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Legal Descriptions:

- Sales contracts, deeds, mortgages, and deeds of trust require a legal description of
property that is legally sufcient to be binding (meaning that the description would
allow a competent surveyor to delineate the exact boundaries of the property)
- an important determinant in setting the property's price
*** Although the address is necessary to locate the property, it is not
sucient to identify the property! (addresses are often renamed over time
and even physical boundaries can change course)
*** "ecause any property is necessarily limited in area, any description of that
property must necessarily form an enclosed area!
- generally prepared by a licensed surveyor, who is trained and authori#ed to locate
and determine the legal description of any property! $nly a licensed surveyor should
prepare property descriptions, since inaccuracies can cause title problems later!
*** %he surveyor prepares & documents'
(! Survey ) gives the property*s description and
&! Survey Sketch ) shows the location and dimensions of the parcel
Spot survey = +f the location, si#e, and shape of buildings on the lot are
also given
- ,egal descriptions always note the county and state in which the property is located!
- %here are - independent methods that can be used to determine the exact location
and boundaries of a parcel of land'
1. metes and bounds
2. rectangular survey
3. lot and block
1. etes and !ounds System
- uses lengths and angles of boundaries starting at the point o" beginning (#$!)!
- mete is a boundary line
- bounds is the area enclosed by the metes
- Starting at the .$", the length of each boundary is described and the angle that it forms
with the previous
boundary! %his continues to the point o" end (#$%), which is identical to the point of
beginning, since all properties
must have enclosed boundaries!
- for a metes and bounds description to be legally sucient, the location of the .$" must be
speci/ed, and is usually speci/ed by a monument (a0a landmark)***
*** which can be a large arti/cial or natural ob1ect or other stable structure, including
roc0s, trees, streams, railroads, roads, and intersections that are recorded by
surveyors to locate property! 2owadays, many monuments are iron pins or concrete
posts installed by surveyors! %he actual placement of the monuments is more
important than the lengths and angles speci/ed in the legal description, since the
measured lengths and angles have meaning only in reference to the monuments and,
additionally, mar0ing the beginning and the end with a monument guarantees that
the area will be closed!
2. &ectangular Survey System
' tier'and'range system, government survey system
- speci/es locations by using a rectangular coordinate system that consists of
= principal meridians that run north and south and identi/able by longitude, and
= base lines that run east and west, identi/able by latitude!
.rincipal meridians and base lines partition the land into
(uadrangles, which are squares of land with each side measuring &3
miles!
%hese quadrangles are further subdivided in (4 to)nships, with each
side of a township measuring 4 miles and covering an area of -4
square miles!
%ownships are further subdivided into -4 (-square mile sections, with
each section equal to 435 acres!
*** the rectangular survey system is sometimes supplemented with a mete-and-
bounds description to describe small parcels of land!

*orrection Lines
- "ecause the 6arth is an oblate spheroid, range lines are not exactly 4 miles apart
along the entire length, since they must ultimately converge to the same point at the
2orth .ole!
- 7orrection lines are used to account for the fact that a township's north boundary
will be slightly shorter than its south boundary.
- A correction line is every 3
th
township line 8 a distance of &3 miles 8 and guide
meridians, which run north and south at &3 mile intervals from the principal
meridian and are exactly parallel to the principal meridian, so that the discrepancy in
area bounded by the correction lines and guide meridians, which is 0nown as a
government check, can be compared to the actual area bounded by the regular
meridians, so that the discrepancy can be accounted for by reducing the si#e of the
townships in the north and west of a quadrant!
- Sections ad1acent to the north and west boundaries of the township are ad1usted
according to well-established rules, using the di9erence between the government
chec0 in the actual area! %he ad1usted sections are referred to as "ractional
sections, because they are slightly less than ( mi!:, but the rest of the sections in a
township are referred to as standard sections, since they are exactly ( square
mile!;
+ractional Sections and ,overnment Lots
- <ractional sections that are more or less than ( square mile also arises for reasons
other than the fact that the meridians are not exactly parallel, which often occurs
because the rectangular survey was done by separate crews wor0ing independently,
resulting in gaps of less than 4 miles between the di9erent surveyed areas! <ractional
sections can also be caused by physical diculties in surveying the land, because, for
instance, some of it was submerged in water or because a township boundary was
circumscribed by a state boundary line! Areas smaller than full quarter sections of (45
acres are called government lots!
3. Lot'and'!lock System
- also 0nown as recorded plat system
- refers to speci/c parcels of land identi/ed by a lot number or letter and the bloc0, or
subdivision plat, in which the lot is located!
- %he bloc0 itself is located by using either the metes and bounds system or the rectangular
survey system!
- %o identify a particular parcel of land, the lot-and-bloc0 system speci/es the lot and bloc0
number, the name or number of the subdivision plat, and the name of the county and state!
easuring %levations:
- Some property may have descriptions involving elevations!
- 6levations must also be used for so-called air lots or subsur"ace rights!
<or instance, condominiums located on upper =oors or lower =oors may be described in
reference to a datum, which is a point, line, or surface from which elevations are measured
Although monuments are frequently used as reference points for a datum, their location can
easily be altered either by the force of nature or through vandalism! %herefore, surveyors
generally use benchmarks, which are permanent reference points of brass mar0ers set in
solid concrete or an asphalt base that are used principally for mar0ing a datum! All large cities
have their own ocial local datum for easier reference by their surveyors!
easurements:
- >easurements are a necessary part of any legal description!
- $ld measurements were based on chains and rods because surveyors at that time used these to
measure distances!
- %he following list shows the relationship of the common units used to measure distance and area in
real estate'
?nits of ,ength
( rod ) (4!@ feet ) @!@ yards
( chain ) 44 feet ) 3 rods ) (55 lin0s
( mile ) @&A5 feet ) (B45 yards ) -&5 rods ) A5 chains
?nits of Area
( acre ) 3-,@45 ft!:
( square mile ) 435 acres