If you're thinking of investing in undeveloped land, odds are that you are going to run into the phrase "tract of land" before long. However, like many real estate terms, this phrase can be a bit difficult to understand at first glance. With that in mind, we've defined the term for you below. Keep reading to learn what a tract of land is, how it's used in real estate contexts, and how it differs from other, similar terms that you may come across during a land deal.
What is a tract of land?
At its core, the phrase "tract of land" is a colloquial real estate term that is used to describe an identifiable portion of land. Although the phrase "large tract" is often used to describe a large land lot, this term does not indicate a particular size or acreage. Instead, it solely implies that the land is contiguous and defined by specific boundaries.
Typically, tracts of land are bordered by geographical boundaries, which make them easier to identify. For example, a landowner might be trying to sell a tract that has a river as a boundary on one side and hills as a boundary on the other.
It should be noted, however, that the phrase "tract of land" is not a legal land description and can't be used along with metes and bounds to define the legal boundaries of a property if the property line is an irregular shape.
How a tract of land differs from a parcel, lot, plot, or plat
Now that you know more about what a tract of land is, how does it differ from other real estate terms used to describe the boundaries of a property? We've laid out a few common terms for your consideration below.
To start, the term "parcel of land" is used for tax purposes. A parcel is defined as an area of land with boundaries so definitive that the owner or developer has designated that it should be used as a single unit. For instance, in a neighborhood, each home will be built on its own parcel of land and taxed independently.
Like a parcel, a lot refers to a piece of land or estate that's supposed to be used as a singular unit. However, in this case, a lot is typically given a legal description for the purposes of defining its ownership. Lot numbers and descriptions are also usually recorded with the local government.
Notably, large lots can undergo subdivision to be split into multiple units, which can then be sold to multiple owners.
The dictionary definition of a plot is an "area of land that has been measured and is considered a unit." It also states that plots are traditionally small areas of land that have been earmarked for a specific purpose, such as building homes or planting crops.
The word "plot" is also not a legal land description. However, it's most often used as part of the phrase "plot plan," which is simply an architectural drawing that shows all the major features of a piece of property. Generally, a plot plan is thought to be a less detailed version of a survey.
Finally, in the United States, "plat" is a shortened version of the term "plat map." It's defined as a cadastral survey that's drawn to scale and shows the divisions of a piece of land, as well as the property boundaries, streets, easements, and other important information. This map is usually maintained by a surveyor, and a record is usually kept in a local township or municipal building.
How this term is used in real estate
In real estate, the term "tract of land" is usually used to refer to land that has not yet been developed. It may be public land or private land on which a piece of real property has not yet been built. Typically, these areas of land are also larger in size, owing to the fact that the phrase "large tract" is fairly common.
Since this phrase has no legal standing, it's most often used in marketing presentations and documents like the property history report. It's simply a way for the real estate agent to describe the area of land without getting into the nitty-gritty details of a legal description.
The bottom line
At the end of the day, a "tract of land" is nothing more than a colloquial turn of phrase. However, now that you know how it should be used, as well as how other, similar real estate terms are defined, you'll have a better foundation for your word choice. Armed with this knowledge as a buyer, you should be able to go into your next land deal feeling more informed.