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  • Writer's pictureTim Cartner, RF

Should You Harvest Timber Before Selling Your Land?

Standing timber can comprise a substantial portion of a rural property's value—timber values can range from a few hundred dollars per acre to over $5,000 per acre, depending on markets, species, product type, access, and total volume. Trees not only contribute to a property’s monetary value but also to its scenic beauty and wildlife habitat, meaning landowners should carefully consider the balance between these attributes before deciding to sell timber.

Reasons NOT TO SELL timber before selling land:

  • You may create an eyesore, deterring offers.

  • You might limit options for future management, making the land less attractive to buyers with specific goals or habitat needs.

  • If the property doesn’t sell quickly after the harvest, dense thickets can develop, impeding access and visibility unless you implement vegetative control measures (a cost).

There are cases where it makes sense to sell timber before a land sale, but the sale should be harvested thoughtfully, with full awareness of the pros and cons. Be wary of any land agent/forester that pushes you to sell your timber before a land sale (particularly if he will earn a commission from the timber sale). If you do sell timber before selling your land, make sure there is a justified reason to improve your marketing and financial position.

Reasons TO SELL timber before selling land:

  • You have very high-value timber. For instance, if your land is in an area where bare cutover land brings $2,000 per acre, and your timber value is $3,000+ per acre, it may be challenging to get the $5,000 per acre your property is worth when most of the other wooded properties on the market are priced in the $2,500 to $3,500 range. Carefully extracting some of the timber value will allow you to lower your asking price to a more competitive level.

  • A harvest will improve a stand’s appearance. A thinning harvest will often improve an overly dense pine stand’s appearance. Thinning harvests in hardwood stands are generally not a good idea.

About half of this stand's value was removed, opening up the understory in the process.
  • Income is needed to improve your marketing position. If your roads are in lousy condition, your understory is a jungle, and your gate has seen better days, strategically harvesting timber to generate income for upgrades may be in order.

  • The property will need to be cleared for its future use. When the property is being sold for high-density development or industrial use, a timber sale may be in order. The timber is generally of little value to the developer and is many times given away to the grading contractor. As a timberland owner, your harvest is considered an agricultural operation, meaning you don't have to have expensive erosion control measures in place. Once your property is sold to a developer, the use has changed. Stringent erosion control measures diminish the timber value for the developer, so many times, it's better that the trees are gone before the property sale. That said, the cutting should be thoughtful, considering visual and stream buffers and potential future recreation areas.

Final Note: Timber harvest scheduling is not like making an appointment. The inventory, sale preparation fieldwork, and analysis take time, and quality buyers sometimes have months of backlogged inventory ahead of them before they can get to your property. Additionally, markets and weather can be volatile and affect harvest scheduling. It is advisable to have a professional forestry consultant assess the timber, soils, access, and area markets and assist you with your timber sale to make things go as smoothly and quickly as possible. And remember, loggers aren’t landscapers. You are almost always better hiring a skilled equipment operator to do your stumping, road work, food plot establishment, and other improvements once the logger is gone.

Contact me, and I'll be glad to discuss your management and sales needs.


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