Quinte, On. real estate agent: Metes and Bounds

Metes and Bounds

When I took the course to get my real estate license, there was one particular section that I struggled with a little. I have no idea why, because the concept seemed easy enough. Perhaps after years of not having studied too hard my brain was being a little lazy. I understood the principles of metes and bounds, but whenever I tried to put it into practice and work on an actual problem, as often as not I'd end up somewhere where I shouldn't be, certainly not back at the beginning.

To me, the whole system seemed somewaht archaic and I didn't think I'd ever have to use this knowledge. At the time I still had the vague impression that being a real estate agent entailed;

1)Meeting people at their house

2)Advising them to paint their walls neutral colours and tidy the place up a bit

3)Finding out what the house next door sold for last year

4)Add $5,000 to that price ($10,000 if it's been a good year)

5)Sign some papers and hammer a sign into their lawn

6)Field some phone calls, show the house, and eventually sell it.

Nowhere in the above procedures did I think I would have to figure out anything having to do with "metes and bounds", so I bargained with myself a little. If I studied everything else really hard and did well on the exam, I could afford to bugger up the metes and bounds questions.

Fast forward to yesterday.

I had to do a little leg work for a client (well - hopefully a client). He purchased a parcel of land back in 1979 which the county had sold because it had been in tax arrears.  He had some anecdotal knowledge that this parcel had once been three seperate acreages which had been merged into one, and he would like to sever the land back into the three parcels and sell two of them.  The problem is that he couldn't find a record of this, and he was beginning to think that maybe he had some false information. Initially I believed him to be wrong also, because the original land grant from the King in 1808 showed the parcel to be intact also. Obtaining a severance on this land might be difficult because it falls under the jurisdiction of a local conservation authority, so a historical precedent might help things along.

I went to the land registry office in Cobourg and did a search, going back instrument by instrument, each time the land had been bought and sold. I felt like I was a detective in a movie, and perhaps there should be some theme music in the background as the camera closed in on my sweaty face as I scanned the microfiche in the boiling hot basement of the Sir Sanford Fleming Building looking for that vital clue.

Sure enough, my client was correct. For a brief period in history the land actually had been severed into three seperate parcels before being merged into one again. There were no surveys that actually showed this, only tax arrears certificates (apparently lots of people had trouble paying the taxes on this land in the past), which descibe the lots using metes and bounds.

metes and bounds

I'm really hoping now that he wants someone else to figure out what these metes and bounds actually mean. So far every time I try to do it, I'm ending up in the middle of the Trent River.


Comment balloon 22 commentsMalcolm Johnston • May 29 2010 03:29PM


LOL - my Aunt has two 40 acre parcels that I will be selling at some point and the legal description is, you guessed it, Metes and Bounds.  I have found 2 of the corner pins and have 4 more to go.  I keep ending up in the creek that runs past her house.

Posted by Cynthia Larsen, Independent Broker In Sonoma County, CA almost 9 years ago

Awesome detective work!  We are actually happy when we get a metes and bounds description.  So many of the ones are here are INCREDIBLY vague.  Example:  Starting at a point 1 rod SW of John's Rock, then going due South to the old well head on Mary Tourette's former land for a distance of 1099 feet..."  Well, you get the picture.  Time to whip out the old 6th grade protractor and graph paper.

Posted by Kristen Wheatley, Supporting Success - Best Job in the World! (Better Homes & Gardens | The Masiello Group) almost 9 years ago

Cynthia Larsen - Sonoma County Real Estate, CA (Safe Haven Realty) Cynthia, good luck figuring out he boundaries of your aunt's place.  Maybe the creek has changed course over the years?

Kristen Wheatley (Keller Williams Realty Mid Maine) Lol, the old protractor, I do actually have one. They are way moe deficult whe vague descriptions like the ones in your example are used Kristen.

Posted by Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario) almost 9 years ago


I was so glad my exam didn't have any questions on Metes and Bounds because I struggled as well with it. 




