utahns who buy property in treeless neighborhoods should not be discouraged. To hear Kuhns tell it, Utah is an ideal place to grow trees.

"Trees will thrive as long as you have adequate water. Most trees grown here are not native but do well generally. It's a good environment because of our low humidity, there's less diseases and, I think, less insect problems than other areas of the country," Kuhns said.

Landscaping should be planned carefully, taking into account cost, energy conservation as well as aesthetics properties of trees and shrubs, says J. Bruce Jorgensen, landscape architect with Gillies, Stransky, Brems and Smith Architects of Salt Lake City.

Trees such a spruces planted at the northwest corner of a structure lot will serve as windbreaks, blocking cold arctic winds.

Planting deciduous trees south and east of a home provides shade during hot weather. When deciduous trees lose their leaves in the fall, the sun helps light and heat the house.

"Valuewise, real estate appraisers talk in terms of `curb appeal.' A well-landscaped property would theoretically have a lot of curb appeal. If you put $30,000 in landscaping into a home, you have to ask yourself will you get it out when you sell it. Probably. One hundred thousand dollars, may not," Jorgensen said.

Trees also offer health benefits by removing tremendous amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and produce oxygen for human beings and other living things.

"They're kind of like the lungs of the Earth," Jorgensen said.

Energy conservation and health purifying benefits aside, the logical conclusion of the ARBOR study is planting trees may add to a home's resale value.

Said Kuhns: "It's just like cleaning up a car before you sell it. If nothing else it gives more buyers more reason to look further instead of just driving up and driving away."