The term “pinhooker” is used to describe a buyer who purchases timber rights, then resells them to another buyer, usually at a huge profit, without assuming any responsibility or liability. These speculators prey on a landowner’s unfamiliarity with timber values and markets. Many appear to be reputable, but don’t be fooled.
Strategies pinhookers may use to separate you from your money:
- The numbers game. Many will contact landowner after landowner until they get a bite. Eventually, they will find someone who is either too trusting, short on cash, or naive enough to sell.
- The persuasive good ole’ boy. Pinhookers are many times very likable people and will charm a target into making them feel like they are selling to a friend.
- The scare tactic. Tells a landowner that his/her timber is unhealthy (beetles, disease, etc.) and that if they don’t cut soon, they will lose income.
- The high-pressure salesman. Some will repeatedly contact a landowner and pressure them to sell. They may say things like, “markets are going to decline, you better sell now” or “we are cutting close by and will be moving our equipment soon” to try to speed things along.
- The deal sweetener. Others may add in incentives such as quick cash, “free” reforestation or dozer work.
- The bait and switch. Some may work as a team. One party will contact a landowner and make and offer for the timber. If he can’t close the deal, his partner will make contact at a later date (operating under another company name). This second offer will often be considerably higher than the first, but still much lower than actual market value. This price bump sometimes makes the landowner feel that the second offer must be legitimate since it is so much higher than the first.
- False affiliations and endorsements. Some will create a website or brochure using logos from the forest service/commission or a university’s cooperative extension to try to create the image of credibility. These government entities do not endorse buyers or anyone else—treat these images, “endorsements,” and “affiliations” as red flags.
These are just a few of the strategies that these con men will employ when trying to separate you from your timber. Don’t think that all timber buyers operate on this level. Most are honest, qualified professionals just trying to do their job the best they can. Even so, landowners should be aware that even among reputable timber buyers, prices offered can and usually do vary widely.
What is a Timber Seller to Do?
If you don’t know what your timber is worth, and you are not familiar with the timber sale/harvest process, your best bet is to hire a professional consulting forester to handle the job. Forestry consultants specialize in providing timber sales, appraisals, and forest management services to private landowners. The consultant works as the landowner’s agent, developing and implementing a plan to meet their goals (timber income, stand improvement, wildlife habitat, etc.). The consultant charges a fee, but you’ll generate more net revenue, have greater returns in the future, and avoid the lingering doubts that you could’ve gotten more money, a better job, etc.
Studies have shown that forestry consultant administered sales result in considerably more money than do-it-yourself sales. See the study summary here in the 2016 edition of The Consultant: http://tinyurl.com/hy47nt2