Property Descriptions

Metes and Bounds

There are several legal ways of giving a property description.  An address is what our property is commonly called and is established by the post office, however, it is not a legal description. Number one is called a metes and bounds description, which gives a physical description of the property. These are typically older or used in rural areas. This is where the description would say, “Go to the well, then 300 feet west of the stake, then 200 feet to the tree”. It uses physical objects to describe the land. 

One key thing to remember with the metes and bounds description is that the description must begin and end at what is called the point of beginning. The very last line of every metes and bounds description will say angle back to the point of beginning. The description must be enclosed. 

Rectangular or Government Survey System

A second way of giving a legal description is called the rectangular or government survey system. This is what was set up years ago by Thomas Jefferson in our country, and it mostly covers the entire country. Thomas Jefferson developed a system drawing straight lines, vertical and horizontal, called principal meridians running north and south and principal baselines running east and west. 

The rectangular survey system was developed in an effort to try and describe all of the land in our country. A section of ground is one mile on all sides, which means it is a one-mile square. 

To find the area of something we take the length times the width. So, if we also take one-mile times one mile, that means a section of ground contains one square mile. So, one-mile square and one square mile is the exact same thing. Remember that every section of the ground in the rectangular survey system contains 640 acres, and every acre of ground contains 43,560 square feet. 

Lot and Block

A third way of giving a legal description is called the lot and block description, which is used in cities with new subdivisions. The lot and block description is recorded on a plat map. A plat map shows all of the lot numbers and block numbers in a particular subdivision, and this records the legal descriptions on the public record. 

A lot and block description will simply list the lot number, the block number, the subdivision, the county, and the state. So, a description might say “Lot two, block four, Oak Hills Estate, Johnson County, Kansas” and that's all. That would be the legal description. Front footage of a property is the linear feet along the street line, or in essence, the width of the property. 

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