What is an ALTA Survey?
An ALTA Land Title Survey is completed based on the “Minimum Standard Detail Requirements and Accuracy Standards For ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys.” This standards 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 survey standards document is the 2016 revision.
An ALTA Land Title Survey is similar in many ways to a boundary survey or a lot survey on a piece of property. But, the this survey goes a little farther in the requirements of the land surveyor as he/she carries out the land survey, both in the field and in the office.
When is an ALTA Land Survey Used?
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 if the site is in Georgia or another state where the work is done. While most States have surveying standards, including Georgia, they vary widely from one state to the other. So, the 2016 alta survey standards are 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 these 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 Land Title survey requests is Item #1, monuments placed. Most state standards probably include this and, in my opinion, all surveys should, but the ALTA land title survey leaves this optional unless the item is checked on the 2016 ALTA 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.
“ALTA” in ALTA Land Title Survey stands for American Land Title Association
When Do You Need an ALTA?
So, if you have a commercial parcel or a large multi-family residential complex, you should consider asking for the ALTA 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 commercial property, but we recommend this even if the bank doesn’t require it.