Thanks, Lorenzo Swaby. First, I should have said that I'm not at all claiming to be some sort of expert. I've mentioned on this forum before, but it's worth repeating here, that while I've studied the land business for an embarrassingly long time, I've actually only been putting things into practice for less than a year myself, so feel free to take my input with a grain of salt. Also, my questions are only intended to help zero in on the point in the process that I might personally focus on first if I were you and were trying to optimize the total number of offers accepted, and are not meant to be critical in any way. By all means, please take these questions as the type of thought-starters that I would use, and feel free to respond here, or don't, as you like.
From your comments here, I take it that you have not been sending blind offers as your initial mailer to the property owners. If that's the case, can I ask, what have you been sending: neutral letter, postcard, etc.? Again, not an expert, but I've heard it said by others who supposedly have measured such things that while postcards are cheaper to send, the response rates may be lower than with letters. I haven't tested that personally, though, and I've also heard still other people say that at least with a postcard, you know they had to glance at it before throwing it out, so who knows.
Out of the 3,000 mail pieces you estimated that you've sent in the past 6 months, do you have a rough idea how many of the owners have responded in any sort of positive way? Meaning they contacted you and were interested in receiving an offer, whether or not you ultimately sent them one or they accepted it or not, etc.
I'm just thinking that, if you're not doing blind offers (which I'm not, currently, either), then I would try to figure out whether the first area to optimize is in the Response Rate or the Offer Acceptance Rate, since those are separate things. Even if done perfectly, we're all going to lose a lot of numbers at each stage -- i.e. only a minority subset of the owners respond to the mailer positively, and then a further smaller subset of those will accept an offer -- so I'm just trying to get a sense of whether I would necessarily focus on your valuations / lack of comps being the first factor to optimize, if you're most concerned with getting more total offers accepted.
What kind of lists did you mail to, mostly? For example, tax delinquent owners, or owners out of state/county (but not necessarily tax delinquent)? If the overall Response rate to a neutral letter is low, for example, then perhaps that could be a result of relative lack of motivation to sell, in general, within that mailing list, and perhaps a different list source / filtering criteria could make a difference.
Next, I'd look at, how many total offers did I make, which ultimately resulted in the one deal, so far. Assuming for a moment that the offer prices are the issue, if you don't mind my asking, what percentage of estimated property value are you offering? In other words, even if your value estimates were pretty solid, maybe it's the discount percentage that's turned people off, in the current market. If you were already offering 20% of what you estimated the value to be, for example, then I definitely wouldn't advise you to go higher as a base starting point, personally, unless there were some strong circumstances on a particular property that made it worth it (documented evidence of plentiful buyers, short days on market for recent comp sales, etc.). But on the other hand, if you were consistently offering something like 5% of current estimated value, you might try bumping that up, as long as your numbers would still work for you and you've seen evidence that you'd be able to resell the properties within a timeframe that's acceptable to you, as well.
Regarding valuation, you might try looking at Redfin, as well as Zillow. Personally, I've found that Redfin doesn't have any data available in some counties while Zillow does, but where they both have data available, it seems to me that sometimes Redfin's might be more accurate or complete (maybe). Also, since you mentioned having mailed to Texas, it's worth pointing out that they are a non-disclosure state, so all of the online real estate platforms (Zillow, Redfin, etc.), as well as the counties themselves in my limited experience, don't provide good previous sales data. Seth did a great blog post, with a map, about disclosure/non-disclosure states, nationwide: https://retipster.com/non-disc...
Like I touched on in my first response in this thread, the non-disclosure topic kind of takes it back to an interesting discussion that a few of us were having on a mastermind call recently, which is: is it better to work a market that has great previous sales data (which obviously helps for valuations and pricing your offers), but which has a lot of competition from other investors and/or has similarly well-informed owners (they can easily see what comps have sold for on Zillow, too, if they're so inclined), OR is it better to come up the learning curve yourself on a market that doesn't have great, publicly available comp sales data, might have less competition (or at least more variance between investors' offer pricing) and less readily-available data for the owners to compare against, as well. In effect, with the latter, the only number you might have to rationalize against in discussions with the seller might be that of the county's appraisal, which, assuming there is demand for property in that area, might have some advantages to the investor on both the buy and resale side.