Everything About Understanding the Legal Description of Property

By: ROS Team

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If you are starting out in real estate investing, you must understand the legal descriptions of property and use them to your advantage. A legal description is a document that describes the location, boundaries, and other legal aspects of a parcel of land.

It is an essential part of transferring ownership and is written in different formats depending on the country or jurisdiction.

1- What is the Legal Description of Property
2- Types of Legal Descriptions
3- How To Read
4- Uses of a Legal Description
5- FAQs

The legal description of a property is a detailed record of the boundaries and dimensions of a parcel of land. It is usually accompanied by a map or plat (a representation in two dimensions) that shows the location, size, shape, and boundaries.

A legal description typically includes the following:

  • A point at which one line ends and another begins
  • The distance between two points
  • The direction in which one line runs from another point – A point at which one line ends, and another begins
property legal description
Photo Credit: Canva

What are the Types of Legal Descriptions?

The legal description is a property’s location. It is a legal requirement for all residential and commercial properties.

Types of Legal Description:

1) Lots and Block:

The lot number should be included in the description if you have one. It is the smallest unit of property that can be sold or transferred separately from other lots in the same subdivision. It can also be called a “parcel number,” depending on where you live.

A block can also be called a platted subdivision, which may contain more than one lot.

They are always rectangular and do not have to meet any standards as long as they are within the allowed size for their zoning district.

Still, they are typically uniform in size and shape. A lot has at least one side that meets the required frontage for its zoning district and may not exceed the maximum allowable size without special permission from the local government.

2) Metes and Bounds:

Metes and bounds describe the property’s boundary lines by reference to natural or artificial landmarks. It is based on a surveyor’s measurements. It can be described as a rectangular parcel of land with an east-west baseline and a north-south baseline.

This land description system defines a property’s boundaries by the physical distance between two points on it. The two points are called bounds or corners.

The first point is called the “starting point” or “conception” point, and the second point is called the “terminal point.” The starting point is usually near where a person can first access the property from an existing public road.

The terminal point may be chosen near an existing public road or in any other convenient location.

3) Acreage and Lot Size:

Acreage and lot size is a description of the property’s boundary lines by reference to land surveys that subdivide it into lots with an area or number designation for each lot in acres or square feet.

It defines the size of the property by measuring its total acreage or acres, which are equivalent to 43,560 square feet or 4,840 square meters.

The second type is a lot size description which defines the size by how many lots it has (a lot is typically 100 square feet).

4) Rectangular or Government Survey System:

Rectangular survey system is the traditional system of land description. It is based on a rectangular grid, which can easily divide into equal squares. It divides a township into 36 sections, each six miles square, with the section lines running east and west and the north-south lines running every mile. The rectangular survey system was designed to be used in areas with no natural boundaries, such as rivers or mountains.

Government Survey System (GSS) is also known as UTM coordinates or Universal Transverse Mercator coordinates. It divides a township into 6-mile by 6-mile squares with section lines running east and west and north-south lines every 1 kilometer (1,000 meters). The U.S. public domain lands are surveyed using the rectangular system, which is true for most Canada and Mexico.

The government survey system for legal descriptions is based on a square grid with north-south and east-west lines. This type of legal description was designed by the U.S. federal government to be used throughout the country, but it has been largely replaced by the rectangle system in most states outside Alaska and Hawaii.

5) Plat:

A Plat is a map-like drawing that shows boundaries with adjoining properties. They are usually registered with the county clerk’s office and become a part of the public record. It is vital for anyone who wants to buy a property or sell their own home to have a plat on file because it shows what land they own and where their boundaries are.

A plat is usually drawn to scale and often includes the dimensions of each lot and its location on the property.

A surveyor will typically create a plat when dividing a piece of land into individual lots for sale. He will divide the land into smaller parcels, draw up an accurate map, and identify each parcel by its legal description.

How To Read A Legal Description?

A legal description can be challenging to read, especially if you are unfamiliar with the jargon used in this document. If you have questions about what something means, don’t hesitate to contact an attorney for clarification on your specific case.

A typical legal description includes the beginning point (usually a corner), the land’s dimensions in terms of distances from one endpoint to another (usually in feet), any encumbrances on the land (such as easements or encroachments), and any other pertinent information about the property.

It can be Divided into Three Parts:

1) Introduction: This introduces the document and states who wrote it, when it was written, and why it was written.

2) Terms: This is where you will find all the agreement terms in the document.

3) Interpretation: This section interprets those terms that are not self-explanatory or have more than one meaning. It is meant to be an accurate and detailed account of the boundaries and dimensions of the property.

It often includes any easements or restrictions that may apply along with information about ownership history, like who owned it before you did.

How To Read A Legal Description
Photo Credit: Canva

What is the Use of a Legal Description?

A legal description is the most accurate and concise document to identify a property. It is also referred to as a metes and bounds description or a survey plat.

The legal description is distinct from the deed description, which the seller often provides to describe the property. A deed may need to be more accurate or contain all the necessary information to identify a property, such as size and location.

A legal description describes:

  1. The boundaries and other features of a property
  2. Establish its ownership
  3. Define its dimensions
  4. Describe any improvements

Decoding A Property’s Legal Description

In this article, we have read in detail about the meaning, use cases, and types of legal descriptions. To put it in perspective, a legal description is at the core of real estate buying and selling.

It provides both accuracy and precision to a piece of real estate. This makes it essential for a buyer must understand and read it in detail to ensure he makes the right choice.

FAQs: Understanding the Legal Description of Property

How do you Understand a Property’s Legal Description?

A legal description is a written statement describing a property’s location in terms of its physical features, boundaries, and dimensions. It usually includes the street address, lot number, and size or area.

The most common way to understand a property’s legal description is to use Google Maps. You can type your address and click on the “Satellite” tab to see what it looks like from space. This will help you understand where your property begins and ends.


You can take help from a professional to understand the written document.

Can I Change the Legal Description of a Property?

You can change the legal description of a property by filing a modification of the legal description. Submit the form to the county clerk’s office.

You will also need to provide a map or plat showing the property and an appraisal that supports your request for a modification of the legal description.

How to Find the Legal Description of a Property Online?

The legal description of a property is available on the county or city website. You can find it by going to the real estate section and looking for the property records, which should have information about the property’s location, size, and more.

If you already know where your property is located, you can go directly to that land registry office’s website and search for it there.

What is a “Lot and Block” Type Legal Description of Property?

A lot and block type legal description of a property provides the boundaries of a property by the number of acres, the number of square feet, or both. It contains information about the size of the parcel, its location, its boundaries, as well as any easements or rights-of-way associated with it.