Due diligence – understanding the T/R/S measuring system

Due diligence – understanding the T/R/S measuring system

I want to make sure that you get the exact piece of land that you were looking for when investing, so this week I have been talking about how to carry out your due diligence before purchasing a piece of real estate. Today, I'd like to tackle a type of measuring system used in Arizona and many other states – the Township/Range/Section system.

Many states are part of the use the township/range/section system. In these states, the counties (or better said, the physical ground inside each county) has been broken down into 1 square mile-sized pieces called “Sections”. And 36 of these sections (36 square miles) make up “townships” going north and south and “ranges” going East and West.

The rectangular survey system is based on two sets of intersecting lines: principal meridians and base lines. Principal meridians are north and south lines, and base lines run east and west. Both can be located exactly by reference to degrees of longitude and latitude. Each principal meridian has a name or a number and is crossed by its own base line. Each principal meridian and base line is used to survey a specific area of land.

Ranges. The land on either side of a principal meridian is divided into 6-mile wide strips by lines that run north and south, parallel to the meridian. The north-south strips of land are called ranges. They are designated by consecutive numbers east or west of the principal meridian.

Townships. Lines running east and west of the base line six miles apart are referred to as township lines and form strips of land (or tiers) called townships. These tiers of townships are designated by consecutive numbers north or south of the base line. The township squares formed by the intersecting township and range lines are the basic units of the rectangular survey system. Theoretically, townships are six miles square and contain 36 square miles.

Sections. Each township contains 36 sections. Sections are numbered consecutively, 1 through 36, as illustrated in Figure A, with section 1 being in the upper right-hand corner of the township. Each section contains 1 square mile, or 640 acres of land, and is commonly divided into half sections (containing 320 acres), quarter section (160 acres), and further divisions of halves and quarters for reference purposes.

For example, let’s say you come across a parcel with the following legal description:

“The E1/2 of the NW1/4 of Section 17, Township 14 North, Range 4 West of the 6th Principal Meridian.”

In the above example, the land described would have an area of 80 acres (the NW 1/4 equals 160 acres; ½ of this 1/4 equals 80 acres). Generally, the smaller a parcel of land is, the longer its legal description will be.

So use what you have learned here to make sure that you understand the size and boundaries of a piece of land before purchasing it.


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