Selling Your Timber From Recreational Land

In many areas of the country, timber is a big part of any land-buying decision.

In many areas of the country, timber is a big part of any land-buying decision. In fact, timber value is often the largest single value component of land ownership, and one of the most misunderstood.

To maximize the value of land, you must maximize the value of the natural resources within that property. To do so, you need a well-crafted plan and some guidelines to minimize mistakes and maximize returns. Whether your land holds timber, coal, oil, gas, minerals or even wind-turbine potential, there are some points you need to consider.

Have clear objectives
It is easy to get caught up in generating revenue and lose sight of your overall land-owning objectives. While harvesting timber or selling any of the natural resources on your property has the potential to be financially lucrative, it can be environmentally devastating if done incorrectly. Mistakes can be costly and take years to overcome. Make sure the steps you take regarding natural resources are a part of your overall strategy for the property.

Know what you are selling
Ignorance is expensive. And unfortunately, landowners often sell timber and mineral rights without knowing exactly what they own. Because less-than-knowledgeable landowners can be easy pickings for less-than-scrupulous timber buyers, you should consider the help of a professional.

It's not enough to know you have timber or kaolin or coal on your land; you need to know its worth. Different varieties of timber have different values, as do various types of coal or other minerals. Difficulties in harvesting or mining, distance to market, and any restrictions you impose as a landowner will all affect that value. Since it is almost impossible to be aware of everything that you need to know, hire a professional to assess the quantity and value of your natural resources.

Market your natural resources
If you've never been involved in selling timber or coal or natural gas, your first attempt shouldn't be a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants experiment on your dream property or family farm. If you want to buy and sell properties for a living, get whatever certifications you need, find adequate education and training, and knock yourself out. But if you want to do it once on your property and be satisfied with the results, go find a certified professional forester, or a consultant who does this for a living. They will be able to assess the market, find the buyers, conduct an auction or sealed bid or negotiated deal, manage the whole process, and do it (usually) for a percentage of the sale price.

Protect yourself and your land
The only way to protect your property and your interests in a sale is to have a written contract. Here's a good rule of thumb; if it isn't written, it won't happen. That goes for everything from pricing and access to how your property will look when the work is finished. Many timber (and other) buyers have standard contracts for you to sign, but if they don't address your interests or concerns properly, then you should have your own contract drafted by an attorney familiar with this type of transaction. If the buyer won't agree to your terms or sign your contract, find one that will. You don't want surprises or misunderstandings. Specific contracts avoid both.

Be a good steward
Always follow sound conservation practices. If you take care of the land, the land will take care of you.

Don Webb is the author of "Maximizing The Land Ownership Experience" and president of Greenwood Land Company, which provides land acquisition and consulting services. Contact him at (706) 575-4178 or go online to

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