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November 16th, 2016

The Importance of A Quality ALTA Survey

land surveying

If you are planning to acquire real estate or do some site improvements, you obviously have a lot to think about such as budget, location, and design. One of the most important papers you can own is your land survey. Having a proper ALTA survey done on your land could help you get peace of mind about your investment. 

You probably already know that a boundary survey is necessary, or even mandatory, to your project but it is important to consider what an ALTA survey can bring you more. An ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey is a specialized boundary survey that could be required by lending institutions for commercial real estates transactions. An ALTA survey is a more detailed report than a standard boundary survey and its requirements are beyond most states’ standards.  More details concerning the difference between the two can be found in the next section of this article.

Typically, in the State of Connecticut, an ALTA survey could be mandatory in the following situations:

  • Acquiring a commercial piece of real estate
  • A certification asked by mortgage lenders


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What is an ALTA Survey and what does it include?

First, ALTA stands for American Land Title Association, and the organization’s main objective is to protect home buyers and mortgage lenders who invest in real estate. The organization insists on high standards when searching land records and preparing insurance documents in order to avoid land title problems. Have a look at the American Land Title Association “About us” page to learn more about this organization.

As mentioned is the first section of this article, an ALTA survey is a specialized boundary survey with higher requirements.  It often is more strict than the state’s standards. For example, the following standards of accuracy have to be respected:

  • Urban property:  ft in 15,000ft
  • Suburban property: 1ft in 10,000ft
  • Rural property: 1ft in 7,500ft
  • Mountainous property: 1ft in 5,000ft
The ALTA/NSPS standards also require a detailed report of the following elements:

  • In-depth research about the land’s history
  • Easements benefiting or encumbering a property (or future development)
  • Possible encroachments across the boundary or easement
  • Observed evidence of utilities
  • Access to a public road
  • Zoning setbacks
  • Flood zones that may affect the property
  • Evidence of any use of the land by other parties
  • Water boundaries within the property
  • Evidence of cemeteries
  • The adjoining properties’ owners names

Please, have a look at the following article if you want to learn more about the difference between an ALTA survey and a boundary survey.

What are the new elements in the 2016 update?

In order to stay the most effective and recognized survey standard, the survey standards have  to be updated every couple of years.  The last update has been conducted in 2016 and the effective date was February 23rd 2016. Since the ACSM (American Congress on Surveying and Mapping) was merged into the NSPS (National Society of Professional Surveyors), the previous name of ALTA/ASCM has been changed to ALTA/NSPS.

We mentioned before that the ALTA survey requirements are higher than most states’ standards but it is not always the case. That is why this new update contains a clarification that says that if a conflict appears between and the state standard and the ALTA standard, the most stringent should be applied. This update contains some modifications such as:

  • Observed evidence of utilities is now mandatory
  • Observed evidence of site use as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill has been removed

Another addition with the 2016 update is a new Survey Form including more details concerning the site grading, plot plan design, flood hazard and blanket easement. Finally, have a look at the FAQs for the New 2016 ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Standards for more details concerning the update.

Why A Quality ALTA Survey Is Important ?

If you are about to acquire a commercial real estate property in Connecticut, an ALTA survey may not always be legally required, but it is important to conduct due diligence to reassure everyone who is implicated in the process. A good practice would be to hire a qualified surveyor to proceed with a detailed to survey to determine your next move. If an ALTA survey is required at the financing level, the existing survey can be updated with the additional requirements. While any licensed surveyor in the State of Connecticut is legally able to sign and ALTA survey, one should look to a surveyor who has experience with Land Title surveys since this survey will be scrutinized by attorneys for the lending institutions and title insurance companies.

A poor quality survey could cause several problems and potentially cause you to lose money. For example, if an easement encumbering a property was not visible in previous documents, a qualified surveyor may be able to identify them during this survey. This would allow assessing the real value of the land. Furthermore, by identifying nearby flood zones a good surveyor could raise a flag about a potential problem that could impact the property. Such problems may not have been detected with a regular boundary survey or if a non-qualified surveyor conducted the survey.

Finally, a quality report will help you evaluate the real value of the property and determine the terms of a contract. It is the best way to avoid disputes that may arise with the neighbors about the land’s physical boundaries.

Conclusion

An ALTA survey is the most recognized survey for commercial real estate acquisition nationally.  It will help you assess the real value of a property, secure your investment and reassure your lenders.

This survey will be one of the most important pieces of paper you will own with the acquisition of the property, so finding the right surveyor is important. Hiring an experienced firm specialized in land surveying with good knowledge of the State of Connecticut’s regulations and ALTA’s requirements will help you prevent unforeseen problems while at the same time save you money.

Download our free ebook to learn more about the Steps for choosing the right land surveyor.

CT-Land-Surveyor

About Adam Hoffman

Hoffman began his surveying career back in 1978 when he worked for his uncle, Bernard Godfrey. After graduating from Paul Smith’s College, he worked his way from rod-man to transit-man and eventually party-chief. In 1988 when Adam received his Land Surveying license, he and Mr. Godfrey formed Godfrey-Hoffman Associates. After 12 years of a great partnership, Mr. Godfrey retired which left Mr. Hoffman with the entire business.

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Wait, before you go!

Does Your Next Project Need a Civil Engineer? Here are 5 Reasons Why you Should Hire One.

Subscribe and download your free guide now!