What is an ALTA Survey?
An ALTA 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 survey standards used to be referred to at the ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey standards. The ACSM has been proceeded by the NSPS. The latest version of this document is the 2016 revision.
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 Title 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.
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 300% 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.
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.