Guide to Selling Trees in Your Yard

Trees with their roots wrapped up in a field.

AwakenedEye/Getty Images

Although you may be able to market and sell your yard trees, you still have to attract a local timber buyer with trees that get a higher market value. Trees like grade oak, black walnut, paulownia, black cherry, or any other high-value tree in your area are mandatory for a buyer to be interested enough to make an offer.

Remember this key requirement: in order for a timber buyer to be interested in purchasing a yard tree(s), the tree or trees must have value with sufficient volume to exceed the purchase cost. There has to be value to offset costs to the timber buyer to bring equipment (log truck, skidder, and loader) to the property, cut the log, haul the log(s) to a mill, pay the landowner for the tree(s) and still make a profit off the end product. Just that simple.

Woods-Grown Trees Are More Valuable

As a general rule, woods-grown trees are more valuable than trees grown in a yard in terms of "hard" dollar economics. They have the advantage of access without property damage, easier equipment operating conditions, and there are usually more trees. This will typically yield more volume and a better economic situation for the timber buyer. Remember that in many cases, a yard tree has important non-timber values through the life of the tree, which includes energy savings, air quality improvement, water runoff reduction, and increased property value, to name a few.

Problems With a Yard Tree Sale

Yard trees that are "open grown" tend to have grade-lowering short boles and large, limb-laden crowns. They are also subjected to negative human pressures. Yard trees can have nails affixed to their boles, mower and weed whip damage to the base of the tree, and wire fences and clotheslines attached. They are less resistant to natural elements, such as wind or lightning damage (which can cause defects). Often, a yard tree is difficult to get to. There may be structures, power lines, and other obstacles in the way that would hamper cutting and removal.

Attracting a Yard Tree Buyer

Even though selling a tree in your yard is not an easy thing to do, it is not impossible. Try some excellent tips from the Indiana Department of Forestry to improve your chances of selling a tree in your yard:

  • Know the tree species. Consult a tree identification book to identify the tree or check with your county forester. You will have a better chance of selling if it is a valuable species in your area. It is also good to have more than one tree.
  • Know the tree's circumference. Bigger trees mean more volume and will have a better chance of attracting a buyer. Measure with a household tape and convert inches to Diameter at breast height (DBH). To do this, measure the circumference and divide by pi (3.1416). Measure the tree at 4.5 feet (DBH) above the ground.
  • Know the height of the tree. With a yardstick, pace 50 feet on a parallel plane. Hold the stick 25 inches out and parallel to the tree. Every inch represents 2 feet of height.
  • Know if the location of the tree is one that large, heavy tree harvesting equipment can get to. What structures and infrastructure are in the path of the tree's removal? Is there a septic system, structures, other trees and plants, power lines, underground pipes? Would it be expensive (or even possible) to transport and run harvesting equipment onto your property?

Finding a Yard Tree Buyer

Some states only allow licensed timber buyers to buy trees. Other states have logging associations who can help you and every state has a forestry department or agency. These departments of forestry have lists of potential timber buyers who are often interested in purchasing excellent-quality yard trees. Whenever possible, use multiple bids with a winning contract.

Sources

  • "Growing Walnut for Profit and Pleasure." Walnut Council, Inc., American Walnut Manufacturers Association, 1980, Zionsville, IN.
  • "Timber Buyers, Their Agents, and Timber Growers." Article 14, Appendix B, Indiana Department of Natural Resources, May 27, 1997.