Posted by Cathy Polan, Royal Lepage Proalliance Realty Sales Rep. (Royal LePage ProAlliance Realty,Brokerage) almost 9 years ago

Did the glazed look in my eyes give me away? This was the class that I had a migraine in!

Posted by Ellie McIntire, Luxury service in Howard County & Catonsville (Ellicott City Clarksville Howard County Maryland Real Estate) almost 9 years ago

Well Malcolm at least this metes and bounds distance is in feet and not in chains, rodsroods or perches.

Posted by Larry Estabrooks, 100% representation means NEVER DUAL AGENCY ! (Independent Real Estate Agent) almost 9 years ago

Good luck with this one!  I thought you were going to somehow tie this in with something like:

I go and metes my new clients so that the contract can be bound.....


Posted by Michael J. O'Connor, Eastvale - 951-847-4883 (Diamond Ridge Realty) almost 9 years ago


Everyone gets mixed up with metes and bounds, but it's actually quite simple.

You have to remember that there are two starting points. One for the begining of the journey, and one for the begining of the lot.

If you mix them up, you'll find yourself out in the lake (or the Trent river, in your case).


Posted by Brian Madigan, LL.B., Broker (RE/MAX West Realty Inc., Brokerage (Toronto)) almost 9 years ago

Hi Malcolm,

I struggled with this too, as did pretty much most of the class, but luckily we had a good instructor who told us not to strain our brains too much about it.

It was something we had to be aware of, but would never use ourselves. If we came across it, we were to consult with a professional, rather than to risk a hearing with RECO ;)

Posted by Not In Real Estate Any Longer almost 9 years ago

Catherine Polan (Re/Max (Belleville and Trenton) Quinte Ltd. Brokerage) I bet that was a relief when you left the room after writing the exam.

Ellie McIntire Real Estate in Howard County Maryland (The McIntire Team of Long & Foster) I know what you mean Ellie, I kept thinking "I got it now", but whenever I had to solve a problem it was pretty clear that I didn't have it.

Larry Estabrooks - Moncton Real Estate Agent (A Licensed Independent Agent in Moncton, NB, Canada)Lol, Larry, thank the Lord for small mercies.

Michael J. O'Connor, MBA, CDPE (Diamond Ridge Realty)Darn, I wish I had thought of that Michael.

Brian Madigan LL.B. (Royal LePage Innovators Realty, Broker) Brian, you're right. When I buckle down and concentrate I can get the right answer sometimes (as long as the parcel of land is a perfect square).

Pam McInnes (Peak Realty Ltd., Waterloo, Ontario, CANADA)No way am I going to guarantee anything Pam. This is a job for a surveyor, not for me.

Posted by Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario) almost 9 years ago


About half the stuff we had on the exam we never use again. I stuggled with the Latin legal terms as well.

Posted by Terry Chenier (Homelife Glenayre Realty) almost 9 years ago

Malcolm, put on your tri corner hat and get out there! LOL! Glad I'm not an REA.

Posted by Janice Ankrett, Staging Professional (Janice Ankrett Home Staging) almost 9 years ago

Terry Chenier (Homelife Glenayre Realty) You're right Terry, even at the time I was thinking, "what the heck will I ever use this stuff for"?

Janice Ankrett ASP (Janice Ankrett Home Staging) Janice, would a baseball cap do?

Posted by Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario) almost 9 years ago

Malcolm Johnston (Remax Trent Valley, Trenton, Ontario)  You're a really good writer and usually have really interesting thoughts.  This post, which was a whole lot simpler than your section on meets and bounds, was tough to finish.  I can't imagine having to study that whole section.  (It's obviously not you...it's the subject!)

I can see why you would have "traded in" that section for doing a little better on another one.

Imagine how much fun you'd have trying to do this while being drunk or high on drugs.  Video cameras, anyone?

