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The Complete Guide to Selling Timber – Part IV

Avoiding Common Mistakes

Selling timber is not something most people do on a frequent basis. Even if you own several thousands of acres, you may harvest and sell timber only a few times in the span of several decades. Therefore, it is important to keep your errors low–you can’t afford many mistakes.

While there are dozens of things you should probably avoid, we’ve narrowed the list down to the three most common mistakes people make that end up costing them big time.

1) Know who you’re doing business with.

When you’re managing a valuable asset like timberland, you want to go out of your way to ensure that you know the quality of an individual or company you’re doing business with. There are excellent, integritous people in the timber industry, and all it takes to find them is a little research.

We recommend spending an hour looking into an individual’s or company’s professional reputation. Find out if they’re affiliated with any industry associations, or if they have specialized accreditations. For instance, are they part of the Association of Consulting Foresters? Do they have their Master Timber Harvester Accreditation? There are many significant affiliations a forester or timber company could have; being part of a larger group shows that they’re willing to remain accountable and maintain a standard of quality when harvesting timber.

Also, it never hurts to do things the old fashioned way: ask the professional you’re working with for a couple of references. If they’ve been doing good things for a long time, it shouldn’t be hard for them to hand you a short list of satisfied customers. It may seem awkward at first, but it’s not. And plus, the confidence you’ll gain is worth it.

2) Have a contract.

Not having everything lined out in a contract has led to many bad days (and sleepless nights) for timberland owners. While conducting business with only a handshake may seem ideal, it never hurts and usually helps to put things in print.

When you do, make sure you include a wet-weather clause to protect your land from damage during soggy days. Harvesting equipment is heavy and has the potential of causing deep ruts if the ground is wet. If you’re using an independent forester, he or she will have the responsibility of preventing logging crews from working during inclement weather. But just in case, throw a clause in the contract to protect your land.

Also, make sure to have a hold-harmless clause, just in case a logger gets a little risky with his chain saw or slips on a pile of leaves and turns his ankle. Their doctor bills don’t need to cut into your profit from selling timber.

Lastly, make sure that they have proof of insurance before they walk on your property. Again, this may seem like an awkward thing to ask, but trust us, it would be more awkward if they sent you a hefty bill for injury or damage that occurred while on your land.

Which brings us to the last bit of advice.

3) If their boots haven’t walked your land, don’t trust them.

Though timber professionals are capable of making educated estimates about the value of your timber without looking at it, there is no way for them to know exactly unless they’ve seen the lay of the land.

Factors such as waterways, land slope, and undergrowth can greatly affect the harvest plan. Therefore, a professional’s estimate of the value of your timber is much more accurate after they’ve seen it firsthand.

An on-site timber cruise from a forester takes anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks–not long in the grand scheme of things–and allows them to consider everything that will go into managing and selling timber on your property.

Having a professional forester walk your land adds legitimacy to the entire sale. A forester’s boot prints on your property brings peace of mind.

Matthew Noxsel

Editor // Timber Update


Be sure to check out the first part of the series, The Complete Guide to Selling Timber – Part I

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