How to Sell Your Timber
If you’ve sold a house, a car, or any other piece of property, then you know that selling can be tricky. From finding a buyer to filling out the right paperwork, there are lots of little steps to keep track of throughout the selling process.
Selling timber is like that too—there are several steps to the process, many of which may be new to you.
If you’ve decided to harvest and sell some of your timber, here’s what you need to do:
Step 1: Get helP
Finding the right consulting forester to help you through the selling process can make your timber sale easier and more profitable. Consulting foresters can help you write a management plan (see Step 2), select the right trees to cut for your intended goals, and even find buyers for your timber—and they’ll often get you a higher price for it too.
Step 2: Get a plaN
A written forest management plan describes your woods, your goals for their management and development over time, and the steps you need to take to reach those goals. Having a plan can help you decide the details of your harvest—where, how, which trees, etc.—and your steps after the timber sale. Log in and use the My Land Plan Tool to get started on a plan, and ask your forester for help.
Step 3: Get to know your timber
Your timber’s value is based on all kinds of things: what kinds of trees you have, how large and healthy they are, how many you have, whether they’re easy to reach and cut, and what the market conditions are. Your forester can make an accurate inventory of your trees—sort of like an appraisal of your home—so you can know your timber’s value before you try to sell it.
Step 4: Set your limits
You’ll need to set some boundaries before you set out to sell. The physical boundaries include the edges and corners of your woods. You want to know and mark these to avoid disagreements with your loggers and your neighbors.
You’ll also need to decide what you want to protect. Do you want the loggers to follow certain rules? Do you want them to use existing roads or build new ones? Are there special places in your woods that you don’t want disturbed? Figure out what restrictions you need to protect the health of your woods before you proceed.
Step 5: Find your buyers
To get the best possible price for your timber, you’ll want to have several competing bids. Create a timber sale notice for a list of reputable buyers
(your forester can provide one), or place an ad in a local newspaper inviting buyers to contact you for details. Wherever you advertise, include your contact information, the location of your land, the timber species, quality and volume you’re selling, the road quality to access the trees, and any other helpful or important points.
Step 6: Start selling
Once you’ve got interested buyers, there are a few different ways the sale process can go. You can sell through an “oral auction” where several buyers attend and verbally bid on the trees, or you can request “sealed bids” that allow you to compare several different offers on sale day. In the sealed bid method, buyers get a period of time (usually 4-6 weeks) to inspect the timber and mail you written bids. All the bids are then opened on the day of the sale.
Step 7: Put it in writing
Once you’ve chosen the winning bid, you will need to have a written, signed contract that describes what you and the buyer have agreed to, what everyone’s responsibilities are, and how payment will be made. The contract protects you. Learn more about your timber sale contract here.
Step 8: Check in on harvest day
Before the harvesting begins, review your contract with the loggers so everyone is aware of the property boundaries and the practices you expect them to follow. Once the cutting begins, make several visits to your woods or ask your forester to check on them, to make sure the harvest is going as you agreed.
Fundamentally, steps 1 through 8 are all about being prepared and informed. And there’s one area where being informed can be very important for your bottom line: knowing the value of your trees.
Find out more
- Tips for Planning a Successful Timber Sale: This excellent booklet from the Utah State University Extension Service describes the basic steps of planning and executing a timber harvest in more detail.
- Conducting a Simple Timber Inventory: If you decide to inventory your timber yourself, this guidebook from the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture can help.
- The National Timber Tax website has information on the tax treatment of your timber sales income.
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