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1. B. Land Characteristics and Legal Descriptions

 
 
 
 

Land

  • Land, sometimes referred to as dry land, is the solid surface of the Earth that is not permanently covered by water.
  • The Earth’s surface extending downward to the center of the Earth and upward to infinity, including things permanently attached by nature, such as trees and water.

Physical Characteristics of Land

Immobility, Indestructibility, and Uniqueness.

 

Economic Characteristics of Land

Scarcity, Improvements, Permanence of Investment, and Location or Area Preference.

 
 
 

Characteristics of Real Estate        

Real estate possesses seven basic characteristics that define its nature and affect its use. These characteristics fall into two general categories: Economic and Physical.

Economic Characteristics   

The four economic characteristics of the land that affect its value as a product in the marketplace are Scarcity, Improvements, Permanence of Investment, and Location or Area Preference.

The four economic characteristics of land that affect its value as a product in the marketplace are Scarcity, Improvements, Permanence of Investment, and Location or Area Preference.

Scarcity          

Land isn’t generally considered a rare commodity, but only about a quarter of the earth’s surface is dry land; the rest is water. The total supply of land is not limitless. Even though a considerable amount of land remains unused or uninhabited, the availability of land in a given location or of a particular quality is limited.

Supply and demand deal with scarcity. 

Improvements          

Building an improvement on one parcel of land can affect the land’s value as well as the use of neighboring tracts and whole communities. For example, improving a parcel of real estate by building a shopping center or selecting a site for a nuclear power plant or toxic waste dump can dramatically change the value of land in a large area.

Permanence of Investment 

The capital and labor used to build the improvement represent a large fixed investment. Although even a well-built structure can be razed to make way for a newer building, improvements such as drainage, electricity, water, and sewerage remain. The return on such investments tends to be long-term and relatively stable.

Location or Area Preference          

Area Preference or Situs (“to place”) refers not only to geography but also to people’s preference for a specific area. Area preference is based on several factors, such as convenience, reputation, and history. It is the unique quality of these preferences that results in the different price points for similar properties. Location is often considered the single most important economic characteristic of land.

For Example

A river runs through a town, dividing it more or less in half. Houses on the north side of the river sell for an average of $170,000. On the south side of the river, identical houses sell for more than $200,000. The only difference is that homebuyers think that the area south of the river is a better neighborhood, even though no obvious difference exists between the two equally pleasant sides of town.

Physical Characteristics      

Land has three physical characteristics: Immobility, Indestructibility, and Uniqueness.

Immobility     

Although some of the substances of land are removable and topography can be changed, the geographic location of any given parcel of land can never be changed. Its location is fixed — immobile.

Indestructibility       

Land is also indestructible. This permanence of land, coupled with the long-term nature of improvements, tends to stabilize investments in real property.

The fact that land is indestructible does not, however, change the fact that improvements depreciate and can become obsolete, which may dramatically reduce the land’s value. This gradual depreciation should not be confused with the fact that the economic desirability of a given location can change.

Uniqueness   

Uniqueness, or Non-Homogeneity, is the concept that no two parcels of property are exactly the same or in the same location. The characteristics of each property, no matter how small, differ from those of every other. An individual parcel has no substitute because each is unique.

Non-Homogeneity    

Another word for Uniqueness.

 

Immobility is the physical characteristic that a city, county, or state would depend upon to predict future tax income from property owners. 

When the developer built two identical homes with the same material, the one located on the sand beach was more expensive than the one located ten blocks inland because of situs. (area preference or location)

 
 
 

Legal Descriptions

 
 

Legal Description Definition

A property description is more accurate than street addresses and required in contracts, deeds, or other real property transfers. The three primary methods of legal descriptions are metes and bounds; governmental survey systems; or subdivisions (lot, block, and tract).

Legal Description

The part of a conveyance, advertisement of sale, etc. identifies the land or premises intended to be affected.

 

Usage of Legal Descriptions

A legal description of the real property being conveyed in a real estate deed must be present for legal transactions. The deed can also include a reference to the recorded map, survey, or deed containing the legal description to meet this requirement.

