A 5-Minute Guide To ALTA Surveys

ALTA surveys are integral to any commercial real estate transaction. While it would be impossible to share everything you need to know about these Land Title Surveys in five minutes, we will be able to provide a ‘drone’s eye-view’ of what you should know.

When putting due diligence practices into action during a commercial real estate transaction, ALTA Land Title Surveys, often referred to as ALTA Surveys, are commonplace. Here, we will discuss the survey and give a brief overview of its components. 

What is an ALTA Survey?

An ALTA Survey is a specialized boundary survey that comprehensively analyzes a property’s boundaries, any improvements, easements, and possible risks. Boundary surveys are a formal means of defining a specific lot’s boundary limits. The significant difference between ALTA Surveys and standard boundary surveys is the strict adherence to standards determined by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). 

These standards were developed and are revised regularly by the organizations, and allow for consistent results no matter where the survey is conducted. One benefit to using an ALTA Survey is that all professional parties involved are highly familiar with the contents of the survey and the overall process. This is not always the case when relying solely on state or local survey standards.

Who Needs an ALTA Survey?

Surveys assist with commercial real estate transactions by providing highly-detailed and accurate information and ensuring the buyers are fully informed about the property in question and any issues that might exist. Title insurance companies and lenders often require ALTA Surveys as a part of a purchase or refinancing transaction. The most common use of ALTA Surveys is for multi-family residential sites and commercial sites

Required Elements of an ALTA SurveyALTA Surveys

There are multiple pieces of information that an ALTA Survey must include to be considered complete. In the most recently released revision, these include:

  • Boundary lines
  • Rights of way and access
  • Lines of possession along boundaries
  • Improvements along boundaries
  • Buildings present on the property
  • Easements
  • Servitudes
  • Water features
  • Utilities
  • And more

At the close of the survey, the surveyor provides hard copies of the plat map to the insurer, client, and others negotiated with the client. A digital image of the plat or map may be provided in addition to, or instead of, hard copies, depending on the terms of the contract. If the surveyor is required to record or file a plat or map pursuant to state statute or local ordinance, this will be completed as well.

Optional Elements of an ALTA Survey

There are 19 optional survey responsibilities and specifications listed on Table A, as well as space for additional items as negotiated between the client and the surveyor. If selected by the client, these items are to be included in the ALTA Survey except as otherwise qualified. Some of the optional elements include:

  • Flood zone classification depicted by scaled map location and graphic plotting only.
  • Gross land area and other areas if specified by the client.
  • Names of adjoining owners according to current tax records. 
  • Evidence of recent earth moving work, building construction, or building additions observed in the process of conducting the fieldwork.
  • And more.

Including many of these elements in your ALTA Survey can provide additional clarity to the report and assists in the decision-making process of a large commercial real estate investment.

Where Can I Find An ALTA Survey Company?

The first step to obtaining your ALTA Survey is finding the right professional for the job. The timeline and cost of your survey are dependent on the size and complexity of the property.

At National Due Diligence Services, we know how important it is that you work with only the most experienced surveyors. Our team brings decades of expertise to your transaction. We take pride in the accurate, responsive, and highly-efficient timelines we provide to our clients. Contact us today to learn more.