Selling Trees for Lumber

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Pile of chopped wood.
Pile of chopped wood. (Image: sauletas/iStock/Getty Images)

Selling your trees for extra cash or starting a long-term forestry business requires careful thought on how to get the best value for your timber while protecting your property. Figuring out what types of trees you have and their size is just the first step in determining how much money the stand will fetch. No matter what reasons you have for selling your stand of timber, conducting the transaction as a carefully-researched business deal is key to getting the best price for your trees.

Forest Management Plans

Figuring out whether you want to sell your trees as a one-time transaction or sell trees every year or two for lumber instead is a good starting point. If you plan to harvest your trees for years to come, developing a forest management plan helps you keep damage to the forest at a minimum. Work with a forestry consultant to create your plan –– many state colleges offer forestry consulting free or at a reduced rate.

Know the Law

Before you cut down your trees, find out if any state laws apply to your forest. Some states regulate what type of harvesting equipment can be used to cut down the stand. If the trees are located close to a stream or wetlands area, your state or county may require you to create a plan to protect plants or animals vulnerable in that area.

Determine Value

Your trees’ worth are determined by the species, size and quantity. In addition, local market conditions are key to calculating how much money you’ll get for the stand. Saw mills want the largest trees from which they can produce lumber or veneer. Otherwise, smaller trees may be better used for pulpwood, which reduces the value. Value is determined either by the actual amount of timber harvested or via an agreed-upon lump sum for the trees, no matter how much timber the loggers get out of the stand.

Find a Buyer

Check with several lumber companies and mills in your area to determine what types of trees they buy. The slope, soil wetness and access to the trees all play a part in how much money the lumber company will offer, so invite them to visit your stand to get a fair bid. Check references to learn about other timber harvesting jobs they’ve completed. Talk to other landowners who sold the trees to make sure the logging crew properly cleaned up after harvesting. If you hire a forester to help you create a management plan, ask them for referrals to reputable lumber companies or timber buyers.

Create a Contract

Once you find a buyer, create a contract that outlines the specific trees that need to be cut. Describe any areas that are off-limits, and explain how the loggers access the trees, such as by a dirt road. A solid contract should also explain how slash and debris, such as branches, will be removed. Outline what happens if the loggers damage your property or trees that are not part of the sale.

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