 
 
 

1. METES AND BOUNDS

One of the oldest measures is “Metes and Bounds.” It is described as a surveyor’s description of a parcel of real property, using carefully measured distances, angles, and directions, which results in a “legal description” of the land, as distinguished from merely a street address or parcel number. Such a metes and bounds description must be recorded in official county records on a subdivision map and the deeds when the boundaries of a parcel or lot are first drawn.

 
 

Metes and bounds is a measurement that tells a story (prose).

Typically, the system uses the local geography’s physical features, along with directions and distances, to define and describe a parcel of land’s boundaries. The boundaries are described in a running prose style, working around the parcel in sequence, from the point of beginning, returning to the same point, compared with the oral ritual of beating the bounds. It may include references to other adjoining parcels (and their owners), and it, in turn, could also be referred to in later surveys. When the description is compiled, it may have been marked on the ground with permanent monuments placed where there were no suitable natural monuments.

A typical description for a small parcel of land would be: “beginning with a corner at the intersection of two stone walls near an apple tree on the north-side of Muddy Creek road one mile above the junction of Muddy and Indian Creeks, north for 150 rods to the end of the stone wall bordering the road, then northwest along a line to a large standing rock on the corner of the property now or formerly belonging to John Smith, thence west 150 rods to the corner of a barn near a large oak tree, thence south to Muddy Creek road, thence down the side of the creek road to the starting point.”

 

POINT OF BEGINNING (POB)

The most important feature is the Point of Beginning. (POB) The surveyor begins and ends at the POINT OF BEGINNING (POB)

Point of Beginning (POB)

The starting point, usually a monument, in a metes and bounds land description. For the legal description to be complete, it must return to the POB.

 

Metes

The term “metes” refers to a boundary defined by the measurement of each straight run, specified by a distance between the points, and orientation or direction. More specific than bounds.

 

Bounds

Directions or angles

 

Monuments

Markers used as points of beginning or other corners in metes and bounds descriptions. May be artificial (iron stakes or additional man-made) or natural (trees, river centerline) provided by nature.

 
 

A more general boundary description includes a particular watercourse, a stone wall, an adjoining public roadway, or an existing building.

The system is often used to define larger pieces of property (e.g., farms) and political subdivisions (e.g., town boundaries) where the precise definition is not required or would be far too expensive, or previously designated boundaries can be incorporated into the description.

 

Map and Area

The areas that use Metes and Bounds are the original thirteen states, the older parts of the country, and Texas.

 

An Oak Tree, rock, or a human-made monument can be a landmark used to measure land using the “metes and bounds” approach—point of Beginning or POB.  The surveyor will always return to the POB.

There’s a question that will say either “a very large oak tree” or “A large boulder. If you get that question, your answer is “metes and bounds. 

A metes and bounds description is a story. A surveyor walks the boundaries of the property and returns to the Point of Beginning.

The country that uses metes and bounds are the original 13 states, and the older parts of the United States, and Texas. It might say the original 13 states. 

 
 
 

2. GOVERNMENTAL SURVEY SYSTEM

The Rectangular Survey System was created to provide simplicity in interpreting and describing any land located on a map or the ground. Where practicable, its units are in a rectangular grid form.

 
 

This measurement provides for the division of land into townships, sections, and quarter sections. This system utilizes township lines and range lines as a part of the description.

Section 

A division or parcel of land, on the government survey, comprising one square mile or 640 acres.

Township

A 6 mile-square parcel of land in the Governmental Survey System. Contains 36 1 mile-square Sections.

Sections

One of 36 sub-units within a township that is one-mile square in the Governmental Survey System

Tier

A six-mile complete horizontal row of townships running and numbered north or south of a baseline in the Governmental Survey System).

Principal Meridian

The main imaginary lines that run north and south, crossing a baseline at a specific point. There are 36 principal meridians in the US.

Range

A six-mile wide strip of land or townships runs north and south of a baseline and numbered east or west of a principal meridian. They are used in the Governmental Survey System.

Base Lines

East-west imaginary lines, crossing a principal meridian at a specific point and forming boundaries of Townships in the Government Survey System of land description.

