ALTA Surveys – the Purpose and A Few Secrets

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An ALTA Survey is a specialized boundary survey of a property that adheres to strict standards developed by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). An essential part of any legal ownership of land, the boundaries of a property must be properly and professionally delineated, making note of any easements or public right-of-way, or any other addition to or deletion from the property throughout the course of the parcel’s history. Clearly defining the boundaries of a property can prevent a dispute over where one parcel ends, and another begins. An ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey is a foundational component of any real estate due diligence period and is necessary to obtain comprehensive title insurance (extended coverage) for any property as a buyer, seller, or owner. 

ALTA Standards for Surveys

The 2021 ALTA and NSPS Standards for Surveys include updates to the following sections: Purpose, Request for a Survey, Survey Standards and Standards of Care, Records Research, Fieldwork, Plat or Map, Certification and Deliverables. The Table A items are also included in the standards. There are 19 Table A items that are optional survey responsibilities and specifications. There are also additional items, or items negotiated differently from how written, which shall be explained (Table A Item 20)

Legal Descriptions

The survey legal description needs to mirror the commitment legal description, which should also be the vesting legal description. If there are any differences or the property is changing, being split, additions or subtractions to the same, the title company should be advised right away so that any additional searches can be performed, and any additional requirements can be added to the commitment. A surveyor might need to create a new written legal description for the property for the following reasons: if material measured v. recorded differences are discovered, combining tracts together for an overall legal description, and the legal description needs to be changed to include a new property or a change in boundary lines (without violating any subdivision regulations or laws).

Survey Exceptions & Endorsements

The standard survey exception states any facts, rights, interests or claims which are not shown by the Public Records but which could be ascertained by an inspection of the land or by making inquiry of persons in possession of the Land. In addition, any encroachment, encumbrance, violation, variation, or adverse circumstance affecting the title including discrepancies, conflicts in boundary lines, shortage in the area, or any other facts that would be disclosed by an accurate and complete land survey of the Land, and that are not shown in Public Records. In some cases, the standard survey exception will be replaced with the Survey Read Exception.

To learn more about the revised forms, join us for ALTA Surveys and learn more secrets, please join us for our CLE webinar – Survey Secrets: The Latest with ALTA Surveys & Reading Surveys on July 13.Register Now


For the live webinar on July 13, Due to compliance restrictions, we are unable to offer CLE credit to clients located in CA and are unable to offer this webinar in IA.
* In compliance with regulations, if you wish to obtain NV CLE credit, a $15 fee will be charged.
* In compliance with regulations, if you wish to attend the webinar in the state of WA, a $15 fee will be charged.

First American Title Insurance Company, and the operating divisions thereof, make no express or implied warranty respecting the information presented and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. First American, the eagle logo, First American Title, and are registered trademarks or trademarks of First American Financial Corporation and/or its affiliates.

Todd D'Amico

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