Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Selling a Home with Oak Wilt—Diseased Trees are a Deal Breaker!

Last week I was out showing acreage homes to a family who loves the privacy of a tree-filled lot. After an extensive internet search and driving by many homes, my clients narrowed their options to a handful of must-see properties. Full of excited anticipation my buyers were concerned by dead and dying trees in several yards. OAK WILT!

As a REALTOR® in Anoka County in Minnesota and owner of my own oak-filled acreage I at first had no worries when I saw the diseased towering overhead. Most saavy t homeowners in the process of selling their Anoka or Chisago County home would know that though oak wilt will spread, proper and early treatment can curtail this devastating disease and retain the beauty of a tree filled yard. Surely any acreage owner, if aware of the problem, would address it promptly and provide a remedy to mediate further potential damage.

We entered the first home in search of the sellers’ disclosure to see what the homeowner would share regarding the treatment of the affected trees on the property. This particular Linwood home had several trees that were dead and a few more dying scattered around the back and sides of the home. The sellers did document that they were aware of oak wilt on the property. But rather than offer a serious solution to the spreading problem, their answer was dismissive; sort of “pooh-poohing” the problem. Their comment said “oak wilt is common in Anoka County but there are several other varieties of trees that will fill in any loss of oak trees in time.”
What?!! No prevention? No removing of dead trees? Just let these hundred year old oaks die and deal with it?
I advised my buyers that the landscape would be forever changed as the oak wilt would continue to spread through the several dozen oaks on the 4+ acres of land. It would be a significant negative affect the value of the property. With lack of treatment it is a certainty that eventually all the towering shady oaks would die.

Unfortunately, that was not the only property that we saw that day where the owners had a cavalier attitude toward oak wilt; a disease that claims thousands of beautiful trees every year. At another home in Chisago County, there was a beautiful newer rambler that had remarkable landscaping. In the front of the property a small grove of oaks was infected and had just started to die from oak wilt. With root cutting and treatment, the hundreds of oaks on the back acreage could be spared. Did the seller address this and offer a treatment plan on the disclosure?

Nope; just a mention of “oak wilt” in response to the question about diseased trees.

Sellers…Oak wilt has to be addressed when selling an acreage home.

Writing "oak wilt" on the sellers' disclosure is an important first step but sellers must do more than just disclose the problem if they want to sell their home. Anoka County is still in an unbalanced buyer-driven real estate market. Buyers want to know what you have done and are doing prevent the spread to other trees. If you have not done anything, buyers have no choice but to assume all the oak trees on the property will die. If your home is surrounded by oaks, a buyer imagines a tree-free landscape in the future…and thousands in expense to remove the trees, there will not be a purchase agreement in most cases. In this buyer-controlled market, those looking for beautiful, lush wooded acreage will cross your oak wilt-infested property off their list of favorites and move on to another house.

Homeowners in
Ham Lake are fortunate that the city has an on-staff forester who inspects oak trees throughout the city and offers prevention suggestions. Once a year, they provide free root cutting for anyone who is concerned about the spread of oak wilt to healthy trees. The forester will come out and inspect your trees, free of charge if you have any concerns about oak wilt on your property.

Here are a few important reminders to prevent the spread of Oak Wilt:

  • To prevent the spread of devastating disease, it is imperative to follow the guidelines for oak wilt prevention. Do not prune, damage or cut down oak trees during the growing season from May 1 through September 30.
  • During the spring and early summer months of May and June, oaks are at especially high risk to this highly contagious, landscape changing disease.
  • Any wood or branches taken down over the winter that is infected with oak wilt needs to remain covered under black plastic and completely sealed until after July 1.
  • During the summer if you sustain storm damage and lose a limb from an oak on your property, immediately paint the wound with black tree paint to seal the wound and prevent exposure to the oak wilt fungus.
What is Oak Wilt?

Oak wilt is a disease caused by a fungus which attacks the central system of the tree from the roots to the leaves. The tree attempts to block the fungus, but also blocks all water and nutrients to the branches and leaves. Eventually, the trees leaves wilt and it dies.

Oak wilt spreads through the root systems of near by trees and by fungus beetles that carry the oak wilt spores from tree to tree. For additional information on oak wilt from the
University of MN Extention Service CLICK HERE.

How to Protect Your Trees

The fungus beetles infect trees that have been recently injured or trimmed. These beetles are very active in the spring and summer months. Oaks should be protected from damage and not trimmed from April through July.

Trim large mature oaks now. As a preventative to spring storm damage, have your large oaks trimmed now so that heavy, dead branches won't fall during tornado season and break other healthy limbs.
Consider Oaks When Planning Construction
  • If you are planning to build on your property this spring, plan the construction process to protect the trees. Discuss the situation with your builder and fence off the trees from the base of the truck to the branches.
  • Be prepared with tree paint and apply immediately to any wounds that accidentally occur.
    Root System Protection
  • If an oak is infected on your property or a nearby neighboring property, your trees could be at risk through their intertwined root system. Oak roots travel up to 50 feet out. The fungus can pass underground from tree to tree.
  • To prevent spread, have the roots cut using a trencher or vibratory plow. The five foot blade severs the roots to protect neighboring trees. Root cutting should be done prior to tree removal. If you want to sell your acreage home and there is oak wilt on the property, address the problem and outline a remedy. Ignoring oak wilt will cause the disease to spread and kill more trees. This will directly affect your property's value.

Copyright 2009 Teri Eckholm http://www.terieckholm.com/