The primary north-south lines in a government survey are called meridians.  Range lines run parallel.

The primary east-west lines are baselines.  Township lines run parallel.  

Sections are numbered right to left and left to right down the rows until reaching the lower right southeast section.

This wandering arrangement is based on how farmers plowed their land or “as the ox plows.”

This numbering system’s benefits guarantee that a section is always adjoined by its preceding and succeeding section.

A section will never end up next to a confusingly numbered section in an adjoining township.

Each township is subdivided into thirty-six sections of one square mile each.

There are 640 acres in one square mile.

Section numbering begins at number one in the upper right northeast.

 
 

The Rectangular Survey System is a grid of lines based upon a true meridian originating from an initial point. To begin the grid, the surveyor establishes an initial point from which to start surveying. The surveyor extends a north-south line called a Principal Meridian and a Base Line running east and west parallel to the equator from the initial point.

 
 

Along the north-south line, the surveyor establishes township lines north and south from the initial point. Each line is created at six nominal mile intervals. Along the east-west line, the surveyor shows range lines east and west from the initial point to six nominal-mile intervals. Each of these six by six nominal mile squares is called a township.

Each township is further subdivided into thirty-six sections of one nominal square mile each. Section numbering begins at number one in the upper right northeast. Sections are numbered right to left and left to right down the rows until reaching the lower right southeast section. This wandering arrangement is based on how farmers plowed their land or “as the ox plows.” This numbering system benefits guarantee that a section is always adjoined by its preceding and succeeding section. A section will never end up next to a confusingly numbered section in an adjoining township. Section 16 is set aside for schools.

 
 

16th Section Lands

NOTE Section 16 is set aside for schools. 

16th Section Lands

The Land Ordinance of 1785 established the practice of setting aside section number 16 in each township to maintain public schools. The United States Congress designated the Mississippi Territory in 1798. In 1803, Congress enacted laws providing for the sale of all land south of the State of Tennessee and made provision for Section Sixteen’s reservation in each township for the support of public schools. Congressional action granting statehood to Mississippi in 1817 also called for the survey of land in the state and further provided for the reservation of Section Sixteen in each township to support public schools. Sixteenth Section Land is also known as Public School Trust Land.

 

Range lines run parallel to the Meridian

Township lines run parallel to the Baseline.

 

How to remember how many square feet are in each acre.

4 old ladies driving 35 in a 60

 
 

township contains 36 sections. Each section is one square mile.

Six hundred forty acres is one square mile.

Which area size is the smallest, one square mile or one acre?

ANSWER: one acre.

The exam may give you an example to identify what type of measurement it is.

An example would be The E ½ of the NE ¼ Section 31, T6N, R6W. This would be a description of 80 acres. This system followed the Metes and Bounds surveys and was established in 1785.

Public Land Survey System

The Rectangular/Governmental Survey System is founded upon

The Public Land Survey System (PLSS)

The Public Land Survey System (PLSS) is a way of subdividing and describing land in the United States. All lands in the public domain are subject to subdivision by this rectangular system of surveys, which is regulated by the US Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM)

If you are walking from section 6 to section 36, what direction are you walking?

ANSWER: SOUTHEAST

 
 

Correction Lines

Correction lines are for the curvature of the Earth.

There are four townships in a row north to south. (four in a row) The fifth township shifts over. The line is called the correction line. It is for the curvature of the Earth.

The purpose of a correction line is to offset the earth. The earth is not flat. (Rectangular survey system.) 

 
 

Correction for the curvature of the Earth back to a full 6 miles made at every 4th township line in the Government Survey System of land description.

As a surveyor works north from the initial point, range lines do not continue in a straight line because of the curvature of the Earth’s surface. If not corrected, the township on the Baseline would contain more area than one further north.

 
 

Lotting

For various reasons, not all sections contain 640 acres, which is contrary to the plan of the rectangular system, as shown above.

The sections along the northern tier and the west range of a regular township are often irregular and contain lots. These non-aliquot parts are designated by section and given a lot number. Though lots may have more or less than 40 acres, they are considered a subdivision unit of a section.

