Should we buy a house with a big tree very close to the garage and its roots cracked some of the driveway?

Asked by Fiona Green, Boston College, MA Thu Sep 13, 2012

We are considering a house in a good school district. It was built in 1960s. It has a huge pinetree about 4-5 meters away from the garage end of the house. Its roots has cracked some of the driveway already. Our concern is, if we have to cut down the tree, the stump and dead roots may bring termites to the foundation. If we only cut down the roots which cracks the driveway, it will still cause some dead roots and may present a risk for termites, and part of the tree may be dead and present a risk to hit the house with its branches.

If we do nothing to the roots and only pour more concrete to the driveway to make it a thicker and new driveway, it may get cracked again when the roots grow.

Please advise if we should buy such a house. No experience and don't know how much energy and money we will be facing up to. Seller said $5000 by quoting and we are not sure if it is more than that...

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Territory.c…, Agent, MA,
Tue Sep 18, 2012
1) Get yourself an EXCLUSIVE BUYER'S AGENT. You should never go through a purchase feeling like you "have no experience" / uneducated. One of the biggest mistakes buyer's can make is to purchase a property without their own representation guiding and educating them along the way.

2) Did you have an inspection? Did you have a tree specialist come out to the home and give you estimates on the cost of cutting down the tree versus leaving it up. It sounds to me like a removal of the tree and proper treatment of the stump area and filling the hole might be the best long term option. There are plenty of companies who do this kind of work. You can start by checking Angie's List online for highest rated tree service near you.

3) In regards to buying the home versus not buying the home. There are plenty of buyer's out there that would see the tree as a none issue or small issue and some that may see this a big issue, therefore making it very difficult for us agents to tell you to buy or not buy because it is very personal. In terms of how does the tree effect the value of the overall home, it doesn't by much as this, in the grand scheme of home ownership/maintenance, is a treatable problem. However, there is a cost associated with such treatment and that should be taken into account during the negotiations. So, call a professional tree company and get an estimate for removal and also an estimate on fixing the driveway and see if the owner/seller will either pay the total or partial.

I hope you will sincerely consider #1 in all future real estate transactions. It can save you a lot of headache and $$.
Massachusetts Premier Real Estate Agency for Buyer's
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1 vote
You could definitely consider getting the tree removed. That could be an extremely viable option. Especially if the roots could continue to cause further damage!
Flag Tue Feb 3, 2015
Kim Carnagey, Agent, Cedar Park, TX
Fri Feb 13, 2015
Hire a structural engineer... They don't cost much for the peace on mind... and yes, remove the tree so there is not further damage to the home.
0 votes
I was going to say the same thing. Take a professional out to the house with you to look at the damage. It's possible that the tree only needs some pruning to keep it from damaging the house. Or, if it needs to be completely removed, then you'll want to know that as well. Either way, don't sign on the house until you're sure.
Flag Sat Mar 7, 2015
Angela Killp…, , Rapid City, SD
Fri Feb 13, 2015
Get an inspector out to the property or some other tree expert that can give you advice about the tree. I honestly wouldn't know what to do about this particular tree on my own. It sounds like it might be best to try and remove the entire tree, but I'm not an expert. I would see what the inspector says before putting an offer on the house.
0 votes
The Graveline…, Agent, Longmeadow, MA
Fri Jan 23, 2015
First question, are you working with a Realtor? Questions like this and a million more will come up and you want 1 point of contact to work with. We ALWAYS recommend a local Realtor. Realtors adhere to a strict code of ethics which offers you consumer protection as well as piece of mind. You can browse under the agent directory to find a well reviewed Realtor. We're in Longmeadow MA with LAER Realty Partners and have brokerages out your way should you need a direct referral.
0 votes
Mark Leach, Home Buyer, Pine Bluff, AR
Thu Jan 22, 2015
I can understand your doubts. The roots can cause damage to the foundation of the home, which is a big deal. If you feel hesitant at all, do as has already been explained. Have a thorough inspection done to see what the damage is, if any at all.
Mark Leach |
0 votes
Kiara Jane T…, Home Buyer, Kansas City, MO
Tue Oct 28, 2014
If I were you, I would get the entire tree removed as soon as you can. The risks are just too high to keep it. I hope it doesn't do too much damage to your property.
0 votes
I would look into having a tree service company come and look at it to see if they can help with it at all. They should know how to fix it or if you should have it removed. This will probably be the best way to figure out what you need to do from a professional perspective. Good luck and I hope you're able to figure everything out!
Flag Wed Nov 19, 2014
You could remove the tree and try to get rid of the risk that the roots mess up the foundation of the house. I'm not sure I would want to lose that much shade. It's a pretty big tree and it's close to the house, so you also run the risk of damaging the house some when you take out the tree. I would call a professional tree service company.
Flag Tue Oct 28, 2014
Josh Barnett, Agent, Chandler, OK
Thu Sep 18, 2014
Trust your gut, if you are having to ask why, you already know the answer.
0 votes
Heath Coker, Agent, Falmouth, MA
Sun Nov 4, 2012
Make an opinion of an aborist part of your contingencies.
They will assess the condition of the tree, explain your options, may provide some estimates, and will have much better answers than a web site that can't see the actual tree and location.
If you haven't already, I would contact a local real estate professional to save time and money.

