How to Invest in Timberland

Timberland investment is a growing area of interest among investors looking for diversification and potential returns outside of traditional stocks and bonds. Timberland, which is the land used for timber production, offers investors the opportunity to invest in a tangible asset that has multiple uses beyond simply growing trees. For example, timberland can be used for recreation, hunting, or conservation purposes, providing additional potential revenue streams and sources of value for the investor. If you want to learn more about the benefits of timberland, we have an article on the subject here.

While many consider it to be out of reach as an investment, there are several ways to invest. There are three primary methods of investing in timberland: direct ownership, public timber REITs, and programs like AcreTrader. Each method has its advantages and disadvantages, and investors must consider their financial goals, risk tolerance, and level of involvement in the management of the land when choosing an investment method.

Direct ownership is one way to invest in timberland.

Direct Ownership of Timberland

Direct ownership of timberland is the most traditional method of investing in timberland, where investors purchase the land and have complete control over its management. This method provides the highest potential returns but requires a significant upfront investment and active management. Direct ownership allows investors to have complete control over the management of the land, including harvesting and replanting trees, and the ability to use the land for other purposes such as hunting, recreation, or conservation. However, direct ownership also requires a significant time commitment and expertise in land management, making it more suitable for those with experience in the timber industry. However, it can be accessible to newbies with proper research, and that’s what we are here for. A good start is our free guide to managing timberland, which you can get with the link below.

Advantages of Direct Ownership:

  1. Potential for Higher Returns: Direct ownership of timberland can provide the highest potential returns compared to other timberland investment methods. Timberland investments can generate returns through both the appreciation of the land value and the harvesting of timber.
  2. Control: Investors who own timberland have complete control over the management of the land. This control can allow investors to optimize the land’s management to maximize returns. It also allows for personal enjoyment of the asset.
  3. Tax Benefits: Timberland investments can provide tax benefits to investors. For example, timberland can be classified as a long-term capital asset, which may qualify for a lower tax rate when sold.

Disadvantages of Direct Ownership:

  1. High Upfront Costs: Direct ownership of timberland requires a significant upfront investment to purchase the land. This can make it difficult for investors to enter the market.
  2. Active Management: Timberland investments require active management, including maintaining the land, harvesting the timber, and managing the wildlife. This can be time-consuming and require specialized knowledge.
  3. Illiquidity: Timberland investments are illiquid, which means that they cannot be easily converted to cash. This can make it difficult for investors to access their capital when needed.

Timber REITs

Public timber REITs (Real Estate Investment Trusts) are companies that own and manage timberland and sell shares to investors. These companies own and manage large portfolios of timberland and provide investors with the opportunity to invest in timberland through publicly traded stocks. Public timber REITs offer liquidity, professional management, and diversification, but may have lower potential returns and limited control over the management of the land. Investors in public timber REITs receive dividends based on the income generated from the timberland and share in any appreciation of the value of the timberland over time.

Advantages of Timber REITs:

  1. Liquidity: Timber REITs are publicly traded, providing investors with liquidity. This means that investors can buy and sell shares in the REIT on a stock exchange, allowing for a quick and easy exit.
  2. Professional Management: Timber REITs are managed by professionals who have experience in managing timberland investments. This can provide investors with a level of expertise that they may not have on their own.
  3. Diversification: Public timber REITs typically invest in a portfolio of timberland properties, which can provide investors with exposure to a diversified range of properties and geographic locations.

Disadvantages of Timber REITs:

  1. Lower Potential Returns: REITs may offer lower potential returns compared to direct ownership of timberland. This is because the REITs typically have higher overhead costs and fees.
  2. Lack of Control: Investors in public timber REITs have limited control over the management of the land. The REIT management team makes all decisions regarding the land’s management and harvesting of the timber.
  3. Market Volatility: Public timber REITs are subject to market volatility, which can result in significant fluctuations in share prices.


Programs like AcreTrader allow investors to invest in fractional ownership of specific parcels of timberland, with the management of the land handled by the program’s team of professionals. This method provides accessibility, professional management, and diversification while allowing investors to invest with smaller amounts of capital. AcreTrader purchases the land, manages the timberland, and sells shares in the property to investors, who receive a portion of the profits generated from the land’s use. This method offers investors the opportunity to invest in timberland without having to manage the land themselves, making it an attractive option for those who lack the time or expertise to actively manage their investments. It is similar to a REIT, but allows investors to choose the individual parcels in their portfolio.

Advantages of Programs like AcreTrader:

  1. Accessibility: Programs like AcreTrader make it possible for investors to invest in timberland with smaller amounts of capital. Fractional ownership allows investors to purchase a portion of the land, making timberland investment more accessible.
  2. Professional Management: Programs like AcreTrader provide professional management of the land, which can be a significant advantage for investors who do not have experience managing timberland.
  3. Diversification: Investing in such programs provides investors with exposure to a diversified portfolio of timberland investments, reducing overall portfolio risk.

Disadvantages of Programs like AcreTrader:

  1. Lower Potential Returns: Programs like AcreTrader may provide lower potential returns compared to direct ownership of timberland. However, the returns may still be higher than those of public timber REITs.
  2. Lack of Control: Investors in programs like AcreTrader have limited control over the management of the land. AcreTrader manages the land on behalf of the investors.
  3. Fees: Fees for management and administration may be charged, which can reduce overall returns.


Investing in timberland can be an attractive option for investors looking to diversify their portfolios and potentially generate high returns. When choosing a timberland investment method, investors should consider their financial goals, risk tolerance, and level of involvement in the management of the land. It is also essential to conduct thorough research and due diligence on any potential investment and seek the advice of a professional financial advisor.

In addition to the advantages and disadvantages of each method, there are also several factors to consider when investing in timberland. These include:

  1. Location: The location of the timberland can significantly impact the potential returns and risks of the investment. Factors such as climate, soil quality, and access to markets can influence the land’s value and the profitability of timber harvesting.
  2. Market Demand: The demand for timber products can significantly impact the profitability of a timberland investment. Investors should research the demand for different timber products, including their potential uses and markets, to assess the investment’s potential.
  3. Sustainable Practices: Sustainable forestry practices can not only ensure the long-term health of the timberland but also increase its value and potential returns. Investors should research the sustainability practices of any potential investment to ensure they align with their values and goals.

In conclusion, investing in timberland can be a lucrative and rewarding investment, but it is essential to carefully consider the advantages and disadvantages of each method and conduct thorough research before making any investment decisions. With the right investment method, location, market demand, and sustainable practices, investing in timberland can provide investors with significant returns and diversification for their portfolios.

Zachary Lowry

A forester from northern Maine, I spent my early career working for large timberland owners, managing forest land and investments in the form of managing timber harvest operations as well as planning and managing precommercial thinning, planting, and herbicide application programs. These days I work on my own land and help timberland owners large and small manage theirs.

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