Timber Value and Sales
People who want to harvest their timber want answers to two simple questions: "What is my timber worth?", and "What's the best way to sell my trees?"
What Is My Timber Worth?
Sitting here in my office, it would be difficult for me to estimate what your timber or logs are worth. This is for at least five possible reasons.
1. First, even though statewide or regional prices can provide a taste of the level and trends of prices, what your timber is worth is somewhat dependent on local market conditions. If your timber grows near a lot of mills, your timber might command a higher price than if the timber were far from mills or close to only one or two mills.
2. Second, a timber stand's value is dependent on the species, sizes, and qualities of the trees growing in it. A large, top quality sugar maple, for example, would command a significant price premium as a veneer log, while limby and crooked sugar maple might be priced as pulpwood.
3. Third, the value of timber depends heavily on how much timber is sold in one timber sale and what kind of harvesting is done. Often, the larger the sale, the higher the price per unit of wood that can be offered. It can be more costly per unit of wood removed to cut only a few, selected trees, rather than cut most or all trees in the stand. The greater the harvest expense per tree, the less the harvester may be willing to pay for the trees. Access is also another issue that can lower the price. Road building can cost $3.00 a foot and this can low the price paid to you. Foresters can usually negotiate this price down.
4. Fourth, what a timber buyer will pay for your trees depends on the conditions of the site in which they are growing,
which affects how expensive it is to remove them and haul them to a mill. Variables such as distance from the stand to the nearest road, slope, soil wetness, and whether temporary bridges need to be built across streams all can affect operational costs of harvesters and hence what they might be willing to pay to harvest a stand of trees.
5. Fifth and finally, state and local timber harvesting and management practices laws can affect what kind of harvesting equipment can be used, how close harvests can come to streams, and what contingencies must be made if there are local populations of vulnerable or legally protected plant or animal species in your area. All of those things can affect how much wood can be removed and the operational costs of harvesting. Higher costs translate into lower prices offered.
There are, however, several ways you can obtain information about the value of your timber:
1, First, you can call on the "State of Maine" district forester for your area. He or she will visit your land and offer free advice on his or her assessment of the your land. The district forester will determine your needs and then refer you a list of qualified consultant foresters that can work with you. This link will take you to the list of district foresters that work for the "State of Maine". http://www.maine.gov/dacf/mfs/policy_management/district_foresters.html
2. Second, you can contact a professional forestry consultant. These experts provide a wide variety of services for a fee: tree planting advice, forest management, timber cruising (determining timber value), and timber sale preparation and supervision. " Also, Maine maintains a list of licensed and/or certified professional forestry consultants--the best kind of consultant. If you live in another state, contact your state forestry division.
3. Third, you can get a rough idea of the level and trends of timber prices by examining the prices for timber in your state. Usually, this means talking to a consulting forester or loggers who determine what price they are willing to pay for your timber products. Different logging contractors have different prices and they can vary a lot.
"How Do I Sell My Timber?"
Recommendations on how to sell timber are similar to those for determining what timber is worth:
1. First, you can contact loggering contractors directly and ask what price they are paying for timber products.
2. Second, you can contact a professional forestry consultant. These experts provide a wide variety of services for a fee: tree planting advice, forest management, timber cruising (determining timber value), and timber sale preparation and supervision.
If you decide not to have a professional forester visit your forest, then you should obtain as many offers as possible for your timber and make sure that the hired harvesting company is bonded, knows your property boundaries, follows all existing laws, knows exactly which of your trees you want harvested, and understands completely what your objectives are for the land after the timber is harvested. Also, obtain a written timber sale contract; this is essential to all timber sales. Maine has examples of contracts that can be used.
Selling timber is not simple, and there are many potential ways in which a landowner working without professional forestry expertise can be taken advantage of. Several scientific studies have shown that timber sellers who hire a professional forestry consultant to organize the sale end up with profits equal to or greater than profits accruing to timber owners who do not hire a professional forestry consultant, even after subtracting out the consulting fee. (one consultant study). Further, by obtaining the services of a professional, you can ensure that the land and forest remaining after the harvest is more productive in the long run.