Whether you already own timberland or are considering a purchase, obtaining a ballpark estimate of the value of timber on the land is essential to your forestry strategy and financial decision-making. Beyond completing an initial land survey, caring for or purchasing timberland requires a specific set of strategies to maximize your investment.
Josh Ongley, Whitetail Properties Land Specialist in Northwest Pennsylvania, shares the most important considerations to make when buying or managing timberland.
“First, recognize and set your goals. You need to consider both the objectives for your investment as well as a timeframe to capitalize on your investment. This will set up the agent or forester assisting you to know what type of property we will be looking for.”
Tip #1: Seek Expert Guidance From a Forester
The first step for timberland owners or potential investors is to contact your state or county forestry department to get in touch with a local forester. Foresters possess the expertise and knowledge required to effectively evaluate your timber stand. Taking species, age, quality, and volume of trees all into account, a forester provides a comprehensive look at the timber on your land. Without this information, finding the potential value of the land would be difficult – if not impossible! Foresters can also guide you on sustainable forest management, timber harvesting, and long-term planning. Designing a solid forest management plan positively impacts the potential value of your timberland.
Josh Ongley asserts that it is imperative to work with an agent or forester who has a good understanding of the local timber markets. With fluctuations in stumpage prices based on demand for species and time of year, a knowledgeable forester or agent will be able to recognize the timber quality growing on a parcel – as well as a timeframe for you to capitalize on your harvests and returns.
To find a local forester or forestry agent, contact your Whitetail Properties Land Specialist or search for your state’s department of land management or natural resources website.
Tip #2: Conduct a Timber Cruise
A timber cruise, performed by a professional forester or timber cruiser, involves completing a detailed field assessment of the timber on your property. Beyond the species and timber volume, the cruise will examine the size, health, and quality of the trees. This establishes an in-depth property analysis to provide an accurate valuation of the merchantable timber.
Tip #3: Consider a Selective Cut
In some cases, a timber cruise or forester visit will suggest a selective cut as a viable option to generate income while maintaining the long-term value of the timberland. This involves carefully removing specific, predetermined trees based on criteria including maturity, quality, and market demand. The top benefit to timberland owners? Generating revenue without compromising the health and productivity of your forest. Even if you haven’t yet purchased timber property, keep this option in mind, especially when the existing timberland needs some TLC.
Land Specialist Josh Ongley again suggests consulting with your local forester before deciding when and how to harvest.
“It never hurts to get a few opinions to find a forester you trust. You can consider using a local consulting forester to help you navigate all portions of the sale and allow them to monitor the sale and harvest process to ensure the contract is fulfilled properly by the logging company.
Again, the most important part of this process is to first recognize your short and long-term goals for the harvest! For the majority of landowners, a single-stem selective harvest is most desirable. With this type of harvest, the forester will choose to remove dead, diseased, and damaged trees and a percentage of the fully mature timber.”
Tip #4: Research Local Timber Markets
When you are considering an investment in timberland, knowing the prices and demand for timber and timber products is key. Research market trends, including regional demand for the species on your land, and prevailing and historical prices and interest rates. Local industry associations and forestry departments, as well as your local Whitetail Properties Land Specialist, are valuable resources for finding real market conditions and future projections.
Don’t discount interest from potential timberland leases or outside investors; economic conditions may increase demand for timber, therefore increasing the value of your quality timberland.
Tip #5: Educate Yourself On Timber Stand Improvement Methods
To cultivate a high-yield forest with healthy wood, timber stand improvement efforts have the added benefit of creating a thriving understory and wildlife habitat. By reducing the forest density through TSI and selective cuts, you maximize your timberland investment. For more detailed information on TSI, head to our recent Knowledge Center article. The Whitetail Properties YouTube Series, LANDBEAT, has additional information about caring for your timberland and implementing timber stand improvement.
Tip #6: Solidify the Legal Details
Doing your due diligence – or having a Land Specialist complete this on your behalf – to obtain clear ownership titles, legal access, and no encumbrances is crucial for ensuring that your timberland value is clear and its potential use irrefutable. If easements, restrictions, or environmental regulations are discovered after you make your purchase, well-intentioned investors may end up with a timber stand that falls short of expectations.
Tip #7: Look For Existing Infrastructure
Timberland with close access to mills, transportation infrastructure, and markets means that travel costs are lower – and profits are higher. Roads and road quality also ensure that when the timber is harvested, time and effort are maximized; ease of accessibility nearly always translates into increased land value.
Tip #8: Include Non-Timber Assets
While the main draw of owning timberland is, of course, the sale of timber and related materials, rural land that houses healthy timber is often coupled with water resources, mineral rights, recreational opportunities like hunting and fishing, or conservation easements. Each non-timber asset may provide a potential added income stream and add to the overall value of your land. Each property has a unique set of traits and potential for increased value, so getting to know yours is a great way to make the most of your investment.
Start Your Search for Local Timberland for Sale
When making a substantial investment like the purchase of timberland, it is most important to hire an agent that is knowledgeable in land and timber. As Whitetail Properties Land Specialist Josh Ongley shares, “We are full-time land specialists who spend every single day helping buyers and sellers of land. Whitetail Properties is unique in that we are all one company; when you hire one of us, you hire us all! Every land specialist on the team has expertise in the land business, and we work together to find the right buyer for the right property.
Your local Whitetail Properties Land Specialist is ready to connect you with timberland for sale that aligns with your forestry goals. Check available listings near you.