Reading Mete's and Bound descriptions

First blog post...


WHAT IS A METES AND BOUNDS DESCRIPTION?  It is a description of a tract of land by starting at a given point, running so many feet a certain direction, so many feet another direction etc., back to the point of beginning.

To locate a tract of land from a metes and bounds description, start from the point of beginning, and follow it out (do not read it backwards as in the case of a rectangular description).


A circle contains 360 degrees.  Explanation:  If you start at the center of a circle and run 360 straight lines an equal angle apart to the edge of the circle, so as to divide the circle in 360 equal parts, THE DIFFERENCE OF DIRECTION BETWEEN EACH LINE IS ONE DEGREE. 

In land descriptions, degree readings are not a measure of distance.  They are combined with either North or South, to show the direction a line runs from a given point.

We all know what north-west is.  It is a direction which is half-way between North and West.  In terms of degrees the direction north-west would read, north 45 degrees west.


Description Example: 

“Begin at the beginning point, thence N 20 degrees west — 200 feet, thence N 75 degrees east — 1190 feet, thence S 30 degrees east — 240 feet, thence S 45 degrees west — 420 feet, thence west — 900 feet back to the point of beginning, containing xx acres.”


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Comment by Robin Fehrenbach Scala on May 7, 2011 at 12:29pm

Good discussion topic, as this confuses anyone who has not had experience with surveys and reading land descriptions.

With ten years of licensed land title experience under my belt from the real estate boom of the '80s in NJ, I have become very familiar and comfortable with metes and bounds descriptions. BUT it wasn't always that way.


There is a simple way to get familiar with land descriptions. Start with a recent survey copy of ANY land and the metes and bounds description that goes with it.

Put the survey so that North is on top (which is the normal way they are made) and have the description next to you.  Then, start reading the metes and bounds while walking the trail in your mind on the survey.

They all begin the same, stating the township and county and state of the land parcel, then have a beginning point (normally along the road but on old ones it could start anywhere). So, beginning at a point on the southeast line of Lake Winola Road, (here may reference a deed for an adjoiner property or a point distant from some corner of another road), and running thence ....... and so on.


One way of REALLY understanding your metes and bounds description is to draw it out.  Take  a piece of paper, use a standard of 1 in equals 10 feet (or 100, depending how big the place is) and then put North at the top.  You will need a ruler and protractor but that's about it.

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