Timber Rights & why they matter when buying land

We’ll start off the week with a loaded one but an important one. Over the years I’ve listened to a lot of people tell me about their efforts to buy land in NY and have run into a timber rights situation and don’t know what  it means or what to do. This is important , real important and you must know this before you ever sign a contract to buy land in New York or anywhere for that matter. This isn’t real complicated , but it’s expensive if you aren’t paying attention or if you’re dealing with a used car salesman who happens to be good at convincing you to do something you shouldn’t. So let’s cover it so mistakes aren’t made ……..

Timber Rights are considered to be part of what we call a “Bundle of Rights” when we buy property. This Bundle includes the rights to gas , water etc. and just about any other right you could dream up. What this boils down to is you can buy a piece of land and not own the trees on it ,if you can imagine that one. The Timber Rights can be sold/recorded in different manners such as the rights someone reserves can go into perpetuity or a certain period of time. Some are recorded on your deed and some are just written into a contract of sale when you purchase the property. Sometimes the “agreement” will state only trees of a certain size , species etc. can be harvested , sometimes it will require the trees to be marked ahead of time or maybe only trees located in a certain area of your property can be removed. The people who reserve Timber Rights on land they sell are pretty creative when it comes to keeping the money that is sitting on a particular property. It doesn’t require a lot of thought to realize buying land without owning the trees on it is not a situation anyone should get involved in. The fact is there is not one single positive outcome for you in a case like this.

So how does this happen ? It all starts with you learning about a piece of land for sale that looks interesting. You make an appointment to see the place and meet someone there to show you around. While looking at this property you’re going to be told at some point ” we are keeping the Timber Rights but only for a little while , it’s not a big deal because we’re only taking a few trees blah blah blah”. It is a big deal so don’t be fooled. You immediately question why you can’t get the Timber Rights with this property and I can guarantee the response will be very close to this : ” if we LET you have the Timber Rights this parcel would cost twice as much” . Don’t believe it for a second. You will be told “we’re going to mark all the trees before closing so you can see what trees we are keeping” . That sounds nice but what exactly does this mean ? It means before you close you have to go back to the property and walk around looking for trees with paint on them indicating these are the trees that will be cut/removed from your property. So you agree to this and go back home thinking this isn’t going to be a big deal.  Eventually this logging job is complete and you go back to take a look at your property to see what it looks like. Do you remember what trees were painted ? Of course not , it’s impossible to. So you get there and it looks like there’s a helluva lot fewer trees on your land because there is. What’s worse is you have no recourse. YOU agreed to this and now there’s nothing you can do to fight it. What if your agreement stated trees only over a certain diameter could be removed ? Can you look at a stump and tell what the diameter of that tree WAS at breast height when it was standing there? No , you can’t. What if this mess you’re in now stated only a certain species of trees can be removed. Can you look at a stump that’s at ground level and tell if it’s a hard maple or soft maple tree ? No ,you can’t. You could hire someone to review this disaster and have them give you an educated guess but do you really want to go through all this ? I don’t think so and the people I know who’ve experienced this in the past will tell you they wouldn’t do it again either.

I think you can see there are a lot of variables to consider if you buy land and don’t own the Timber Rights. It all boils down to the seller wanting to get every single penny out of a piece of land they possibly can. If they paid too much for it when they bought it that doesn’t mean it’s your responsibility to correct that for them. If the seller just wants to be a pig and make as much as possible that doesn’t mean you have to be the victim. I’ve bought/sold a lot of land over the years and have never ever reserved Timber Rights and I’m not ever going to. The old story claiming the land would cost twice as much if you bought the Timber Rights with it simply doesn’t hold water. I’ve never had to do it so why does someone else ? I’m referring to a direct competitor by the way in case you haven’t figured that out. There are a lot of people in the land business up here and only one tries to pull this stunt on a daily basis. Don’t be fooled by the claims the land would cost more with the rights because it simply isn’t true. My own opinion is if you’re in the land business and you need to log the place to make the deal work for you then you shouldn’t be buying it in the 1st place. When you buy from me you will get the Timber Rights every single time no questions asked. Owning the trees on YOUR LAND should be an expectation , nothing less. This isn’t to say you are getting ripped off every single time you consider buying land without the Timber Rights. What it means is you are opening yourself up to getting ripped off and/or left with the logging mess afterwards.

No matter how you look at it there is nothing in a deal like this that benefits you and that’s what matters. Ask yourself the simple question : what is the best thing that can happen if I agree to this ? You’ll come up with a lot of answers and none of them benefit you. If you really love the property and want to buy it then tell the guy to log it and you’ll come back to look at it when he’s done. If he won’t agree to that simple request then move on to the next property on your list and forget about that one.

Comments , questions and general criticism is always welcome so don’t hesitate to write. As always I thank you for stopping by , I hope it was worthwhile. Please SIGN UP right here for all the latest on NY Land info and what properties are available. I’m buying/selling all the time and am working on some really beautiful deals right now that you will want to know about. SIGN UP HERE and you’ll be among the 1st to know about them. Have a great week.    mj

3 thoughts on “Timber Rights & why they matter when buying land

  1. ron02simpson@bellsouth.net


    Day 3 page week on Soft Maple Lake. What a great place to vacation. Better than Old Forge area.

    Best Regards,


    Sent from my iPhone


    • Ron , I would take Soft Maple over Old Forge area any day of the week. You guys are getting some nice weather, enjoy it. Great to hear from you , keep in touch. mick

  2. Pingback: Timber Rights & why they matter when buying land

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