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A Quick Guide to Ordering an ALTA Survey

An ALTA Land Title Survey can be thought of as a pictorial representation of the title commitment or preliminary title report of the subject property. In essence, it’s a combination of a boundary survey, location survey, and title survey, showing improvements and encumbrances.

The ALTA survey is an essential tool for all parties involved in a real estate transaction or development, which is used to determine and depict important features of a property, including the location, boundaries, access to rights of way, buildings, easements and water features.

All ALTA Surveys must abide by the 2011 Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys (also simply known as the 2011 ALTA Standards).  The Standard mandates the elements that the survey must cover at a minimum.  The Standard also lists optional items that can be included at the client’s request, known as the “Table A Optional Items.”

Information Required for your ALTA Survey

In order to obtain an accurate quote, the client must provide the following information: the address of the property; the name, company name, address, phone and email of the ordering party; significant information about the property or transaction that would allow the surveyor to provide a proposal that conforms to the needs of the user, lender or other transactional parties; and the required date of the first draft of the survey.

If available, the following information is also very helpful: any Parcel ID Number(s) of the property; Current and prior title commitment or policy; Copies of any supporting documents that are listed on Schedule A and B; Any prior survey or information from previous surveyors of the property; A current and up to date set of survey requirements (that fall within the confines of the 2011 ALTA Survey Requirements) from the lender or lender’s council including any Table A Optional Items required.  This may be essential depending on the lender; the names of all transaction parties that are to be included within the Surveyor’s Certification; and Legal description of the property.

What to Expect from the ALTA Survey

Price:  ALTA Surveys will vary in price, according to factors such as: property size and characteristics (for example, an apartment complex versus undeveloped land); property location and how difficult it is to survey in that location; which Table A Optional Items are included; and many other factors.  For the most part, the smaller and less complex a property, the cheaper the price.

Turnaround Time:  Most ALTA surveys are completed within around 2 to 3  weeks, however the time can also vary based on property size and characteristics, as well as any Optional Items that are included.  Short timeframes can often be accommodated, but this must be discussed prior to the proposal as a rush fee may be required and very tight timeframes may not be possible based on the work required. It is important to note that quoted turnaround times are generally only for the first draft of the survey and do not contain time for the client’s review, clarifications and any requested revisions.  It is common for the client to have questions or revisions, so additional time should be allotted to address these items.

Product:  The survey information will be shown on a “plat map” or “survey map” in a user-friendly standardized format, which will be delivered to the client as an electronic file (PDF) unless otherwise requested.  Section 6 of the 2011 Minimum Standard outlines what items must be included on the survey map.  Clients will find it extremely valuable that the same formatting is adhered to on each survey map, allowing for the efficient location and review of information.

Partner Engineering and Science, Inc. recently published the ALTA Survey Handbook, which contains all the information you need to know about ALTA Land Title surveys. You can access the handbook here.

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James Davenport

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