The short, obvious answer is when the price is the highest. Unfortunately I don’t own a crystal ball, so I’m not much help in predicting when that time might be. But here are a few things to consider:
What’s my overall objective? That’s the first thing to do when making decisions about a piece of timberland. List your objectives, in priority order with help with the thought process when it comes time to consider a timber sale.
Do I know how much timber I have to sell? I know it might surprise some, but there are many people who sell timber with no idea of how much timber they actually have and how much they are going to sell. Not only knowing how much, but what types of timber is important when considering a timber sale. Do I have mostly saw logs or pulpwood? Are there any specialty products that can be sold? (Poles, high quality veneer logs)
What’s my land going to look like after a sale? How many trees will be left or if a complete harvest is recommended, how much will it cost to re-forest my acreage?
What are the local timber markets doing? Timber is a commodity and is subject to the rules of supply and demand. Demand is affected by many factors, weather being the major factor. If there is a prolonged period of wet weather, supplies run low. If there is a disaster, such as a hurricane, supplies run low. Conversely, prolonged dry spells usually spell increased supply. An ice storm that damages thousands of acres, which have to salvaged, can flood the market and drive prices down. Insect outbreaks (red oak borer) can also increase supply due to the salvage operation. Economic factors, such as new housing can affect demand. Foreign policies and/or import rules can also have an effect on timber supply. Of course tax law changes can always have an effect on how income is treated. It’s always wise to know the local markets and the factors that affect them.
So I guess the bottom line is this: Know what you’ve got, know what you want, and know what the local markets are doing and you can then sell you timber at the right time.
Need help? Call a Consultant Forester, that’s the first step.