Lotting occurs when special surveys such as mineral surveys and rivers and lakes’ meander because the reduced land area around them cannot be described in aliquot parts. Lots are numbered similar to the 36 sections of a township.

 

ARPENT – Louisiana

In Louisiana, parcels of land known as arpent sections or French arpent land grants also pre-date the PLSS but are treated as PLSS sections.

French arpent land divisions are long narrow parcels of land usually found along southern Louisiana’s navigable streams and located along major waterways in other areas. According to typical French practice at the time, this system of land subdivision began by French settlers in the 1700s. It was continued by both the Spanish and by the American government after the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase.

This land division method provided each landowner with river frontage and land suitable for cultivation and habitation. These areas are given numbers just like standard sections, although the section numbers frequently exceed the normal upper limit of 36.

 
 
 

Lot, Block and Tract

Lot, Block, and Tract

One of the three primary land description methods identify a parcel by reference to a recorded plat map, using many within a specific block that lie within one particular tract.

Lot

Any portion, piece, division, or parcel of land.

Plat

The legal description in the map form of a subdivision. It contains a lot and block numbers and shows the dimensions of each parcel. They are used mostly in urban/suburban areas. Plat maps are “recorded” by filing with the county clerk and recorder

Parcel

A description of the property, formally outlined in a conveyance, together with the boundaries thereof, quickly identifies it.

Parcel Number

The number assigned by a county to a parcel of property for identification purposes.

Plat Book

A book of maps, available in the county chancery clerk’s office, of land subdivided into lots, with street, alleys, etc.

Subdivision

The division into smaller parts.

A Subdivision Plat Map will overlay either the Metes and Bounds or the Rectangular Survey System map. A sub-divider will break the land into lots, blocks, and street addresses. Once completed, the new legal descriptions are recorded. It can overlay either the main types of measurement. This map breaks up a large parcel of land into smaller parcels. A sub-divider would break down the individual lots with the Lot and Block numbers system using an engineer or surveyor. The new smaller lots are recorded to give constructive notice to the world.

Subdivision Plat Map, Lot and Block

Subdivision Plat Map will overlay either the Metes and Bounds or the Rectangular Survey System.

  • A sub-divider will break the land into lots, blocks, and street addresses. Once completed, the new legal descriptions are recorded.
  • This map can overlay either the main types of measurement.
  • This map breaks up a large parcel of land into smaller parcels.
  • A sub-divider would break down the individual lots with the Lot and Block numbers system using an engineer or surveyor.
  • The new smaller lots are recorded to give constructive notice to the world.

The map must identify:

  • Individual lots
  • The block in which the lot is located
  • A reference to a platted subdivision or similar
  • A reference to find the cited plat map
  • A description of the map’s place of the official recording

Usage of Legal Descriptions

In a real estate deed, a legal description of the real property being conveyed is required to be present. The deed can also include a reference to the recorded map, survey, or deed containing the legal description in order to meet this requirement.

A Broker obtained a listing.  The listing is an empty lot in the downtown area of Pretty City.  On the right side of the building the address is 200 Baseline.  On the left side of the building the address is 160 Baseline.  Directly across the street the address is 181 Baseline.

What address should the listing broker include on the Multiple Listing Service?

Answer:  The legal description.

 

Filing

Property Records are filed in the county where the property is located.

 

Measuring Elevation

 

Datum

  • A datum is a fixed starting point of elevation.
  • A point of reference for measuring elevations.
  • The United States Geological Survey (USGS) uses the mean (average) sea level in New York Harbor.
  • A point, line, or surface from which a vertical height or depth is measured.

Benchmark

The term is generally applied to any item used to mark a point as an elevation reference.

A reference point or marker is placed by a surveyor and used to establish elevations and altitudes above sea level.

The term benchmark, originates from the chiseled horizontal marks that surveyors made in stone structures, into which an angle-iron could be placed to form a “bench” for a leveling rod, thus ensuring that a leveling rod could be accurately repositioned in the same place in the future. These marks were usually indicated with a chiseled arrow below the horizontal line.

 
 

Topographic Maps / Contour maps

A topographic map showing the lay of the land of an area (works well for describing hilly terrains).

ONE A copy.docx

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