It pays to plan ahead when selling timber—Part 2

Selling timber from your forest land can be a stressful experience. In the second part of this two-part series, Michigan State University Extension offers the following tips for planning and conducting a successful commercial timber sale in your woodland.

In Part One of this series, Michigan State University Extension discussed the importance of planning ahead and gathering information before seeking a buyer for the timber in your woodland.

Harvesting can accomplish other goals that you may have in mind for your forest in addition to just obtaining some income from the value of the timber – if a timber sale is well-planned. In Part Two, Michigan State University Extension offers the following tips and recommendations on conducting a successful commercial timbers sale on your forested property.

Selling timber is a business transaction – similar to selling your house or other large capital investment you own. But unlike a house you sell (and may never see again), you still retain ownership of the land and any trees left behind and, therefore, have to live with the results.

Consequently, it is important to be certain that the person you are dealing with when selling your timber is truly interested in the long-term interests of your woodland. Unfortunately, there are still buyers of timber who just want to “cut and run” and are not looking to protect the best interests of the landowner. If you are unsure then get help from a college-trained forester before proceeding further.

Here are some tips on selling timber that MSU Extension recommends when marketing timber:

  1. When selling timber don’t take the first offer. It may or may not be its fair market value. Contact several potential buyers and consider using written, sealed bids to sell timber. This almost always results in a higher return for the landowner.
  2. Don’t be afraid to ask anyone you are dealing with (e.g. logger, consultant or timber buyer) for references. That is, ask them to provide the names and contact information of former private forest landowners that they did business with as a way for you to check on their professionalism and/or reputation. In addition to contacting the landowner, see if you can visit one of their former logging jobs to judge for yourself the quality of their work.
  3. The decision to harvest should be part of a management plan. Harvesting is a method to accomplish something on the land such as creating wildlife habitat, to regenerate the forest, or other goals. Such reasons for harvesting will often dictate how the timber sale should be planned and carried out on your property.
  4. Become aware of the value of your timber before you sell it to ensure you will get a fair price. Remember, price is affected by species of trees, quality of product, the volume of timber being sold, current economic state of the wood industry and other factors.
  5. Use a written sale contract that protects the interests of both the landowner and logger involved. It should outline payment conditions; road construction and locations; cleanup of the harvest and landing sites; liability concerns; penalties and performance bonds and other provisions that provide safeguards and which will make the landowner happier with the results of the timber sale.
  6. Remember, your woodlot is probably worth more than you think; both now and in the future. But only well-planned and executed forest management will guarantee that your woodland will remain a valuable asset. Don’t let your woodlands be damaged by people who are not interested in the long-term productivity of your land. Get help from a professional forester.

The Michigan State University Extension Bookstore has several free and low-cost publications for sale pertaining to timber sales and forest management including E-1656 Timber Sales Contracts, E-2769 Northern Hardwood Forest Management, E-2915 How Much Lumber in that Tree? and E-3188 Hiring a Consulting Forester.

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