What Is An Alta Survey?

Have you ever gone on Zillow for a random piece of land? Maybe you glanced upon a field during a long drive and thought “I wonder how much that cost to buy?” Afterall, what gives land it’s value? You can tell with an Alta survey.

How it works

In a nutshell, this survey is when a trained expert does a very detailed examination of your land. Because of how vivid and accurate the survey is, it is often more costly and revealing of potential issues than other surveys. The Alta survey can tell us a lot about a piece of land, including 

  • Exact borders, including start and endpoints of a property.
  • Any structures (buildings, constructed objects) that may preside on a piece of land.
  • Where the utility line runs on a property, if it runs at all.
  • The presence of any roads or fences on a property. 
  • The location of any possible easement of the property.

Why you might want one

If you’re buying a vacant lot from someone, it’s paramount that you get an ALTA survey. The previous owner might never have surveyed the property at all, or they might have surveyed it during a time when the technology was inefficient or incapable of producing quality results. In either case, you want an Alta survey, because it gives you the clearest picture of your land from a detailed, human perspective. Once you have this, you can comfortably see if you’re encroaching on someone’s property, if there’s any land disputes you weren’t aware of, or if there’s any other issues with the property you should be aware of. 

How the process works

Oftentimes, a Title company might ask for an Alta survey before you do any work on a property. Trying to make the land buildable? They’ll want an Alta survey. Trying to put a house on your vacant lot? Alta survey. The real drag is the fact that once you’re done with whatever project prompted the first Alta survey, they’ll probably ask for another one at the end of construction as a comparison.

Why the Alta survey?

As technology has progressed, the standard for surveying land has constantly changed. Even the first job of the first American President was to survey land. Many different ways of surveying have been popular since then: Taking pictures of land with planes from above, using sonar technology to make 3D models of the foundations and elevation. None however, have surpassed the Alta survey, which is considered the top survey for any need, and the most detailed of all. It’s no wonder that it’s never required by the law, and why it’s the gold standard for Title companies. It’s the cream of the crop! 

When is an ALTA survey recommended or required?

Pretty much anytime you want your land to be insured, you’ll need to get an ALTA NSPS survey. Title companies want to make sure that there’s nothing fishy with the property you own, and it might reveal any number of problems. Surveying land can often mean boundary disputes, claims that haven’t been legally filed, unaccounted for conditions, and more.