Ever since human beings began laying claim to land, they have been coming up with different words to refer to the parcels. Sometimes explorers claimed entire islands or continents for one kingdom or another. But today, a person purchasing or inheriting undeveloped real estate is more likely to talk in smaller terms. While few terms used to refer to land have official legal definitions, most carry certain connotations.
What Is a Lot?
If an individual says that she owns a lot of land, she may mean that she owns a large quantity of land, "a lot" as opposed to "a little." But she could also be referring to a small parcel of land in a city or town. Often a "lot" is sized for a single house.
The term "lot" usually doesn't imply a certain measurement of land. Rather, it typically refers to a specific piece of land of any size that can be sold in an individual contract. To be considered a single lot, the land described has to be contiguous. Two separate pieces of land that aren't connected are two lots, not one.
Often developers divide a large tract of land into lots as a subdivision. Streets are marked out and the areas between them are divided up into lots and offered for sale. Lots don't have to be rectangular in shape. They can be L-shaped or square or some other shape. The critical point is that the boundaries must be well-defined.
What Is a Lot Line?
The legal boundary around a piece of land is known as a lot line or property line. It describes the size and shape of the piece of land. The term is used in real estate transactions to help buyers understand the property they are buying.
The location of a lot line is set by land surveyors using surveying equipment as well as existing land records to determine lot lines. In some states, a surveyor uses a metal take to mark the corners of a lot.
It's important for a property owner to locate the lot lines if she is putting up fences or extending the house. If the improvements extend over the lot line, they will be on the neighbor's property. Lot lines are also important in zoning, since municipalities can require buildings to be set back from the lot line by a specific distance.
What Is a Tract of Land?
The term "tract" when used in reference to land has no specific legal meaning. Tract of land can be used exactly like piece of land or parcel of land. The word does not indicate size but it does imply that the land is contiguous, the size is known or knowable and the boundaries established.
Read More: How to Read Land Survey Plats
What Is an Acre of Land?
An acre is a measurement of land. One acre of land is equal to 4,840 square yards. There are 640 acres in a square mile of land.
In Europe and other countries using the metric system, land is measured not in acres but in hectares. One hectare contains 10,000 square meters. There are 100 hectares in one square kilometer. One acre is approximately equal to 0.405 hectare. One hectare is approximately equal to 2.47 acres.
What Is a Plat of Land?
A plat (also called a plot) is a map of a piece of land that has been subdivided into lots, with streets. It is often called a plat map.
Plat maps are usually drawn to scale by licensed surveyors. They are a blueprint of a neighborhood, containing detailed property information including the dimensions of the subdivision, the lots to be sold and each part of the tract intended for public use.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.