Creating standards for land surveys is vital for the title insurance industry, lenders and clients involved with real estate. Historically, there have been different requirements among title insurers, sometimes even within the same company.

First in 2011, and more recently as of February 23, 2016, the American Land Title Association and the National Society for Professional Surveyors have codified minimum standards for the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.

Why a survey is important for a land transaction

A survey and inspection can uncover matters relating to a parcel of land that may not be revealed by the public record. In technical terms, a land survey divulges specific and pertinent information that conveys a distinct and clear understanding of issues that relate to the use of the land.

The key interested parties in a land survey include the title insurance company, the lender, the client (who may or may not also be the insured party) and the surveyor. The primary responsibility of a surveyor is to conduct the survey and to prepare a map or plat of the property.

The ALTA/NSPS survey follows strict guidelines set forth in the guidelines published in 2016 relating to elements that are required for a report. In order to ensure that the right report is prepared, a client must specify that it requires an “ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.”

There are three elements that are common to all reports:

  • On-site field work
  • Preparation of a plat or map
  • Certification

In addition, Table A of an ALTA survey includes optional items that are included at the request of the party that commissions the survey. It is important to distinguish between required and optional items prior to commencing the work.

When an ALTA survey may not be ideal

Certain types of properties like marinas, campgrounds, trailer parks and non-fee-simple ownership interests can have issues that fall outside of the rubrics in an ALTA survey. But for many land transactions, an ALTA survey is ideal because it represents the most stringent industry standards.

Contact Millman National Land Services for assistance with your next survey.