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Real estate nightmare: Buyer says seller retained property ownership rights years after land sale was processed

Realtor helps homeowner get his land back after watching News 5 investigative report
Matthew Anderson
Posted at 4:13 PM, May 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-05-11 23:12:47-04

PUEBLO WEST — The hot real estate market has some buyers and sellers trying to save money by skipping out on hiring a realtor.

Unfortunately, not having extensive knowledge of the proper documentation required and formatting of a deed ended up costing one Pueblo West homeowner a lot more trouble than he envisioned.

Matthew Anderson was shocked to learn that land he legally purchased was given back to the original seller without any warning---all because the paperwork filed with Pueblo County did not meet Colorado real estate standards to be considered a deed.

What you may not know is that your local County Clerk and Recorder's Office does not have legal authority to check the validity of information contained in documents, nor can they provide legal advice to people who come into their office.

The end result: If you walk in to record a real estate document at the Clerk's Office that was not prepared with the help of a real estate attorney, realtor or title company, you may be leaving with a false sense of security.

"I thought everything was good until a year and a half later when they (the county) decided it wasn't a good deed," homeowner Matthew Anderson told News 5.

Matthew Anderson
Matthew Anderson talking with Chief Investigative Reporter Eric Ross (2019)

Anderson wanted to expand his property and purchased land adjacent to his home.

He registered what he thought was a valid deed with the Clerk and Recorder's Office. However, it turned out to only be a Bill of Sale.

For a period of time, the paperwork was accepted and treated like a deed---an error the Assessor's Office admitted had occurred.

"If they (the county) would have told me whether I had a good or bad deed within a week or something, I would have been able to get a hold of the fellow (seller) and get it fixed," Anderson told News 5 in a previous interview.

When the problem was discovered, the County Assessor's Office removed Anderson's name from property records and placed the land back into the original seller's name.

Frank Beltran
County Assessor Frank Beltran (2019)

"I don't doubt that he (Anderson) bought the property," Assessor Frank Beltran told News 5 in 2019. "I cannot transfer it (back to Anderson) by state law without a legal deed."

Since the error was found more than a year after the land sale transaction took place, the seller was long gone.

In order to get the property Anderson purchased in his name again, he would need to go through the judicial process by filing a "Quiet Title" case or getting in touch with the original seller to get the paperwork redone.

Realtor steps in to help struggling homeowner:

"I watched the interview (on Facebook) you did with him and really thought that I could help," RE/MAX Broker Associate Brandon Blickenstaff said. "I could just tell he was lost. He didn't know what to do. He didn't know who to turn to and couldn't really afford a lawyer. He was just trying to grab at anything just for somebody to help him get what he paid for."

Brandon Blickenstaff
Brandon Blickenstaff, Broker Associate

Blickenstaff knew it was a simple fix any realtor could help with solving.
However, the challenge was finding the original seller---George Benjamin.

Our investigation knew Benjamin left Colorado for Texas---and then the trail went cold.

Using his connections as a realtor, Blickenstaff reached out to another realtor Benjamin had used in Texas.

He was able to learn that Benjamin was outside the United States and in Columbia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Upon Benjamin's return to the U.S., Blickenstaff was able to get Benjamin to sign the correct paperwork needed to transfer the land sale back to Anderson.

"It cost me a little bit of time and follow up but other than that it didn't cost me any money," Blickenstaff said. "I was happy I was able to get it resolved for him."

Blickenstaff says the best way to avoid real estate errors in the first place is to hire a realtor or an attorney familiar with real estate law.

"Really if you don't know how things work and you don't know the process and you're trying to do it on your own to save money---I totally get that," he said. "However, you can easily get yourself into trouble and lose money."

The County Assessor's Office and Clerk's Office confirmed that a proper deed has been filed with the county.

In a follow-up phone call with Anderson, he said he wanted to express his gratitude for the pro bono work Blickenstaff accomplished.

News 5 Investigates would also like to thank Blickenstaff for his hard work getting this case resolved following our series of reports back in 2019.

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