ALTA Survey | ALTA Title Survey | ALTA Land Survey
An ALTA Title Survey is completed based on the “Minimum Standard Detail Requirements and Accuracy Standards For ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys.” This standard document was developed and is revised on a regular basis by a combination of Title industry and Surveying industry professionals. The latest version of this document is the 2021 revision.
Download the ALTA Standards:
- ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Standards, 2021 Version OR 2016 Version – PDF version (2021 Version effective February 23, 2021.)
- 2021 ALTA Table A Items List OR 2016 ALTA Table A Items List – a PDF of Table A for ordering the survey. This must be provided to the surveyor in order to get a quote.
- Here is an MS Windows .docx Version of Table A (2021 Version.)
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An ALTA Title Survey is generally similar to a boundary or lot survey on a piece of property. But, the ALTA survey goes a little farther in the requirements on the land surveyor as he/she carries out the survey, both in the field and in the office.
ALTA Land Surveys are generally used on commercial or multi-family residential sites and also when either the lender or owner is in another state jurisdiction. The ALTA standards are somewhat of a “national standard” for surveying, intended to yield a consistent survey no matter what state the work is done in. While most States have surveying standards, they vary widely from one state to the other. So, the ALTA standard is used to cut down on this variation.
Time & Effort For ALTA Land Survey
Since ALTA Surveys take more time and effort, these surveys typically cost more than a survey done according to a particular state standard. It should be pointed out that if the state standard is more restrictive on a certain point, then the most restrictive standard is required on the survey. I see ALTA surveys priced from 50% to 200% more than a comparable boundary survey. This depends on the items checked in “Table A – Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications.” This table adds additional or specific tasks to the surveyor’s scope of work. One item that is usually included with most all ALTA survey requests is Item #1, monuments placed. Most state standards probably include this and, in my opinion, all surveys should, but the ALTA survey leaves this optional unless the item is checked on Table A.
In regard to this, one of the things I appreciate is that the client is “supposed to” not only fill out this Table A but also to furnish title documents to the surveyor BEFORE he starts the survey. In practice we rarely get the title documents until we issue the first draft of the survey. At that time the documents are sent to us and we are asked to revise the survey and show them. While this is not the way its planned, at least we have the chance to review the documents before issuing the final version of the survey.
Choose an ALTA Survey for Commercial Property
So, if you have a commercial parcel or a large multi-family residential complex, you should consider asking for the ALTA survey standards to be used. You should also probably do this if you are considering the purchase or development of a parcel outside your state. Most of the banks will require this if you ask for a loan on this type property, but I recommend this even if the bank doesn’t require it.
ALTA Survey Costs
Since ALTA Surveys take more time and effort, these surveys typically cost more than a survey done according to a particular state standard. It should be pointed out that if the state standard is more restrictive on a certain point, then the most restrictive standard is required on the survey.
I see ALTA surveys priced from 50% to 200% more than a comparable boundary survey. This depends on the items checked in “Table A – Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications.” This table adds additional or specific tasks to the surveyor’s scope of work. One item that is usually included with most all ALTA survey requests is Item #1, monuments placed.
Most States’ surveying standards include this and, in my opinion, all surveys should, but the ALTA survey leaves this optional unless the item is checked on Table A.
7 Advantages to Using the ALTA Survey Standards:
- Uniform Standard. The ALTA standards are a uniform nation-wide survey standard. These national standards make it easy for the title company to review the survey and write title insurance on the property, which controls the financial risk for the owners and lenders.
- Encroachments/Easements Shown. Encroachments are when a property owner violates the property rights of his neighbor by building something on, or over, the neighbor’s land. If described sufficiently, an ALTA survey should show potential encroachments and plot recorded easements on the survey drawing. Whether a potential encroachment or physical condition is an actual encroachment or not is a legal determination.
- Familiarity. Most all of the parties in any deal – lenders, attorneys, surveyors, and title professionals – are familiar with the ALTA survey standards. Working together with this same survey standard allows them to “play off the same sheet of music,” so to speak.
- Title Research. The surveyor has the advantage of having the deed research from the title commitment before issuing the final version of the survey. In other standards, this is not required.
- ALTA Table A Items. The ALTA survey standards include a list of optional items (Table A) that may be needed and ordered when the original survey is ordered. This may save money since the work is done at the same time as the boundary survey.
- Title Exceptions. Title exceptions are matters which are not covered by the title insurance policy. Two, or more, such exceptions deal with matters which may be found by an accurate survey of the property; encroachments, for example. Exceptions limit the liability of the title insurer to the insured. Completion of an ALTA survey allows the title insurer to remove those exceptions.
- Consistent Scope of Work. Usually the hardest part of any contract is determining the scope of work and how it will be completed. The ALTA survey standards provide a consistent scope of work that has been used since 1988 and is frequently reviewed and updated to conform to the latest technology and legal issues.