We regularly get calls from prospective homebuyers and real estate agents asking us to assess the trees at a property before it is purchased. Sadly, we also get many calls from new homeowners who, not long after moving in, discover issues with the health or safety of their trees and are forced to remove them. Other homeowners, not native to North Texas, may have questions about trees that they are unfamiliar with, and want to know how best to care for them.
We’ve discussed the differences between ISA Certified Arborists and other types of tree workers, but there is a third category that is less well-known: the consulting arborist.
WHAT IS A CONSULTING ARBORIST?
While any arborist, certified or not, may be able to give an opinion or “consultation,” consulting arborists are specially-trained and able to provide formal, written opinions and reports. Additionally, consulting arborists are often called upon to serve as expert witnesses in court cases or other proceedings. Consulting arborists may specialize in certain areas, as well, such as tree appraisal, tree inventories, or education. The organization that sets the standards for consulting arborists and provides training and certification is the American Society of Consulting Arborists (ASCA).
HOW DO YOU BECOME A CONSULTING ARBORIST?
As with any field, it takes experience, training, and education to become a source for reliable opinions. ASCA has established the Registered Consulting Arborist© (RCA) credential to indicate that an individual has achieved a demonstrable level of knowledge of proper tree care and assessment. There are many paths to RCA status, the two most common being formal postgraduate education in a tree-related field or achievement of the ISA Board Certified Master Arborist credential. In addition to this education and training, candidates for RCA status must complete ASCA’s own Consulting Academy and demonstrate their ability to assess, analyze, and communicate information related to tree health and safety by completing several written reports based on both hypothetical and actual situations. After achieving RCA status, the consulting arborist must maintain the credential through continuing education. Additionally, ASCA offers training in tree appraisal and many other specialized topics for RCA credential holders.
HOW CAN A CONSULTING ARBORIST HELP ME?
Depending on your situation, there are many services that a consulting arborist may offer that other tree care professionals may be unable to perform. One common area of expertise that RCAs offer is that of tree inventory and appraisal. In coordination with real estate professionals, and depending on the area, an RCA can assess and appraise the trees and other landscaping to determine a replacement or insurance value. Another area is the preparation of a report detailing the health or safety issues affecting a particular tree or trees. These reports are often used when damage has occurred as the result of construction or other human activity in order to establish liability for loss. In other cases, the consulting arborist’s report is presented to an HOA or similar governing organization in order to establish a need for remediation. One particularly helpful area of consulting arborist service is education of homeowners, homebuyers, and home builders. With the right information and safeguards, home builders can minimize the effects of construction on existing trees and landscape architects can better choose trees to add to a property. Similarly, homeowners and prospective homebuyers can better understand the needs of their trees and better anticipate any issues that may arise based on the species, age, and location of their trees. Consulting arborists can also help to draft tree preservation plans for construction sites and care and maintenance plans for tree owners.
HOW MUCH DOES AN ARBORIST CONSULTATION COST?
How much a consulting arborist charges for his or her services can vary greatly for region to region and service to service. For a detailed report, tree inventory, or tree appraisals, consulting arborists generally charge an hourly rate to cover site visit, research, analysis, and preparing the written report. Rates for consulting arborists vary, but generally range from $100 to $300 per hour. Be sure to ask for a price quote before contracting for services to avoid any surprises. Some services, such as a standard residential property review, may be available for a flat fee.
At Texas Tree Surgeons, we love trees and we love our community! We are always looking for ways to expand and improve the services we offer our clients. Having an ASCA Registered Consulting Arborist on staff allows us to offer documentable expertise and opinions. Stay tuned as we develop and announce new service offerings, and contact us today if you have a question for any of our arborists!
In 2021, Hannah Edinburgh, BCMA, became a Registered Consulting Arborist (RCA #739) with ASCA