ALTA Land Title Surveys and the New Standards
September 15, 2021
The phrase “time is money” is no more aptly applied than to private real estate development and investment. Many factors determine an investment’s viability, including evaluating the asset, satisfying multiple stakeholders, and securing financing. An ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey can take the guesswork out of many factors when determining whether a parcel has the inherent characteristics that make it ideal for an investor to greenlight an acquisition. An ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey, at a minimum, provides data to avoid right-of-way encroachments, legal issues and prevent project delays while protecting parties, minimizing disputes, and decreasing future liabilities. ALTA Surveys also provide the standardized level of detail necessary for a real estate purchaser or lender to properly evaluate the property – which may not be the case with a typical boundary survey. Fisher Associates’ expertise and familiarity with conducting ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys extends to all project types and includes educating developer clients on what the ALTA survey must contain, as well as its benefits, and collaboration on which optional items contained in the ALTA Survey Standards (i.e., Table A items) should be included to provide the site-specific details needed to make a sound business investment decision.
New nationwide standards for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys released in February of 2021 have changed the specifications of the standards from the previous 2016 version, so it is critical to engage a firm with a comprehensive understanding of ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys and a firm grasp on the new updates.
What is an ALTA Land Title Survey?
The ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey is the nationwide boundary survey standard developed by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). The survey requires a combination of boundary and topographic information to be detailed on a land parcel survey map. This information can include documentation of existing improvements as well as identification and location of easements and encumbrances for primarily private development. “Not all developers know what an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey is or why it is needed. We explain to our developer clients what comprises the survey and what it is used for and determine what combination of items contained in Table A each client may need to include on their survey,” said Fisher Associate’s Mark W. Eltz, L.S., Survey Group Manager – NY. Many lenders, financial institutions, insurers, and investors require an ALTA survey as part of transactional due diligence for a private real estate purchase or for refinancing, yet do not understand exactly what they are requesting. Simply put, an ALTA Survey can be an essential tool for an owner and a lender to determine whether to proceed with an acquisition or a loan.
In addition to lowering the risk for future owners, an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey on a property helps protect from boundary-related liabilities, including line disputes, encroachments, and easements that may not be properly recorded in public records. Awareness of these delineations provides stakeholders with critical information that may help inform their ultimate purchase/financing decision.
The Right Team for the Right Results
Understanding the inner workings of the ALTA/NSPS survey, the new requirements, and how to apply them to different property types and uses comes with experience of the process and knowledge of prevailing codes, often dictated by region. When an ALTA/NSPS survey is requested, oftentimes the question of what items in Table A are required comes up — a seasoned and knowledgeable engineer’s rote response should not be “everything.” “It’s at this point that we spend the time to educate our clients and collaborate with them on what Table A items should be included in the survey,” says Fisher Associates’ Steve Boddecker, L.S., Vice President and Director of Geomatics. “’Everything’ requires more man hours, both in the field and in the office, resulting in additional costs and likely is not necessary to meet our clients’ needs.” Fisher evaluates the client-specific needs along with the property’s proposed use and determines the Table A optional items that should be included in the ALTA survey to provide a complete picture and satisfy stakeholders and financing, insurance, or jurisdictional requirements.
Key Criteria to look for when selecting a consulting firm to perform your ALTA/NSPS include:
Reputation: The selected surveying firm should have years of experience, having performed hundreds of surveys and have a clear knowledge of the ALTA/NSPS requirements, including the 2021 updates.
Local Knowledge: The firm performing your ALTA/NSPS survey should be familiar with your region and the nuances that make it different.
Professional Certification: An ALTA/NSPS Survey should be performed by a licensed professional land surveyor well-versed in the ALTA/NSPS survey process. This ensures that they have the expertise to conduct proper analyses and draft necessary documentation.
Responsiveness: As previously stated, “time is money”. You want a firm that can efficiently determine the Table A items that should be included in your ALTA survey and can readily mobilize field crews to collect the relevant data and subsequently compile it in the required format to facilitate expeditious processing and decision-making.
The benefits of engaging a firm with full command of the ALTA/NSPS standards ensures that a developer or other user receives the survey data relevant to their specific project. With nine survey teams ready to hit the ground running, Fisher is licensed to perform ALTA surveys in 8 states. Fisher makes sure you get what you pay for and only what you need to make a sound business decision that minimizes your risk and liability and gets your project to the finish line!