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Property Description - Surveyor Help


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Hello folks,

I have an old property description that I am trying to figure out.  This is not for legal purposes; just historical interest.   It is property that my long ago deceased grandfather sold in the 40's for $10 (!) (I found a copy of the warranty deed).  It involves a lot of 1/4 of this and 1/4 of that and west of this and south of that.   In the past I have a little bit of luck ciphering this kind of stuff out, but this one is too complicated for me.  I figure I just don't know how to interpret the description syntax correctly.

Anyway... to make a long story short, is there anyone who would volunteer to help me understand this paragraph of description?  I am curious how much property he sold for $10 and the deed does not list an amount of property.

I would rather not post the description paragraph on this public forum just because it is close to where I currently live.  However if you message me through geocaching I will send the description.

Thanks for any help, and I apologize for the off-topic.

The TillaMurphs





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Are you sure it was just $10? It is very common for deeds to avoid stating the actual price. They just list $1 or $10 and "other valuable considerations" (ovc) in order to have something to make it a legal contract.

I'm on my phone so don't want to dig in to the msg stuff here, but if you send me a msg I think I can help with the description.


For anyone interested, the Wikipedia article is a good start.


Here's an excellent tutorial on the Public Land Survey System.  This example is in Wisconsin, but the ideas apply to most of the states west of the Ohio River and a few in the South, except Texas and certain areas that had private land grants before the US took possession.


This link may be useful for locating a particular description



Edited by Bill93
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Okay, he sent me the description.  It was a list of 5 pieces each 1/4 of 1/4 section (nominally 40 acres each) and abutting each other.  The parsing of such descriptions can be daunting, but he had it figured out to be the same as I did.  I'm sure the price included a lot of dollars in addition to the $10 listed.

It works nicely in the earthpoint link above to plot the estimated section lines on Google Earth.  This data may or may not show measured positions versus a theoretical calculation from a few reference points.  Sometimes the calculations don't match actual, due to the difficulties the original surveyor dealt with, especially in mountainous and thickly forested areas.  Also, even if measured, we're not sure to what accuracy.  In most cases the monument on the ground rules over math.  In one area I'm familiar with the plot shows 40-60 ft mismatches with the roads that are accepted as being on the section lines.

In this case, it shows the sections somewhat distorted from the nominal square shape due to those measurement difficulties.  Some of the lines track pretty close to the edge of forested areas, showing that they do reflect recognized boundaries to some level of accuracy.

I should probably clarify that I'm not a surveyor, and haven't yet been asked to play one on TV, but I've been reading the PLSS section descriptions since I was in Jr. High because our local newspaper published the real estate transactions and Dad always wanted to figure out who was selling what farm to who.

Edited by Bill93
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Ah, yes.  We had a lot of fun (?) with the deed and property description on a lot of land my grandmother bought in upstate New York in the 1930's.  Depression era, and people were moving to the Midwest for better farming land.  They couldn't afford a survey.  Last one we found in the deed books was from 1873.  When my father died in 1968, we though that we had better check out the surveys, to see what my mother actually owned.  'This many feet in this direction'.  Fortunately, it was mainly along rock walls.  "The double oak tree" had died decades ago.  The neighbor down the street was selling his land after being in the family for a hundred years or more, and said "I think I own the lot where your house is".  We had a copy of the deed where his grandfather sold it to a previous owner in the 1890's.  There had not been another survey on his land since!  A lot of time spent in the deeds section of the county courthouse.  But it was interesting.  When my mother moved west in the 1970's, she sold the eighty acres for $40,000.  

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NY was not part of the PLSS and as far as I know has only metes and bounds descriptions.  People have bought and sold land there in any size and shape they chose, and too often without long-lasting monumentation (trees don't last forever) and imprecise distances.  You were lucky if you reached an acceptable and peaceful resolution.

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I want to thank Bill and Mike who both graciously helped me confirm the description of the property!!!!

Thank you gentlemen!

(I also learned a new word: Aliquots)

Above, Bill said:  " It is very common for deeds to avoid stating the actual price. They just list $1 or $10 and "other valuable considerations" (ovc) in order to have something to make it a legal contract."

I talked to a local person here who deals with land transactions and he agreed and said that still happens even in the present day.  I had never heard of this practice.  However, that explains a reason why 200 acres could have been transferred for the tiny price of "$10 and OVC".

I hope everyone had a good weekend.











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Real Estate Transfer Taxes. Real estate transfer taxes are taxes imposed by states, counties and municipalities on the transfer of the title of real property within the jurisdiction.

Sale would include some other legal form of compensation, stock in corp. for instance.  Seen that several times (*researching ownership for hwy projects) when big box stores buy land, Walmart for instance.  Someone can avoid paying thousands if not millions of $ in transfer taxes.  Also the seller can defray paying capital gains tax as well as keep the sale price from public knowledge in the official records.    

*One sale I recall where Walmart purchased a large track of land for only $1 and other just compensation.  

Note - To avoid paying taxes is legal, to evade is not.

Edited by Z15
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In the transfers I've seen, the transfer tax isn't large but is paid on the actual amount regardless of the number in the deed.  Likewise the actual is the seller's gross number and buyer's cost basis for capital gains tax.

I don't know about the transfer tac in other jurisdictions.

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