ALTA specifies the data to be shown on the survey and this includes boundary lines, location of the main building including improvements, location of ancillary buildings, the identification of easements (access rights by service companies such as water, gas, telephone, railways and other utilities).

An ALTA/NSPS Survey guarantees to meet the requirements as set forth by the American Land Title Association (ALTA), National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) and the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM). An ALTA survey is made for the Title Company and/or Lender with the survey and location data needed for the issuing of title or mortgage insurance. For this purpose a map is drawn to “ALTA” specifications.

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An ALTA survey will identify and locate:

  1. Buildings, fences or other improvements from neighboring properties that encroach onto the property being acquired;
  2. Buildings, fences or other improvements located on the property being acquired that encroach onto neighboring properties;
  3. Buildings, fences and other improvements located on the property being acquired that encroach onto existing easements (utility, access, etc.) located on the property being acquired;
  4. Existing record easements that might have an adverse impact on the use or future (re)development of the property being acquired; and
  5. Potential easements or claims of easements not disclosed in public records but indicated by facts on the ground that might adversely impact the property being acquired.


ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey

A current title commitment is required before an ALTA survey can be completed. The title commitment will be referred to for the legal description of the property and for the legal description of any encumbrances (exceptions). Areas of ownership, improvements and encumbrances will be shown graphically. If the survey discovers any encroachments, they should be shown graphically, and a note indicating the nature of the encroachment may also be added.

When acquiring commercial real estate, it is important to conduct due diligence to ensure there are no surprises that will affect the value or use of the property. One aspect of the due diligence process is considering obtaining an ALTA Survey. The two main reasons for obtaining an ALTA Survey are:

  • Satisfy the title insurer’s requirements for the issuance of ALTA title insurance coverage for “Survey Risks” (defined below), and
  • Specifically locate both record and non-record matters that affect the property, which can be critical for evaluating whether or on what terms to proceed with an acquisition. This is particularly important when the preliminary title report raises many or difficult-to-locate easements or other similar exceptions, or when the facts on the ground seem complicated.

Survey Risks –

  • Encroachments, boundary line disputes, or other matters or circumstances that would be disclosed by an accurate survey and inspection of the property; and
  • Easements or claims of easements not shown by the public records. In some states, and for certain property types, a less detailed form of survey may suffice to obtain title insurance coverage for Survey Risks.