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Valuing standing timber and the role of the consulting forester

UNIVERSITY PARK — Many Pennsylvania woodland owners use their property for recreation, a place to hunt, attract and view wildlife, a place for quiet reflection, or as a family legacy to pass on to the next generation. As part of their ownership goals, woodland owners may want or need to harvest trees from their woods. Understanding the value of those trees is generally the first step in the process.

Before selling standing timber, it is necessary to complete an inventory of the species, size, and volume of trees being sold so an accurate assessment of value can be determined. This is called an appraisal and is similar to having your house appraised by a real estate agent prior to placing it on the market. Professional foresters, who are primarily responsible for assessing timber values, utilize an assessment called a “timber cruise” to establish this value. To cruise timber, it is necessary to be familiar with the tools and units of measure involved.

Buyers commonly offer woodland owners a lump sum price to purchase all merchantable trees on their property. Landowners may not know how to measure and evaluate the timber they own and often take the word of the first potential buyer as to its value. It is the responsibility of the landowner, the seller, to determine if this represents a fair price, but many do not have the knowledge to assess the fairness of the offer. Timber should never be sold unless the owner has made an independent appraisal of its value. That estimate should not be made by the buyer.

The solution is to hire a private consulting forester who represents you throughout the timber sale process. They can evaluate the timber on your property being placed up for sale and provide you with an estimate of its value.

Forestry consultants are available to provide independent volume and value estimates of timber on private lands. They can also suggest activities and harvesting practices that will advance your goals and oversee most aspects of the timber sale process.

Consulting foresters charge for their services, but don’t let that stop you. Study after study has shown they more than pay for their service by the increased price you will get when you know what you are selling and what its value is.

A new publication, titled “Valuing Standing Timber,” recently released by Penn State Extension is available to help landowners, and loggers, understand how timber values are determined. This 24-page publication describes methods for estimating tree volumes and values in a simple, easy to apply, manner.

“It will assist landowners and loggers in understanding how timber values are determined and, in turn, provide them with increased opportunities for obtaining fair market prices when selling (or purchasing) standing timber,” said Dave Jackson, extension forester and publication co-author.

Should you decide to utilize the services of a consultant, study this publication before making that contact. This will give you the background needed and make it easier to “talk the talk” and be certain of getting the services you need and a fair market price for your timber.

The publication, “Valuing Standing Timber,” is available as a free downloadable PDF; printed copies are available for purchase.

To learn more, visit https://extension.psu.edu/valuing-standing-timber or call 877-345-0691.

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