ERROL CASTENS: Don’t sell your timber short

ERROL CASTENS

ERROL CASTENS

What’s the quickest way to make a small fortune? Squander a big one.

One common way to do that is to sell timber too cheaply.

Typical scenario: A man and his wife have some country acreage – perhaps the land that one of their daddies farmed way back when. Most of it reverted to woods decades ago.

The man has a stroke and needs nursing home care. After a while, the wife starts worrying about the ongoing expense and whether she may have to sell their home.

One morning, a man in the logging business calls and asks if she would be interested in selling her timber.

Would she??!! Talk about your answered prayer!

The logging guy names a figure well on its way to six figures. She accepts the offer with gratitude, knowing it will pay for her husband’s care for a couple of years.

Later, a friend of the family learns of the harvest and expresses concern the timber might have brought more. A forester, without doing an intensive inventory of the stumps, guesstimates her price may have been close to one-third of its actual market value.

There are no words to describe the sick feeling in her stomach.

Such could have happened twice in my family.

Decades ago, my grandmother needed full-time care, and her kids agreed to sell timber to pay for it. The first couple of quotes named would not have kept her in a nursing home all that long, so they asked around some more. The final price was about 3.5 times the original offer.

A few years ago, a logger called my dad and me to say several trees in one of Daddy’s small timber stands had been killed by beetles. He offered to clearcut the stand before more trees died, haul it to a mill and give Daddy a check for “maybe as much as” a figure he named as soon as the mill paid him.

We thanked him, paid him a few hundred dollars for the information and called a registered forester we had used before.

The forester marked the timber, estimated its value and staged a competitive bid process. The winning bid was more than three times the “maybe as much as” figure, and Daddy was paid in full before the first stick was cut.

Not every low offer for timber is an attempted ripoff. Markets, weather, location and season affect prices. Many loggers are honest. They may be multigenerational companies and hope to have your children’s business someday.

But there are those who will take advantage of uninformed landowners.

If you have timber to sell, hire a registered forester. Please.

Contact Daily Journal reporter Errol Castens at (662) 816-1282or errol.castens@journalinc.com.