Whoops! You accidentally sold my land!

Posted by jeffsmith0 on July 16, 2014

As an agent or broker, especially if you have spent some time in the land industry, you have some story-worthy close calls, or even never-ending nightmares! As someone who is searching for land for sale you often hear of real estate nightmares, and often times it sounds like, "Well you know my friend was working in such and such a town, and they had the worst time trying to..blah blah blah". The reality of the situation however, is that often times the worst of it all is ...long escrows, or someone not getting earnest back, or somebody who simply didn't use their time during the inspection period to get done what needed done.

This story, FAR outweighs probably the worst possible scenario. Imagine that you own your own piece of land, and actually have been living on it. You've kept up with your payments, and everything is hunky dory! Then, randomly one day, you receive notice that your land was sold at auction for tax reasons, and you were never the wiser! To make matters worse, there never was any real tax issues with the property, and instead, it was a mistake on the part of the county! To make matters hellish....someone bought the land, and now has title to it, while you still live there, and have done nothing wrong. But don't worry, it can all be resolved, because they are willing to sell it back to you. But wait; you already owned it! Initiate melt down in 5....4....3...2.....

This actually happened. In Oklahoma! Firehouse.com writes that a clerical error (meaning human error) put a plot of land that housed a volunteer fire department in the "tax delinquent" category. To really underscore the screw up in the whole process, the land was actually purchased for a mere $100.00 Yep. Acreage for sale, up for grabs for one hundred dollars! Who wouldn't buy it! That's exactly what a county employee did, and walked away with the title. Since the entire situation was obviously a mistake, the Grantee was expected to give it back. But, as goes the story...the new proud owner of the hundred dollar parcel is fighting tooth and nail, and wants the courts to pay him multiple thousands of dollars if he is to relinquish title to the property.

Initially, the property was donated by a local Sportsman's club, and when the volunteer fire department took title to the land, the deed actually had a stipulation in place that would allow the Sportman's club to re-purchase the land, taking first stab, if the county ever opted to sell it on the open market. Additionally, since the property itself is county owned....it can't be a tax delinquent sale in the first place (hence the human part of the clerical error)! The Sportsman's club was never notified of the potential sale, and the sale went through anyways.

There are so many blunders in this story. The legal ramifications, breaches of the stipulations set forth in the deed, etc. But is it the purchaser's fault? After all, he legitimately took title to the acreage in all the right ways. Is it the fire department's fault? There's no conceivable way they are culpable in this. What about the county? Is it their fault? Possibly, as it was their error in the first place; but, from an employee who probably works part-time and takes orders down the chain of command. So should the county lose out on money in payments because of one tiny mistake?

What do you think? Who is to blame here? Do you have any stories about crazy transactions that you have seen in the real estate industry? Post them in our land-forum under the topic: "Blunders in land sales and other crazy stories".