How to Read a Legal Land Description

How to Read a Legal Land Description

When dealing with real estate transactions or property disputes, it is crucial to understand how to read a legal land description. A legal land description provides specific information about a parcel of land, including its boundaries, size, and location. Whether you are a buyer, seller, or simply curious about understanding legal land descriptions, this article will guide you through the process. Additionally, we have included a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) section at the end to address common queries.

Understanding Legal Land Descriptions

1. Types of Legal Land Descriptions:
There are two main types of legal land descriptions: metes and bounds and rectangular survey system. Metes and bounds are commonly used in areas with irregular shapes, while the rectangular survey system is prevalent in areas with a grid-like pattern.

2. Metes and Bounds:
Metes and bounds use physical features to describe the boundaries of a property. It starts at a designated point of beginning (POB) and follows a sequence of directions (compass bearings) and distances around the property’s perimeter. For instance, a metes and bounds description may state, “From the POB, go 200 feet north, then 150 feet west, then 200 feet south, and finally 150 feet back east to the POB.”

3. Rectangular Survey System:
The rectangular survey system divides land into a grid-like pattern using townships, ranges, and sections. A township consists of 36 sections, each measuring one square mile. A section is further divided into quarter sections, quarter-quarter sections, and so on. For example, a legal land description might read, “SW ¼ of NE ¼ of Section 12, Township 5 North, Range 3 West.”

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4. Township, Range, and Section Numbers:
To understand a legal land description using the rectangular survey system, you must grasp the concept of township, range, and section numbers. Township numbers represent the north-south direction, while range numbers represent the east-west direction. Section numbers range from 1 to 36 within a township.

5. Reading a Legal Land Description:
Start by identifying the type of legal land description being used. For metes and bounds, follow the directions and distances provided. For the rectangular survey system, locate the section, township, and range numbers, and then determine the specific portion of the section being described.


Q1. Why is it important to read a legal land description?
A legal land description is crucial for property transactions, boundary disputes, and understanding land ownership. It helps ensure accurate identification of the property being bought or sold, avoiding confusion or potential conflicts.

Q2. Can I find legal land descriptions online?
Yes, legal land descriptions are typically available through government agencies, such as the county recorder’s office or land registry. Online platforms and mapping tools may also provide access to legal land descriptions.

Q3. What if there are discrepancies between a legal land description and physical boundaries?
In case of discrepancies, it is advisable to consult a surveyor or seek legal advice. They will help reconcile differences between the legal description and the physical boundaries on the ground.

Q4. Are there standard abbreviations used in legal land descriptions?
Yes, legal land descriptions often use standardized abbreviations. Common abbreviations include N (north), S (south), E (east), W (west), NW (northwest), SE (southeast), etc. It is essential to familiarize yourself with these abbreviations to better understand the description.

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Q5. Can I interpret a legal land description without professional assistance?
While it is possible to interpret a legal land description without professional assistance, seeking guidance from a real estate agent, surveyor, or lawyer can provide valuable insights and ensure accuracy.

In conclusion, understanding how to read a legal land description is crucial for anyone involved in real estate transactions or property disputes. Whether it is a metes and bounds or a rectangular survey system, grasping the terminology and concepts associated with legal land descriptions will help you navigate the complexities of property ownership with confidence.