The Value of Legal Descriptions

by Stan Choate, Appraisal Tech / Valuation Associate

Nothing is more important for appraising land than knowing what land to appraise. Inspecting the property, determining the acreage, valuing buildings on the subject—the appraiser can do none of these things without first knowing the boundaries of the subject. This underscores how necessary it is that the appraiser have a good legal description of the property, such as the following:

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Without a well-written legal description, the appraisal process will suffer delays. Anyone who has contracted our services knows that, from the time we are hired, we are eager to obtain a truly helpful legal description. We do this because the client will receive a more competent appraisal, more quickly, if we have a legal description from the beginning. Otherwise, the client may have difficulty communicating to the appraiser exactly what real estate should be appraised, preventing the appraiser from completing his report in a timely fashion. The same problem could arise if the legal description is poorly worded or inaccurate. But with a well-written legal description, the position and boundaries of the subject property can be plotted accurately. When plotted, the above legal description looks like this:

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With a plotted legal description, mapping the subject property with confidence is very quickly done. The map below is a result of this process. We can plainly see that the buildings are not part of the subject, while the pond and unmaintained county road are.

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In contrast, the lack of a decent legal description can cause hours or even days of wasted time on an appraisal. For example, our firm was contracted last year to appraise a property in Adams County for a divorce settlement. Our client provided us with enough deeds to construct a good legal description of her property. Her husband, on the other hand, had only a survey which partially described the subject. We spent several additional hours on the phone, both with our client and with her husband’s attorney, trying to explain why the survey was not a sufficient legal description. If our client and her husband had been using an accurate legal description from the beginning, the whole dispute could have been resolved more quickly and with less conflict.

The client’s own interests are best served by providing the appraiser with a legal description. Landowners, loan officers, and others who frequently enlist the services of appraisers would greatly benefit from gaining a working knowledge of legal descriptions. This would allow for a smoother, speedier appraisal process—which is the goal of both the appraiser and the client.


Spurgeon Appraisals regularly appraises a variety of property types. We have experience appraising farms, residences, and commercial properties. We pride ourselves on providing excellent customer service and quality appraisals. Contact our team to see how we can meet your appraisal needs and exceed your service expectations.

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