What is a Legal Description of Property?

Anyone who has sold real estate to another person must have drafted a deed in addition to the other documents required by the state in order for the transaction to be considered finalised.

This article will explain what a real estate legal description is, when and why you need one, as well as the three different types of legal descriptions that you may come across in your real estate dealings.

What Does It Mean for a Property to Have a Legal Description?

A legal description of property is a brief document that typically consists of no more than five sentences and is used to describe a specific parcel of land. In most cases, it will be accompanied by a survey sketch that will provide a visual representation of the property boundaries.

Because it functions as a one-of-a-kind identifier, it is essential in real estate transactions to have it so that everyone is on the same page regarding the particulars of the property that is being sold. Real estate legal descriptions are always written by trained legal professionals, but the manner in which they are written can vary greatly depending on the type of property and the location of the property. Nevertheless, any and all legal descriptions of property may include information regarding the following aspects of the property:

  • The precise locations of the property’s dividing lines and corners
  • Any characteristics of the terrain that stand out.
  • The total number of acres that the real estate property encompasses.
  • Specifics regarding the county, the town, or the subdivision

As can be seen, the address of the property is not the same thing as the legal description of the property. In spite of the fact that the latter can assist in locating the property on a map, addresses are subject to change. Because of this, relying on an address as the primary identifier of a piece of land is not always successful.

On the other hand, a real estate legal definition clarifies the exact limits of the property and the quantity of land that is being put up for sale, which assists all parties involved. It might appear to be a longer and more complicated method, but in reality, it is a much more precise method of defining the exact perimeters of the land, which helps to avoid disputes.

When is it Necessary to Have a Legal Description of Property?

When the ownership of real estate is being transferred from one individual to another or when a property is being mortgaged, a legal description of the property is required to be included in the paperwork. Accordingly, the legal definition of real estate can typically be found in property deeds following the phrase “that certain piece or parcel of land described as followed.”

You’ll also find it in the paperwork associated with your mortgage, as well as sales contracts and other official legal documents pertaining to land. It is necessary to have this in order to legally transfer the correct property to the new owner, as well as to ensure that all parties understand the boundaries of the piece of real estate that is being sold.

When disputes arise between neighbours regarding the boundaries of a property, the other, less common use of a legal description of property is when it is necessary to resolve those disputes. A neutral surveyor will examine the legal description and assist in mediating a resolution to these disagreements.

This will establish who the landowner is and provide a description of where the beginning and end of the property boundaries are located. The legal description of the property can be contested if either of the parties involved so chooses to do so.

In certain instances, a surveyor will redraw the property lines in a manner that is acceptable to both parties involved in the dispute. It is common practise to offer monetary compensation to one party in order to reach a settlement regarding who the legal owner of the land should be.

Various Categories of Property’s Legal Descriptions

As was previously mentioned, the way in which a real estate legal definition of property is written is contingent not only on the type of land but also on the shape and the location of the land. Metes and bounds, government surveys, and lot and block descriptions are the three most common forms of legal property descriptions. Metes and bounds is the oldest form of property description. In the following, we will examine each of these categories in greater depth.

The “Metes and Bounds” system

The oldest method of land measurement that is still used for property descriptions is called “metes and bounds.” It is frequently used to describe real estate in rural areas or large tracts of land that are non-subdivision property. It is also commonly used to describe land that has an irregular shape. These definitions are extremely accurate and describe all of the lengths, angles, and boundary lines.

In order to accomplish this, they make use of a variety of terminologies, including monuments, benchmarks, and point of beginning (POB). The point of beginning (POB) is where the definition begins, and it continues on to tell you how far and in what direction the boundaries extend from that point until they reconnect.

A poll taken by the government

1785 marked the beginning of the measurement system that is based on government surveys and is currently utilised throughout the western region of the United States. It makes use of two lines that run in opposite directions perpendicular to one another: the baseline, which travels from east to west, and the meridian, which travels from north to south.

They mark out areas that are six miles square and are referred to as townships by essentially dividing the land into rectangles. After that, these townships are divided into tracts and sections, respectively. This is a concise method of describing a piece of land when it can only be contained within a single boundary. However, things can get tricky at times, especially if the real estate property in question is located in more than one township.

Parcels and Buildings

The lot and block system is the third category of property definitions that can be used. This is the most up-to-date and straightforward approach. However, it can only be used on property that is part of a subdivision, which means that the land must first have been surveyed and then divided into smaller lots before it can be sold. This type of document is called a subdivision plat.

The definition invariably makes reference to the lot number as well as the block on which the lot in question is situated. It then ends with the subdivision name, county, and state. A legal description of property example written using the lots and blocks method is as follows: “Lot 22, Block 7, of North Lakes Subdivision #3, according to map or plat thereof recorded in Plat Book 54, Page 8, or the Public Records of Miami-Dade County, Florida.”


As you can see, the legal definition of property is much more complex and descriptive than a property address. It describes the exact boundaries of the land, essential for the transfer of ownership and mortgage documents. It enables all parties to understand what real estate they legally own and can help to avoid property disputes with neighbours. Which method is appropriate depends on the type of land in question, so the real estate definition always needs to be written by a legal professional that understands the precise systems and reasoning in place.

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