Live Land Tax Deed Auction Short Stories 486 parcels adjacent to the Grand Canyon for $175 each

By S. Jack Butala

There was a time that our companies relied solely on in-person tax deed auctions to supply our land sales chain. I was on the road in Arizona, New Mexico and California much of the year. These are some of my stories;

In rural towns all over America there are real estate agents and real estate developers or investors local to that area. They are very different from urban agents. They drive trucks, own farms and generally “work” for a living. Some of them accumulate land at tax deed auctions for years and years and years. And they all know each other very well as it’s a small-town environment.

After coming up short as a buyer in the mid 1990’s at local tax deed auctions in Arizona, I decided to try something different.

Most auctions have a sign-in sheet like at an open-house or a funeral except it’s mandatory to fill it out completely to get a bidding number / card (so the auctioneer knows who is bidding / buying during the frenzy).

One county, in-particular, published this attendee list on their website along with the results of the auction and every other auction for the past 20 years or so.

As an aside, county officials love to publish auction results like this. “Last Saturday, County X auctioned and sold 342 properties generating $6,405,000 putting the property back on the tax rolls for $782,000 of annual property tax revenue for the county.” To them, this justifies their government job and gets them praise from their bosses.

This was a dream database in the making. It contained all the tax deeds sold, to whom, for what price, and their phone and fax number (this is the 1990s).

John Smith 123 Main Street Rural Town, AZ 85258 Ph. 602-555-1212 Fax 602-555-1213

1979 APN 111-11-111$75.00

1979APN 222-22-222$75.00

And imagine 1,000s of entries like this.

I manually entered the data into Excel and uploaded it to ACT! (the CRM of choice back then) linked it with WinFax Pro and wrote a mailer merge fax to everyone who purchased properties at tax sales in that county for the past 20 years (back to the 1970s).

The fax contained an offer amount well over what they had paid at auction. It was a smash hit. I bought large acreage for less than $100 per acre, tons of buildable lots in small rural towns and this deal;

486 – 1.25 acre properties 20 miles from the Grand Canyon for $175 each or about $85,000 cash. Each property was sold for about $1,500 which was well below retain value at the time or $750,000 within a year online.

The relationships I developed with the rural agents in that county remain to this day, more than 20 years later.

Original Plat Map from one of those acquisitions/sales being resold today.

Since then, faxing without “a prior business relationship in place or Spamming,” is no longer legally viable.

I tell this story because one of our Land Academy members submitted a property to our Deal Funding Operation almost financially identical to this one but in a different county.

These days we almost exclusively rely on sending blind offers to owners in the mail which has proven to remove the time and financial commitments of the old auction circuit days and yield predictable and consistent results and keep us legal.

But I still have a lot of stories from back then…

The following stories will be subsequent publications of this Blog or Newsletter.

1)1,100 packaged up properties for $10K

2)486 parcels adjacent to the Grand Canyon for $175 each

3)Limitless $75.00 Acquisitions in Urban New Mexico.

4)12 Month Release Subdivision Yielding $1.1M in the end.

5)California regional airport planned on our land.

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