OtherGround Forums Real estate lawyers here?

10/31/13 11:15 AM
Posts: 75075

I am co-owner of a 40 acre tract of mostly unimproved land in northern Michigan.  My dad and his hunting buddies bought it ~22 years ago and included their sons as co-owners.  We have built a cabin on the land, but otherwise done nothing else.   There are no utility services out there, so no electric.  We had a well drilled for water.  

Anyway, we received a letter from a company claiming they own the timber rights to the land.  As far as I know there is no mention of timber rights in our  title/deed, but I know that the rights may have been separated prior to our purchase, and that could mean we do not have the timber rights.  That could explain why we got the land so cheap ($2000 for 40 acres).  

The letter doesn't indicate that they are going to cut, but they are offering to sell the timber rights to us. I'm guessing for a 40 acre tract with mature growth of hardwoods, that is not going to be cheap. 

Any issues of which I should be aware?  How do I have the title chain checked to see if/when timber rights were separated from the land?  


11/3/13 2:46 PM
Posts: 23080
Did you get a quitclaim deed?

The county clerks office in whatever county in MI the land is in will have the deeds. Either talk to a lawyer from MI who can go there for title search or maybe you can sweettalk one of the ladies in the records room to check it for you and fax/email copy of prior deeds and transfers.
11/8/13 2:46 PM
Posts: 75280

I called the county deed office.  This place is way out in the boonies. The town where the office is located has a population of under 1500.  They saw no mention of timber rights on our deed, but that it is possible that a timber rights deed was filed separately many years ago. The woman I talked to said I was the third person to call them in response to receiving the same letter.  

One of the other guys is talking with an attorney up there, but I haven't had any updates.  

11/10/13 10:41 PM
Posts: 23140
You might ask them to prove they have the timber rights, and if they do that you might be interested in buying it. Phone Post 3.0
8/20/14 5:29 PM
Posts: 78329

So here's an update. A thorough title search has come up with evidence supporting the company's claim of timber rights.   We decided to look at the value of the rights to see if we want to purchase them back and had a timber appraisal done.  Right now, most of the timber is too young (even though it's been a couple decades since it was cut - things grow slow up there).  

The appraisal has determed that there are 38 acres of land with timber, but only 5 acres are harvestable right now, and the rest won't be harvestable for 25 years.  The total present value of the timber rights is $13K, as appraised.  

The company has offered to sell us the rights for $11k in view of the appraisal.  

Looks like we're going to let him keep the rights.  If we buy the rights, we can't harvest most of the timber to recoup the cost.  The company is not likely to go through the hassle of harvesting just 5 acres, but even if they do, it's just 5 acres.  In 25 years they might harvest the other 33 acres, but at least two of the present co-owners will likely be dead (including my dad - he's 77 now).  But also by then all the land around ours, which is now owned by the government, will have 25 years of growth on it, so while they may harvest our land then, we will still be surrounded by 250K acres of government land with a few decades of growth.  

We are looking into filing a claim against our title company for not finding the evidence of the timber rights, but at best that will pay out the cost of the land, which is only $2k.