What is a trophy tree? And why is this a potential problem for the super-rich in South Africa?
From September, many homeowners flock outside to enjoy the early spring; it may even mean buying a plant or two for your garden.
But if you’re super wealthy, your love for the outdoors can result in spending anywhere from Rand 500,000 to R 1 million on a single tree on your property, notes Christelle Colman of Old Mutual Insure.
This trend in landscaping for the wealthy is called a ‘trophy tree,’ which essentially sees those with deep pockets purchasing distinctive and unique tall trees to use as a centerpiece in garden or home design – in the same way that a significant work of art would. be used to adorn the central walls of a house.
These unique items allow their owner to distinguish themselves and advance their status, depending on the the Wall Street newspaper, who reports that “trophy trees” have become a new status symbol for the ultra-rich in the United States. Homeowners spend a fortune to have valuable plants placed on their properties, whether by boat, helicopter, or flatbed truck.
But what about South Africa?
“The financial expenses that wealthy South Africans invest in their outdoor spaces are high,” said Colman, managing director of Elite Risk Acceptances, a high net worth insurer and a subsidiary of Old Mutual Insure.
“Whether it’s trophy trees, small vineyards, extravagant bodies of water, irrigation systems, designer statuary gardens or semi-permanent Bedouin tents; these have all become outward status symbols for the ultra-rich, as they are often introduced for aesthetic reasons.
The pandemic has also forced ultra-wealthy homeowners to spend more time at home, which means expensive home renovations, including garden renovations, have exploded in the past year, according to Knight Frank research. . Think championship tennis courts, outdoor sauna cabins, and even actual indoor gardens.
“Wealthy homeowners also extend their love for high-value collectibles to their garden – say with cycads, which are rare, making them one of the most valuable plants to collect,” Colman said.
And yet, many wealthy homeowners often fail to factor in insuring these precious outdoor assets, whether they are trees or plants, or an entirely newly landscaped garden.
“Problems arise when damage occurs to infrastructure – whether inside or outside – for example, from a person entering the property or the theft of your valuable plant collection. , and homeowners are shocked to find they are not covered by their current insurance policy. “said Colman.
An incident at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden a few years ago saw thieves flee with 23 cycads, cautiously worth R700,000 in trade, overnight. Collectors pay for cycads at the seed. With some plants fetching US $ 1,000 per seed, a plant as little as one meter tall could be worth $ 100,000.
“Another costly mistake is when policyholders assume that their homeowner’s insurance coverage automatically extends to protect their garden and outdoor spaces.”
That risk is especially high given that outdoor areas are more prone to potential damage than any other, Colman said. “So while damage to a property, permanent fixture, or home improvement from an electrical fire is most likely covered by home insurance, the same is not necessarily true for damage to a garden. landscaped or outdoor infrastructure. “
She says it’s important to know what’s covered under your insurance policy and what add-ons you’ll need to make sure your home is properly covered inside and out. This is especially important when renovations and modifications have been made to outdoor spaces.
Below are Colman’s top tips to make sure you protect your high-value outdoor assets:
- To avoid the risk of being financially responsible for any expensive restoration, always specifically include exterior items to ensure they are covered by the home’s buildings insurance policy. “This is especially important when renovations and alterations have been made to an outdoor space,” Colman said.
- Homeowners with large trees on their properties should also consider the risk of liability. “If a tree which dies of natural causes becomes a risk to the insured material goods, the policyholder will be legally obliged to remove the tree for his own account. Tree removal can cost anywhere from R10,000 to R20,000, and if removal is necessary to keep the property in an insurable condition, the costs will generally be borne by the insured.
- To make sure your landscaped garden is covered in all cases, hire a specialist insurance advisor.
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