An ALTA survey is a land title survey that assesses the boundaries, titles and improvement locations of a property. It meets the needs of a title insurer to remove the standard survey exceptions from the existing title policy while showing improvements, encumbrances, rights-of-way, and any other items that may affect the property in question. If you plan on purchasing or refinancing real estate, an ALTA survey can be a valuable tool, allowing both lender and buyer to evaluate the property while analyzing all potential benefits and risks of owning it. The ALTA land survey conforms to a nationally recognized set of minimum standards jointly established by the American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM), as well as the American Land Title Association (ALTA). Once an ALTA survey has been performed, there will be a clear and accessible record containing relevant information concerned with the present and future use of the land, and all encumbrances and restrictions that may affect the property or its use.
The Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys underwent the first significant re-write since 1962. As a result of over two years of coordinated effort from a select group of ALTA title attorneys and a large committee assembled of National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) members, this re-write encompassed a comprehensive overhaul, becoming the new standard. The ALTA Land Title Survey Minimum Standard Detail Requirements were put into effect on February 23rd, 2011, which means that these new requirements will supersede previous versions of the standard. In order for the ALTA survey to be considered accurate, the land surveyor should be aware of and recognize all federal, state, and local standards.
Another use of the completed ALTA land survey is to provide “extended coverage” by removing the “survey exception language” from a property’s title insurance policy. This applies to both owner and lender’s title insurance coverage, but the extent that these standards may be deviated from depends on the title insurer to provide the required insurance coverage. ALTA surveys are often used as title insurance underwriting tools on future property transactions. The ALTA survey provides relevant information to all parties that are involved in a property transaction, answering various questions and concerns regarding that property in an official and unbiased manner. ALTA surveys are often prepared for commercial properties, providing necessary information to the Title Company in order to assist in insuring title both to the land and the improvements that have been made on it. It can also provide a useful tool for the purchaser, providing information that can assist them with their future plans for the property.
An ALTA survey provides two things: it specifically locates all record and non-record matters affecting the property, and satisfies the title insurer’s ALTA title coverage requirements for Survey Risks including encroachments, easements or claims not shown by public records, and boundary line disputes. Providing a thorough ALTA survey can be a vital part in clarifying a preliminary title report where the facts on the ground are unclear or seem complicated, or when many hard-to-find easements, or other exceptions have been raised. These possible complications can be best assessed by a professional, and it is suggested that the relevant parties contact a land surveyor early on in the process to facilitate the decision-making process.
Any time you are considering buying or selling commercial real estate, it is important to conduct due diligence throughout the entire process, ensuring that there are no undocumented aspects of said property that will impact the use or value of the property later on. To this end, additional elements may be added to the ALTA survey to further enrich the provided information. These options are referred to as “Table A,” and may assist the purchaser in obtaining additional detailed information about various aspects of the property. Combined with the current title report, the use of additional “Table A” items may help to define the scope of work while expanding on the basic information provided—allowing all interested parties a very thorough picture of the property in question.
It is generally recommended to request an ALTA land survey at least 30 days prior to the need for title insurance, as this survey will provide information necessary to the issuance of title insurance. In addition, the survey must be completed prior to the closing of escrow. Although 30 days is the recommended minimum request time, there are many factors that may extend this timeline. Possible factors may include the property’s size, a lack of clarity regarding the property’s boundaries or difficult terrain, as well as the number of items that are being included in the report. It is wisest to speak with a land surveyor as early on in the process as possible, in order to maximize the use of your time.
In conclusion, you should get an ALTA land survey if you are purchasing or refinancing real estate, your current land survey predates February of 2011, your purchaser or title insurer requires information or has concerns regarding the property, or when there are questions or concerns regarding property boundaries, easements, encroachments, exceptions, record and non-record matters affecting the property. The ALTA land survey is useful in providing sound and comprehensive information regarding the property, especially when used in conjuncture with the extra information provided by selecting pertinent options from “Table A”. Contacting a land surveyor early on in the process will help to minimize wasted time and effort, as well as streamlining the proceedings.
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