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Understanding Legal Identifications on the GeoData Plus Property Report

Posted on 09/23/2019 by GeoData Plus

The legal identification is a necessary part of any real estate transaction as it describes the land being conveyed and can identify any easements or encroachments that may not have been disclosed by the seller. It contains a detailed description of the boundaries of a piece of land as well as information about its location. These descriptions can be local by nature, so any land within a certain geographic area will typically follow the same sort of wording and references.

GeoData Plus has the legal ID available by aggregating public record data from a multitude of sources for properties in any state across the nation.

What are Legal Descriptions?

Legal descriptions must include the county and state where the property is located. Beyond that, it must contain enough information that a licensed surveyor could go back later and clearly identify the property lines. There are three methods of establishing boundaries that can be used in a legal description: rectangular survey method, metes and bounds, and the block and lot system.

  • The rectangular survey method (sometimes called the Government Survey Method) is typically used for large parcels of land and not often seen on deeds for homes. This method is used to legally describe regularly shaped tracts of real estate. This was used during the westward expansion of the United States when the government was transferring large pieces of land to private ownership. In those situations, the metes and bounds method was too cumbersome.
  • Metes and bounds is the earliest form of legal description used in the United States. It can also be called a boundary description because it makes use of the boundaries and measurements of the land. The description of the boundaries has a definite point of beginning and ends at that same point. Linear measurements and compass directions are “called” around the perimeter of the property. Each call consists of a distance (metes) and a direction (bounds). Metes and bounds descriptions can be complex, so if that is the legal description, one may need to consult with a professional surveyor.
  • Lot and block descriptions can also be called Reference to Recorded Plat. This is the most common method of describing property in urban areas. It’s typically used for residential parcels built in a subdivision and includes the lot and block number, name or number of the plat, and the name of the county and state where the lot is located.

Thus, the legal description found in GeoData Plus will be reflective of how each parcel has been measured and documented in that particular geographic region.

Below, are some other terms you might find under the Legal Identification section of a GeoData Plus property report.


The Federal Identification Processing Standards Code (FIPS Code) is a five-character code based on each state having a two-character identifier and every county within the state having a three-character identifier.

Census Number

The federal census number is a 15-character code for every block and tract in the US, including Puerto Rico. It is made up of the FIPS Code, Census Tract and Census Block.

      • First 5 characters: FIPS Code
      • Next 6 characters: Census Tract
      • Last 4 characters: Census Block


An assessor’s parcel number (APN) can also be referred to as an assessor’s identification number, property identification number, property account number, parcel number or tax account number. Suffolk County often refers to it as the Tax Map Number, Nassau County as the ParID, and New York City as the BBLE.

The APN is a unique identifier for property like a social security number is a unique identifier for a US citizen. This number is assigned to parcels of real property by the tax assessor of a particular jurisdiction. It is used by the assessor’s office to identify real property and collect taxes.

The format of APN strings can vary, but it is typically a concatenation of fields such as the section, block, and lot. The formatting is specific to the standards of the jurisdiction where the property is located. As seen in the example below, the “number” may include letters as well.

In conclusion, legal identifications can vary greatly depending on the geographic location and the conventions of local governments. GeoData Plus aggregates this public data so that our customers have the most information available to them for conducting their real estate business.

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