Sam owns a run-down property that he wants to get rid of.
In the morning, Andy stops by to visit Sam and offers him $3,000 to buy it. Sam accepts the offer and on the spot executes a warranty deed and delivers it to Andy. Andy pays him $3,000 in cash.
In the afternoon, on the same day, Bruce visits Sam and offers him $3,000 to buy the property. Sam accepts the offer and on the spot executes a warranty deed and delivers it to Bruce. Bruce pays Sam $3,000 in cash.
Unbeknownst to Andy or Bruce, they both arrive at the courthouse at the same time to record their deeds. Andy is first in line at the Auditor's office to pay the conveyance fee and get his deed stamped. The clerk tells Andy that he needs to get the legal description approved first, and directs him to the Tax Map Office.
Bruce gets a different clerk who doesn't realize that Andy has a deed for the same property. Bruce's deed gets the required stamp and proceeds to the recorder's office where his deed is properly recorded.
Andy gets his legal approved and goes back to the Auditor's office, where Bruce's transfer is not yet showing up in the Auditor's computer system. Unaware that the property has already been transferred to Bruce, Andy gets the deed stamped and proceeds to the recorder's office where his deed is recorded... just minutes after Bruce's deed went on record.
Who is the legal owner of the property?
This hypothetical is based on a true set of facts recently relayed to me by another abstractor. I realize that state laws may vary, but I thought it would make for a very interesting discussion. First, because I think that strong arguments can be made supporting both Andy and Bruce. Second, because I think it would be interesting to hear how much state law varies. So, please, share your opinion of the status of the title to this property.
If we get some good responses, I promise to share the outcome of the "true story" on which this hypothetical is based.
Robert A. Franco
SOURCE OF TITLE
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