How to Read Metes and Bounds Legal Description

How to Read Metes and Bounds Legal Description

Metes and bounds is a method used in legal descriptions of land parcels. It involves defining the boundaries of a piece of property by using specific measurements and directions. While it may seem complex at first, understanding how to read metes and bounds legal descriptions is essential for landowners, real estate professionals, and surveyors. In this article, we will guide you through the process of interpreting metes and bounds descriptions, as well as address some frequently asked questions.

Understanding the Basics of Metes and Bounds

Metes and bounds descriptions typically start with a point of beginning (POB), which serves as a reference point for the entire legal description. The POB is often marked by a physical monument, such as a stone or stake, or is defined by a known landmark. From the POB, the description proceeds in a specific order, usually following the boundaries of the property in a clockwise direction.

The description includes a series of metes (distances) and bounds (directions) that outline the perimeter of the property. For example, it may state, “From the POB, go 100 feet due north, then turn 90 degrees east and proceed 200 feet.” Each metes and bounds instruction is precise and should be followed carefully to accurately identify the property boundaries.

Reading Metes and Bounds Descriptions Step by Step

1. Start with the POB: Identify the point of beginning mentioned in the legal description. This is the starting point for reading the metes and bounds.

2. Follow the metes: Begin by following the first metes instruction, which describes the distance to be traveled from the POB. For instance, it may state “Go 100 feet due north.” Use a compass or other measuring device to determine the specified distance in the indicated direction.

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3. Follow the bounds: Once you have reached the end of the first metes instruction, follow the bounds instruction for the next direction. For example, it may state “Turn 90 degrees east and proceed 200 feet.” Measure the specified distance in the indicated direction.

4. Repeat the process: Continue following the metes and bounds instructions in the order they are given until you reach the final boundary point.

5. Close the loop: To ensure accuracy, the metes and bounds description should form a closed loop, bringing you back to the POB. If the description does not close, there may be an error in the legal description or a missing instruction.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I use a GPS device to read metes and bounds descriptions?

A: While GPS devices can be helpful in determining coordinates and distances, they may not be accurate enough for precise metes and bounds measurements. It is recommended to use traditional surveying tools, such as a compass and measuring tape, for greater accuracy.

Q: What if there are overlapping boundaries or conflicting instructions in a metes and bounds description?

A: In cases where there are overlapping boundaries or conflicting instructions, it is advisable to consult a professional surveyor or an attorney specializing in land law. They can help resolve any discrepancies and provide clarification.

Q: Are metes and bounds descriptions still commonly used?

A: Metes and bounds descriptions are still widely used, especially in areas with irregularly shaped or older properties. However, many jurisdictions have transitioned to the use of rectangular survey systems, such as the Public Land Survey System (PLSS), which relies on township, range, and section numbers.

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Q: Can metes and bounds descriptions be converted into other formats?

A: Yes, metes and bounds descriptions can often be converted into other formats, such as rectangular surveys or coordinates, using appropriate software or tools. Professional surveyors and GIS specialists typically handle such conversions.


Reading metes and bounds legal descriptions is an essential skill for anyone involved in land ownership or real estate transactions. By understanding the basics of metes and bounds, following a systematic approach, and seeking professional guidance when needed, you can accurately interpret these descriptions and determine the precise boundaries of a property.