Timber has long been a valuable natural resource, prized for its versatility and durability. If you are lucky enough to own land with mature trees, you may be wondering how to sell timber from your property. Selling timber can be a lucrative venture, but it's important to approach it carefully and responsibly.
What Is My Timber Worth?
The first step in selling timber is to understand the value of what you have. This involves determining the species, age, and quality of your trees. Different tree species have different values depending on market demand and current prices. The age and size of your trees can also affect their value, as larger and older trees tend to fetch higher prices.
LandGate's free property report breaks down the age and size of your trees, along with tree species and carbon offset data.
To accurately assess the value of your timber, it's best to consult with a professional forester who can help you with the entire sales process. They will be able to provide you with an estimate based on the current market conditions and your specific trees, and they may also be able to help you find buyers for your timber. One way to find a forester is to check the National Association of State Foresters website, which provides links to state service forestry agencies. There are also professional forestry consultants that can be found on the Association of Consulting Foresters website.
You can get a rough idea of the level and trends of timber prices by evaluating the prices for timber in your state. The USDA provides timber price information for free.
How Do I Sell My Timber?
Once you have a good understanding of the value of your timber, it's time to start thinking about how to actually sell it. Working with a professional forester is encouraged to ensure that the process of selling your timber is as smooth and mutually beneficial for both parties as possible. A forester can assist with the steps below, but they may have their own process for helping property owners sell timber from their land.
Step 1: Establish Sale & Property Boundaries
The physical boundaries of your property must be established before you sell your timber. You'll want to know and mark these boundaries in order to avoid disagreements with loggers and your neighbors. Setting these boundaries is also important because it defines the scope of the harvesting operation. Property deeds, topographic maps, or conducting a formal land survey plan can help with this initial step.
Step 2: Determine & Define Access
Next up is ensuring that loggers and their equipment have proper access to your property. This may require cutting or clearing roads and/or creating temporary bridges if there are streams or rivers on the land. Collaborating with a forester can be particularly helpful in this step.
Step 3: Decide on Harvest Method
The next step is to determine which type of harvesting method is most appropriate for your property and timber. Common methods include clearcutting, selective cutting, and shelterwood cutting. For harvests that do not remove all trees, the trees that can be cut must be marked. Trees that will be cut are typically marked with paint.
Choosing which trees to cut is complex, as it must balance science and forest health with the desired future condition of the forest. As the trees are marked, this will also provide a more clear estimate on volume and value. A forester can help appraise timber value and balance your objectives and proper forest management recommendations with economic return requirements, all while minimizing potential property damages.
Step 4: Advertise & Seek Bids
Once you have a plan in place for harvesting your timber, it's time to advertise the sale and seek bids from potential buyers. It is important that your prospectus (document outlining all necessary information for a buyer to make an informed offer for your timber) is thorough and accurate. It should contain information such as acreage, location, sale type, and your ideal time frame.
You can advertise your timber through local timber markets, mills, or logging companies. You can also reach out to forestry organizations and associations for recommendations on reputable buyers. It's important to get multiple bids in order to compare prices and choose the best offer.
Step 5: Close the Sale
After reviewing all of your bids and selecting the best offer, it's time to close the sale. This involves signing a contract with the buyer that outlines all of the details of the sale, including pricing, payment terms, and liability issues. It's important to have a lawyer review the contract before signing to ensure that your interests are protected.
Other Ways to Make Money from Your Trees
Selling timber can be a complex process, but with the right knowledge and resources, along with assistance from a professional forester, it can be a rewarding one. However, selling timber is not the only way to make money from your trees.
You may also consider leasing your land for hunting or recreational activities such as camping or hiking. This can provide a steady stream of income while also helping to manage deer populations and protect against wildfires.
Another option that property owners may consider to make money on their trees is through selling carbon credits. If you have older trees or a well-managed forest, you may be able to sell carbon offset credits on the voluntary market. Property owners with trees on their land that are at risk of being timbered can qualify for Harvest Deferral carbon credits, which is where they get paid to NOT cut down their trees. There are also opportunities for reforestation carbon credits if your trees have recently been timbered.
If you're interested in learning the value of your land for carbon credits, generate your free property report on LandGate's map: