GET STARTED | Get Your Fair Cash Offer Today

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Definition of Legal Descriptions in Real Estate

Understanding the intricacies of Legal Descriptions in Real Estate is pivotal for anyone buying, selling, or transferring property. These descriptions go beyond mere addresses, providing an exact, legally recognized delineation of a property’s boundaries. In this blog, we will delve into the Legal Descriptions in Real Estate, outlining why they are essential, how they are created, and their role in ensuring the clarity and security of real estate transactions. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or a first-time homebuyer, grasping the concept of legal descriptions can significantly impact your real estate undertakings.

For investors like Steve Daria and Joleigh, a deep understanding of legal descriptions in real estate is not just beneficial; it’s essential. These legal narrations of a property’s precise boundaries and dimensions are critical in their decision-making processes, ensuring that each investment stands on solid ground. Their meticulous approach to analyzing legal descriptions is a hallmark of their success in the real estate market.

Understanding the Core of Legal Descriptions in Real Estate

Legal descriptions, often called “the legal,” are critical to all land sales and transfers. At their essence, legal descriptions in real estate are a way to identify a specific parcel of land. This is not about pointing out a property by the name of the current owner or the street address but instead defining its boundaries, which are set in stone — literally — once included in a legal document.

A solid legal description serves two purposes: it allows the seller to commit unequivocally to what they sell. It provides the buyer with a clear understanding of the extent of the property. In essence, legal descriptions are the DNA of real estate; without them, there’s no definitive proof of a property’s existence.

The Importance of Accurate Legal Descriptions

In the world of real estate, clarity is king. Ambiguity in documents can lead to drawn-out legal battles and potentially expensive disputes. For this reason, legal descriptions in real estate must be precise and error-free. Any degree of inaccuracy could lead to a situation where the property’s exact boundary is not defined, and in some cases, a buyer may not get what they paid for.

Property law is stringent, and courts have historically imposed a strict standard for legal descriptions. This is why using general terms such as “the field behind the barn” is unacceptable in the eyes of the law — they lack the necessary precision to define your property’s exact location and boundaries.

Get An Offer Today, Sell In A Matter Of Days...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Types of Legal Descriptions in Real Estate

Legal descriptions come in a few flavors, each suitable for various kinds of property.

Metes and Bounds

One of the oldest and most detailed methods, metes and bounds, is a narrative description that uses physical features, such as streams or trees, to define a parcel’s boundaries.

This method predates latitude and longitude and often relies on compass directions and precise measurements.

Rectangular (Government) Survey System

The rectangular survey system, often called the government system, divides land into townships and ranges based on meridians.

This method is frequently used in the Western United States, where these mile-square sections delineate land.

Plat Method

The plat method is the most common in urban areas and creates legal descriptions for lots in a subdivision.

It refers to a map or survey that defines property boundaries, easements, and right-of-ways with written approval by a licensed surveyor.

Crafting an Effective Legal Description

Creating a legal description is not a DIY task. Professional surveyors and real estate attorneys are typically the ones charged with drafting these crucial documents.

Each legal description must be unique to the conveyed property and adhere to specific formatting requirements.

legal descriptions in real estate

Key elements include a clear starting point for the description, directional methods (the cardinal directions), and precise measurements, usually in feet. There’s no room for the approximation of ‘about’ or ‘approximately,’ as these could create substantial legal issues down the line.

The Interplay of Legal Descriptions in Real Estate and Surveys

A survey is the physical mapping and measuring of a property’s borders and particular specifications of its structure.

A legal description can sometimes be created without a new survey if one already exists and is legally binding. However, in most cases, a survey is necessary to confirm the boundaries set out in the legal description.

Importance of a Survey

A survey is critical to establishing property lines, identifying encroachments, and sometimes even uncovering title issues.

While a legal description is a valuable piece of the property’s documentation puzzle, a survey is a missing piece that provides a complete picture of the property.

Verifying Legal Descriptions

The onus is on the buyer to verify the details of a property’s legal description. This can be accomplished through a few avenues, including reviewing the deed, having a survey done, or cross-referencing the legal description with the local tax assessor’s office.

Checking the Deed

The deed is the legal description and proof of ownership. It’s crucial to check the deed for discrepancies between the seller’s claims about the property and the sale contract.

If there are discrepancies, it’s essential to resolve them before closing on the property.

legal descriptions real estate

Tax Assessor Verification

Local tax assessors have official documents on file for every piece of real estate, which should align with the legal description in the deed.

Furthermore, any discrepancies here could lead to tax issues and impact how the property can be used.

Common Pitfalls with Legal Descriptions

One of the most common pitfalls in legal descriptions is relying on outdated or incomplete information.

Subsequent owners might make improvements or changes to the land over time that need to be reflected in the legal description, leading to confusion about what is being sold or bought.

Undefined or Ambiguous Boundaries

Fuzzy language or references to non-specific boundary points can be a recipe for disputes. While ‘the old oak tree’ might have been a reliable boundary point for generations, what if it is removed or falls? Each boundary point must be concrete and, where possible, unchanging.

Omission of Key Features

If a property’s main features, such as a barn, are included in the legal description, it can lead to a lack of precision about its actual size and shape.

This again underscores the importance of including all relevant and unchanging components in the description.

Updating Legal Descriptions

A legal description may need updating over time, particularly regarding significant land changes or new surveys.

Each state and sometimes each local authority has its own rules for what triggers the need for an updated description.

Subdividing and Merging Parcels

When parcels of land are subdivided or combined, the legal descriptions must follow suit. These changes are not just in paperwork — they must be physically surveyed and re-confirmed on the ground.

Changing Zoning Laws

Alterations to zoning can impact a property’s value and potential uses, so it must be reflected in the legal description.

For instance, if an area changes from residential to commercial, the legal description must be updated accordingly.

Real-World Application of Legal Descriptions

As we’ve established, legal descriptions are not mere technicalities but form the very essence of property transactions.

Here are a few real-world scenarios that illustrate the importance of clear and accurate legal descriptions:

Selling Rural Property

Imagine selling a large expanse of rural land. The legal description must be detailed and precise to ensure the buyer understands the full scope of what they are purchasing.

In this case, a metes and bounds description might be the best way to capture fence lines, natural features, and other indicators that outline the property.

Conveying a Slice of the Sky

Air rights are a fascinating aspect of modern property law. If you’re involved in selling a condominium or dividing airspace for a skyscraper, the legal description must define the vertical boundaries that form part of the property fabric.

Defining an Easement

An easement allows someone aside from the owner to make limited use of a property. The legal description of an easement must be clear about the area it covers and the exact nature of the rights allowed to the easement holder.

Crafting Comprehensible Legal Descriptions

One paradox of legal descriptions is that while they must be exact and specific, they must also be written in a language the layperson can understand.

Clarity is critical—a document riddled with jargon indecipherable to anyone outside the legal or survey field is useless to anyone involved in the transaction.

In Conclusion

Legal descriptions in real estate stand at the confluence of language, law, and land. They are the unsung real estate heroes, providing the unimpeachable foundation on which all property transactions are based. Whether you’re a seasoned investor or a first-time buyer, understanding this critical property component is not just advisable — it’s essential.

Remember, the stakes are high when it comes to real estate. One word out of place or a forgotten boundary point can trigger a chain reaction of legal battles. Treat the legal description with the care and respect it deserves, for within its lines lie the boundaries of your property and, quite possibly, your peace of mind.

“Legal description” may seem daunting to the uninitiated, but it’s a series of words meant to protect you and your interests. It’s not just a formality — it’s the root and identity of your land in the eyes of the law. Knowing about every component of your legal description is essential in your real estate kit, empowering you to make knowledgeable steps and avoid potential pitfalls.

**NOTICE:  Please note that the content presented in this post is intended solely for informational and educational purposes. It should not be construed as legal or financial advice or relied upon as a replacement for consultation with a qualified attorney or CPA. For specific guidance on legal or financial matters, readers are encouraged to seek professional assistance from an attorney, CPA, or other appropriate professional regarding the subject matter.

Get More Info On Options To Sell Your Home...

Selling a property in today's market can be confusing. Connect with us or submit your info below and we'll help guide you through your options.

Get An Offer Today, Sell In A Matter Of Days...

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *