What is an ALTA survey?

If you are looking to purchase a commercial or developmental piece of property, chances are your lender may have asked you to provide an ALTA survey before the loan is approved. So what is it and what do you need to know?

An ALTA survey is a very specific type of survey that follows national standards developed by the American Land Title Association in conjunction with the National Society of Professional Surveyors. In addition to locating the boundary of your property, an ALTA survey identifies physical features, evidence of possession, and other conditions that could indicate adverse title claims.

Basically, the survey helps the title company be sure that there is nothing on your land that is going to indicate someone else has a claim to it and that you are going to be able to use the land in the way you intend.

For example, an ALTA survey will look at everything within five feet of the boundary lines, as well as trails, fences, easements, or overhangs that encroach onto the property. Simultaneously, a title examiner will supply a title commitment, including documents that might affect the title, such as liens, easements, mortgages, rights of way, reservation of mineral rights, and others. Those items are then plotted on the survey to see exactly how they impact the property.

An accurate ALTA survey will ensure there are no surprises that may negatively affect the use of the property.

Standards for an ALTA survey are typically revised every five years, with the next revision expected in 2016. Unlike a mortgage location survey, which varies from state to state and is typically used for residential property, an ALTA survey is normally specific to commercial or industrial properties.

Before requesting an ALTA survey, be sure to confirm with your lender if there are any specific requirements that they will need. For instance, to verify zoning compliance, the number of stalls in existing parking lots may be needed. This is just one of several “Optional Table A” items. Knowing those requirements upfront can expedite the delivery of the survey and potentially save you money in the long run.

An accurate ALTA survey will ensure there are no surprises that may negatively affect the use of the property.