Dear Attorney General
Jason Cochard for Land Academy
After sending an offer campaign, I got a “consumer complaint” in Arkansas due to someone’s extreme emotional attachment to their land. They complained to their state attorney general and the attorney general investigator is giving me some unwanted grief in the form of a letter. They claim they sent an undeliverable letter to my business PO box (lie), and if I don’t reply to their email within 5 days, they’re threatening a subpoena. I decided to use my second love-language — longwindedness — in my reply (my first love language is silence). If this helps anyone, cool. Names have been changed. Oh, and putting our business model into Dr. Seuss terms is something you might want to think about before copy/pasting this yourself. I decided to use it….
Dear attorney general,
The address you may or may not have sent a letter to is my correct PO box. I regularly receive county tax bills and correspondence from buyers, sellers, and title companies at that very PO box. While I doubt that an undeliverable letter would be sent there, I will give you the benefit of the doubt. Let it be known that I am responding to your email immediately upon receipt, cooperating generously with much more information about my business practices than you likely expect me to, and that upon sending this reply I now consider the matter closed.
That said, I am a land trader and I buy land as a result of direct mail. I use the United States Postal Service to send a letter and signed purchase agreement to land owners, having received owners’ contact information from public records. Many of those purchase agreements come back to my PO box — deliverable — countersigned by the asset owner. I then take action regarding the transaction.
I’m confident that my business practices are not a matter for extended attention by the Arkansas Attorney General’s office.
If my letter was misrepresenting the facts, such as impersonating some government agency or impersonating a business that the receiver has a financial relationship with, then I believe my letter would be worth your time. Here’s an example: I receive deceptively worded letters regarding domain names I own, in which the sender purports to be my domain name registrar, when in reality it is a rival domain name registrar who is sending me a “bill” to renew my domain name. The idea behind the deception is that they are hoping I don’t know that they’re not actually my registrar. The action taken, were I to respond and send money, would be that I would be authorizing them to transfer my registration to their registry. If this kind of campaign deceptively impersonating a bill collector is legal (and I get them all the time so I really am curious), then I’d like to know what is illegal about a straightforward, non-deceptive letter that says, in effect, the following: “Hello, according to public records you own some land and I’d like to buy it. Here’s a price and a signed offer so that you know I am serious. I am not representing someone else in this purchase, and I am not impersonating anyone who you may be expecting mail from.”
Furthermore, in contrast to my above example, my letter does not ask for money, it asks if someone would like to contemplate selling something in exchange for money. In this context, it might be a stretch to consider Mr Tuckman the consumer in the traditional consumer/producer relationship, when I am in the role of buyer and thus more accurately described as “consumer” than the seller of real estate, Mr Tuckman in this case, who might accurately be described as the “producer.” Were this transaction to have occurred, Mr Tuckman would have been the producer of marketable title to a parcel of land. Regardless, I think it’s clear that my letter is a non-deceptive correspondence between two United States citizens who are equals, who have equal rights to propose, accept, and/or reject a real estate deal between themselves.
As a result of direct mail, I also receive phone calls, emails, and website form submissions as responses to these letters. At the risk of sounding like Dr. Seuss, some want to sell, others don’t, some negotiate, others won’t, some are happy, others hate me. This emotion of righteous indignation is what I’d like to believe my letter triggered in Mr Tuckman, who, instead of engaging with me, sent a complaint to the Arkansas Attorney General. One of the things I’d like to propose to you is that the emotional reaction of the receiver of a letter is their responsibility alone, never the responsibility of the sender, nor the responsibility of the Arkansas Attorney General, nor the taxpayers who subsidize the AG staff’s time. In that light, both my letter and Mr Tuckman’s emotional reaction can be seen as appropriate, but Mr Tuckman’s actions to involve the attorney general are seen as inappropriate.
While I am aware — and supportive of — the emotional attachment many people have with their land, I am also aware of the predicament faced by people who own land and don’t feel like there is any way to sell. Someone who inherits a parent’s unwanted land may feel trapped by the property taxes, Not wanting to use the land, they may see land ownership as a burden and want to sell. Insofar as realtors maximize price due to working on a commission basis, the asking price threshold needed to attract a realtor may be too high to in turn attract buyers. Thus, the market is served by several of us land traders who send direct mail in an effort to connect with those who don’t value their land. Connecting with those who value their land highly, and become emotional about it, is an artifact of this effort.
Please visit landcycler.com to inspect the form that is used for sellers to enter information about the land they are interested in selling. Please re-read my letter to evaluate my claim that I am not misrepresenting myself by impersonating or representing anyone else. From similar letters, I recently purchased other properties around the United States, but perhaps the most interesting instance of real estate being an imperfect market: 2.5 acres in Los Angeles County, a huge real estate market, with a housing shortage no less, purchased well below “market value.”
To close, and I do consider this matter closed, I will offer this. In various areas, Arkansas being one of them, my letter prompted someone to sell their land, but not to me. By the time I took action regarding the acquisition and had sent the seller a check as nonrefundable “earnest money deposit,” the seller had found a better deal and sold for more than my offer. She returned my check with a post-it note on it, thanking me for prompting her to take action on something she had on her list for a while: selling her land. I think that’s a wonderful example of good old fashioned market forces at play even in imperfect markets, and I’m glad she got a better deal. The same thing happened in Montana, where four siblings owned a parcel that I made an offer on via direct mail. They decided to list the land with a realtor. Again, market forces at work, and I’m happy to be the catalyst that prompts sellers to take action even if they don’t sell to me. The reason I can say that is because I get enough happy sellers who do sell to me, and I don’t have unlimited funds. My cup runneth over. It seems to me, in prompting sales that may cause a tax re-assessment and/or relieving a parcel from tax delinquency without the need for public expense in conducting an auction, my business practices are a benefit to the county, to the seller, and ultimately to the state of Arkansas and the taxpayers who live there.