What Is an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey?
What Is the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey For?
Mortgage lenders usually require a title policy to lend money, whether for purchasing or developing a property. In turn, a title policy typically needs a comprehensive land survey.
The ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey essentially fills this demand. It is a more thorough type of land survey detailing ownership lines, boundary locations, topography, zoning, rights of way and easements within or around the property, and more.
An ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey is so-called because it complies with the minimum standards outlined by the American Land and Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society for Professional Surveyors (NSPS).
ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys are often a requirement for real estate transactions involving commercial properties due to the huge capital involved. These transactions cover the sale, transfer, or refinancing of such properties.
About ALTA and NSPS
ALTA is the national trade association for title insurance agents, underwriters, and abstracters in the U.S. It was founded in 1907 and is headquartered in Washington, D.C. The association’s mission is to “improve the skills and knowledge of providers in the real property transaction, effectively advocate member concerns, and standardize products for industry use.”
Members can search, review, and insure land titles to protect buyers, mortgage lenders, and real estate investors using data published by ALTA.
On the other hand, the NSPS is the voice of the professional surveying community in the U.S. Its bylaws empower it to monitor and be involved in policies and regulations that impact professional surveyors and their clients.
Origins of the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey
In 1962, the then American Congress on Surveying and Mapping (ACSM) and the ALTA came together to create a survey product. Originally known as the ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey, it was later renamed the ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.
They tailored the survey to the needs of title insurers, particularly by giving them access to accurate information. It also provided uniformity and consistency to the country’s title insurance industry.
The ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey’s standards have been revised a few times since. Today, the survey has become a widely used benchmark for comprehensive land surveys in the real estate industry.
What Is Included in an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey?
The ALTA/NSPS survey needs to present specific and pertinent information as required by lenders and any stakeholders that base decisions on it. In general, a complete ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey includes data regarding:
- On-site fieldwork as stipulated under Section 5.
- The plat map as stipulated under Section 6 showing the results of the fieldwork backed by documents provided by the surveyor.
- Relevant information from Table A items.
- The unaltered certification of the survey as specified under Section 7.
An ALTA/NSPS land title survey identifies key factors in establishing the legal definition of real property and its ownership. These include:
- Boundary lines.
- Location of the main building.
- Locations of auxiliary buildings.
- Identification of easements.
- Unrecorded improvements.
- Local zoning information.
- Flood zone designations.
That said, an ALTA/NSPS survey can be customized to cover a wider scope, depending on the requirements of the client, title insurers, and lenders. The Minimum Standard Detail Requirements document includes TABLE A — OPTIONAL SURVEY RESPONSIBILITIES AND SPECIFICATIONS.
Who Uses ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys?
ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys play a critical role in real estate transactions, especially for industrial, commercial, and large residential properties. As such, all parties involved can benefit from the survey because it is a common standard that everybody can refer to regarding the property.
The survey provides accurate insights into a property and ensures that no issues relating to the property are left unaddressed. This provides them with the confidence to move forward with the transaction.
When Is an ALTA/NSPS Survey Needed?
The survey is typically required when a commercial property is being refinanced or its ownership is being transferred. Title insurance companies need it to satisfy the requirements for issuing title policy coverage. Mortgage lenders need the survey when processing loan applications.
An ALTA/NSPS land title survey might not be required when purchasing land, but getting one is highly recommended because it can help avoid boundary or encroachment issues that were not known at the time of purchase.
Obtaining an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey
Section 2 of the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements states that clients may request an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey by providing written authorization to the surveyor. The requesting party assumes all resulting costs.
The scope of work related to the land title survey must be well-documented and duly discussed with all relevant parties (client, title insurer, lender, etc.) before the work commences.
How Long Does the Survey Take?
There is no standard timeframe for completing an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey. The length of time required can vary significantly, especially since every property is unique, as are its survey scope and requirements.
How Long Is the Survey Valid?
There is also no set timeline for how long ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys remain valid. However, they generally become obsolete anytime a change is made to the property. In other words, every time a change occurs on a property, a new survey is required if it becomes involved in a real estate transaction.
How Much Does an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Cost?
The cost of an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey varies depending on several factors, including the property size, location, land terrain, and survey scope.
- An ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey is a detailed boundary survey in line with ALTA and NSPS standards. It is used for transactions involving high-value or commercial real estate.
- The survey typically provides crucial details about real property, such as its boundary lines, easements, unrecorded improvements, local zoning information, and more. Its scope can also be customized using the TABLE A form included in the document.
- ALTA/NSPS surveys provide accurate and consistent survey reports for land title insurers. It is recognized as the gold standard for commercial real estate land surveys.
- American Land and Title Association. (n.d.) About the American Land Title Association. ALTA. Retrieved from https://www.alta.org/about/
- National Society of Professional Surveyors. (2020.) BYLAWS OF THE NATIONAL SOCIETY OF PROFESSIONAL SURVEYORS, INC. Retrieved from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.nsps.us.com/resource/resmgr/bylaws/nspsbylaws_revised_ratifed_u.pdf
- National Society of Professional Surveyors. (2021.) 2021 ALTA/NSPS Standards. Retrieved from https://www.nsps.us.com/page/2021ALTA
- American Land and Title Association. (n.d.) American Land Title Association® (ALTA®) National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) Minimum Standard Detail Requirements For ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys. Retrieved from https://cdn.ymaws.com/www.nsps.us.com/resource/resmgr/alta_standards/2021_Standards_20201030_grk.pdf