Posted by Chris Wechner (CW Health Inc) almost 9 years ago
Malcolm, Here's the thing. Years ago lawyers created this special language that no one else can understand. Today, lawyers $350 and hour to translate it. Ask Brian.
Posted by Terry Chenier (Homelife Glenayre Realty) almost 9 years ago

Malcolm: I usually plead the 5th amendment with metes and bounds.


Posted by Ty Lacroix (Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc) almost 9 years ago

Chris Wechner (Section 8 Pros) Haha Chris, I'm having a tough time already when I'm sober.

Terry Chenier (Homelife Glenayre Realty) Terry, lawyers go through a lot of schooling to be able to speak legalese fluently.

Envelope Real Estate Brokerage Inc Ty, that's probably a wise approach.

Posted by Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario) almost 9 years ago


Hire a good surveyor or go to the county seat and get their IT department to show you where it is on the map.

By the way, I like the legal descriptions with the large cherry tree as a corner marker....

Ann Hayden in Wildwood, MO

Posted by Ann Hayden, SelectAnn.com (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri) almost 9 years ago

Great Post Malcolm, It resulted in a laugh from several people in my office.  Servicing, Caledon, King and South Simcoe, we often see metes and bounds descriptions in old deeds, luckily no one has ever asked me to do more than deliver them to the lawyer ;-)

Posted by Chris Smith, South Simcoe, Caledon, King, Orangeville Real Esta (Re/Max Chay Realty Inc., Brokerage) almost 9 years ago

Ann Hayden Wildwood St. Louis MO Agent SelectAnn.com for your real estate (Prudential Select Properties) Hi Ann, I'm very glad that there were no movable markers on the schedules. I did manage to figure them out in the end. The river had flooded over in the 1980's and that changed the waterfront quite a bit.

Chris Smith Prudential Ronan Realty Chris, I suppose when you're dealing with rather large acreages, you'll come across them quite a bit.


Posted by Malcolm Johnston, Trenton Real Estate (Century 21 Lanthorn Real Estate LTD., Trenton, Ontario) almost 9 years ago


I would expect that would change the property boundaries as well...

Ann Hayden in Wildwood, MO

Posted by Ann Hayden, SelectAnn.com (Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Select Properties-St. Louis Missouri) almost 9 years ago

Hello all,

I stumbled across this post well after the original one but want to add my comment and hopefully it will help someone.  I do mapping for fulltime job with some expensive software, but there is a free one that will help you immensely and make it easier for you.  

Go to www.tractplotter.com for an online plotter, or download a trial of some software. I like Metes and Bounds from Sandy Knoll. A basic version is under $30, or buy a copy of Greenbrier Graphics Deed Plotter for the office at around $200.

Enter your 'calls' off the deed, one at a time.   n50e 70p  is north 50 (degrees) east at 70 poles.  A pole is the same as rod or perch, depending on your deed's vernacular.   If the call is in feet,  put an f after the 70 instead of the p.   It would then be n50e 70f.    Some software is a little picky on the compass calls.  If your call is "north 50 and a half east",  then enter n50.30e 70p.   For compass directions a half isn't  .5, it is 30 seconds.   Read your software documentation, or do it one way and if it looks wierd, do it the other way.

A typical input for the software looks like this:

n68.5e 107.5p

s52.5w 132p

n75w 15p

etc.   Of course there won't be the empty line between them, since this posting makes a carriage return move the line down.   One call per line.

Then, it should create a 'polygon' or shape of the property.  It may or may not 'close' the polygon.  In that case, you could use a ? as the last line and it will automagically calculate it for you (Deed Plotter does, at least.  Read your docs).  

Sometimes you can't just enter numbers and get what you want.  Read the deed!  If it says it 'to the creek and follows the meanders to ...." this that line won't be straight and the point may not be in the place you think it is.  Match up the  deed verbiage with the map or the actual parcel.

Also check out Google Earth.  Great features for no money and if you want to get started with GIS and don't want to pay for Arcview yet, try Quantum GIS.   It's also for no money.  (I"m trying to avoid using the 'fr' word here.

For questions, please write.

Posted by Ken Wilkins over 8 years ago