What is Metes and Bounds?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 02 September 2019
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"Metes and bounds" is a term that is often utilized by property surveyors to describe the boundaries of a specific parcel of land, taking into account any angles and terminal points that are included within those land boundaries. Traditionally, this method calls for utilizing compass directions to identify the boundaries and also to define the distance between those boundaries. In many nations around the world, metes and bounds is also considered the legal definition or description for a parcel of land and the data is used to create maps of the area as well as in the preparation of deeds.

Since metes and bounds is involved in the description of real property in the form of real estate, this particular formula has been adopted in a number of countries, especially those that have some past or present connection to the United Kingdom. This process of land description is based on English common law and has in turn influenced the development of law practices in countries that were once colonies or properties of the Crown. Even today, a number of countries continue to use metes and bounds in their land survey efforts, with some even requiring the use of the term and the descriptions in the preparation of land deeds.


It is important to note that metes and bounds do more than simply define the land boundaries. The overall description may also include information regarding the nature of the terrain, identifying any attributes that tend to distinguish the property from others in the area. This may include references to bodies of water such as ponds or rivers that flow through the real estate. At times, the overall description may also mention adjoining properties as a means of further defining the property in surveys or various types of legal documents.

Metes and bounds provide data that goes beyond simply the assignment of a lot or parcel number to the property. The sometimes prolific prose that is included in the property descriptions are often helpful when it comes to tracking the transfer of the land from one owner to another over several generations, since the inclusion of geographical landmarks can often help settle boundary disputes and other issues that may arise after the property has changed hands several times. In addition, the descriptions included in metes and bounds is sometimes helpful to amateur and professional genealogists who are attempting to prepare family histories that include details on properties once held in the family line and reconstructing the series of events that led to the sale of those properties.


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