(Please note: when you choose an answer as a Best Answer, or at least give a thumbs up, it helps those who answer questions here.)
0 votes
Christine Mo…, Agent, Wilbraham, MA
Sun Sep 16, 2012
Don't forget that when the roots decay away you will get sinkholes. :) remove the tree, repair the driveway with crackfill, patch and seal coat and roll a new driveway in a few years when you need one.
0 votes
Irina Karan, Agent, Aventura, FL
Sat Sep 15, 2012
Hello Fiona,

Our first house had termites in it. We had Cambridge Chemical treat it, and they gave us warrantee.
The house was inspected each year after - and we sold it quickly and with a warranty, no problem.
That house had no trees near foundation or anything, but termites were there anyway.

Our 2nd house had trees all around - near the stairway, near the driveway...
One of those trees was sick and had to go anyway, and the other one we had to get permission from the city (with the help of the city known tree cutting company) to cut it. We had firewood cut from the trunks, and enjoyed many nights by the fire place.

Once the tree was cut, our driveway stayed the same - we waited a few years to see what happens, and nothing really did. It takes years to settle for the trees without a tree attached to them.
So, this was fine too.

5K is a lot of money. Do you love the house? - If yeas - go ahead and buy and enjoy!

Hope this helps,

Irina Karan
Beachfront Realty, Inc.
0 votes
Elizabeth Bo…, , Cambridge, MA
Fri Sep 14, 2012
$5000 should cover taking down the tree - I've had quotes before and that seems generous. I have to come down on the side of the tree. Trees are precious - they take decades - even generations - to grow and have so many enemies in today's environment - and that includes people. I would be far more concerned about the tree than the driveway and wouldn't even think about termites. Maybe another house without nearby trees....
0 votes
Leland DiMeco, Other Pro, Boston, MA
Fri Sep 14, 2012
I would agree somewhat with the Mario (Hey Mario) but the way I look at is this.. what the seller is willing to give you to remove the tree ($5000) is a lot of money and more then likely enough to cover the cost of removing the tree. I was just quoted $1100 to remove a tree that was enormous, granted it wasn't right in front of a structure and the roots didn't need to come out.. but still, it most cases if the tree is good shape the tree company will discount you because they make money on the wood. Secondly, all of this can be treated with a good termite contract .. Cambridge Chemical is great for this. They will give you the additional insurance you'll need to make the move. I would highly suggest treating for termites after the removal of the roots.. that should protect your house/garage. I think you should go for it.. if you love the house and you did a lot of looking for the right place don't let a tree stand in your way!

Good luck.
0 votes
Mario Pavli, Agent, Boston, MA
Fri Sep 14, 2012
Hi Fiona,

I wouldn't chance taking a guess in such cases but would hire a professional tree removal. These guys would give you more of an accurate number ($$) vs. listening the the real estate agent that could be wrong and the damage could be a lot more than what it seems.

It doesn't hurt to ask to a real professional since you are investing money and are a first time home buyer.

Good Luck
0 votes
Terry McCarl…, Agent, Cape Coral, FL
Fri Sep 14, 2012
I would recommend you talk to a professional tree removal company. I know someone here local in Florida that had the same concern and the tree removal company told her because of the type of tree (I can't remember which type it was) the roots travel an extremely long distance and could already be damaging the foundation of the house itself. They couldn't guarantee grinding the stump would solve the problem - they would also said when all the roots died and broke down if they were already under the home which they said they most likely were it could cause major damage to the foundation. Not trying to scare you away from the purchase but saying you should seek the advice of a tree expert before moving forward.
0 votes
James Furlong, Agent, Brookline, MA
Fri Sep 14, 2012
Let's remember that 4-5 meters is 13 to 16 feet away from the house - that's quite a distance for termites to travel. When you have the tree cut down you can have the stump ground down. It you are concerned about roots have them removed as much as you can. The more you do the more you will spend. I had a Blue Spruce (in poor condition) removed from a property about 9 years ago. it was about 8 feet from the foundation of the building. We did not have the stump ground down but have never had a problem since then. I would recommend that you proceed with the purchase if this is your only concern. An estimate of $5k should certainly cover the costs but the prices can vary dramatically from contractor to contractor - best to get a couple of estimates first.
0 votes
Mac Chinsomb…, Agent, Boston, MA
Thu Sep 13, 2012
It's not a good reason, to not buy a house. It's only the garage and not the actual house. The tree and be removed and the damage (if any), can be remedied. Get a good inspector to give you can opinion.
Best of luck!

- Mac

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0 votes
Ellen Friedm…, Agent, Cambridge, MA
Thu Sep 13, 2012
You can have the tree removed and the stump ground out. I think you are worrying too much--it you love the house and that's the only thing wrong with it I would suggest you move forward with it. You could get an arborist to take a look at it if that would ease your mind. Based on my experience I would say $5,000 should cover it. I assume you have a realtor helping you with this. Good luck.

Ellen G. Friedman, Vice President for Residential Sales, Keller Williams Realty-Cambridge/Somerville
0 votes
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