You know where the Texas property is on a map. It was deeded to the current owner years ago as one large tract. Now you wish to enter into a purchase agreement to purchase a portion of the land, but you aren’t sure how to describe the property. This is only one instance in which you may require a specific legal description. Others may include reviewing a neighbor’s legal description to ensure the boundaries of your two properties correctly align, reviewing a landowner’s legal description before presenting an offer to purchase the property, or curiosity about a tract listed with a realtor for sale.
Real Property Records
Find your county government website for land records by typing the name of your county and state, plus “land records” or “clerk’s office” into your search engine. Make sure you are at the official county government site, as many online services will charge a fee to search for you.
Locate the search feature once you have arrived at the site. It generally will be a choice from a drop-down menu, a button or a search field. If you know the name of the landowner, type his name in the format required by the site. Returned results should include an index of all deeds in the name of the individual you are searching with the option of viewing an image of each deed.
View the deed or deeds returned. If your search reveals only one deed, chances are it contains your legal description, provided the online records cover the time period during which the owner acquired the property. If numerous deeds are returned, you will need to be familiar enough with your legal description to determine if the images viewed pertain to your property or whether they may be sales out of your master parcel.
Locate and search the real property appraisal or tax assessor’s site if you do not know the name of the land owner, but instead have a street address or tax identifying number for the property. Search results should return a brief legal description as well as a myriad of other information regarding the property, including assessed owner’s name and possibly recording information for the deed containing the legal description of the property.
Navigate to the real property records search site by typing the name of the county, state and “land records” or “clerk’s office.” Type the name of the land owner or the book and page number that you acquired from the appraisal site into the appropriate search field.
View the image of your document and visually scan it for the complete legal description of the property. Keep in mind, however, that once you have found the recorded deed based on information from the tax site, there may have been sales of portions of the property since the date of the original deed. A more detailed search or review of documents may be required to determine this.
Exercise caution, however, to make sure that the site covers the time period when the property was acquired. If not, you may have to actually visit the office of land records at the courthouse for your search.
If you are unfamiliar with legal descriptions and land records, you should consult a title researcher, surveyor or attorney to assist.
Some counties require a subscription fee to access and use their sites.
If you have difficulty using the website, look for instructions or an FAQ page.
Many counties have online mapping programs with interactive tools to assist you in locating a parcel of land and determining its measurements. (Resources 1, 2 and 3)
Marie Murdock has been employed in the legal and title insurance industries for over 25 years. Murdock was first published in print in 1979 and has been writing online articles since mid-2010. Her articles have appeared on LegalZoom and various other websites.