Who performs ALTA surveys, and what factors should you take into account when selecting an ALTA survey company? Continue reading to learn more!

As we explained in our previous article, ALTA surveys are a type of boundary surveys that adhere to a set of minimum standards established by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). 

They are accepted in all 50 US states, and they represent the highest standards in the land surveying industry. Essentially, an ALTA survey provides a more detailed land parcel map of a property as opposed to a regular boundary survey, including rights of ways, assessment of possible risks, means of access, and other key features.

In today’s article, we will talk about ALTA land surveyors, and we will give you some tips on how to select the right ALTA survey company for your project.

Who performs ALTA land surveys?

As opposed to other types of surveys, ALTA surveys should be in compliance with the national standards established by the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors in 2016.

For this reason, ALTA land surveys are performed by registered licensed land surveyors that strictly adhere to the state laws to ensure that they meet the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys.

Who orders an ALTA land survey?

ALTA surveys are typically required in commercial real estate transactions, and they are most commonly ordered by the buyer of the property on behalf of insurance companies, financial institutions, lenders and attorneys.

They are a necessary element for making due diligence decisions, especially when it comes to the acquisition or mortgage on a parcel of land. 

Multiple participants in a commercial real estate transaction may request them to ensure that their security interests and investments are protected from adverse claims that are not always disclosed by a title search.

The information described on an ALTA survey will help both the lender and the purchaser in properly evaluating the land parcel or property, as well as the potential risks and benefits that come with owning it. 

To sum it up, an ALTA survey can be ordered in the following (most common) cases:

  • Refinancing – when the owner of a property wants to refinance it without changing ownership, an ALTA survey may be ordered by the lender to ensure that they have a detailed overview (including improvements, easements, encroachments, etc.) and all the requirements for the refinancing are being met.
  • Real estate transaction – as we already mentioned, in a commercial real estate transaction, buyers are often required to order an ALTA survey in order to satisfy the requirements of the lender for title insurance.
  • Property redevelopment – another case in which an ALTA survey may be needed is when a buyer or an organization acquires a new property with the purpose of redeveloping it. It is especially important if construction upgrades or easements represent a big part of the investment.
  • Development of vacant land – also known as design surveys, ALTA surveys conducted on vacant land are essential to get prior to the development of the land, especially when it comes to complex projects that require a lot of detail.

How to select the best ALTA survey company for your project

An ALTA survey is essential for revealing the existence of critical discrepancies, resolving them on time, and lowering the risk for future owners as well as other participants in the real estate transaction. 

For this reason, it’s important to select an ALTA survey company that knows how to perform this type of survey to the highest standards possible. Here are some tips on how to select the best surveyor for your project:

1. Consider the amount of experience

Experience is crucial when it comes to selecting an ALTA survey company. Even though there are minimum requirements that need to be met, the approach and precision between land surveyors may vary, and the expected outcome may be different depending on the experience that they have.

It’s important to keep in mind that ALTA surveys can be more complex than regular surveys, and they require measurements with a higher level of precision. They can be especially complex when ordered for the development of vacant land, and may require a professional land surveyor that has extensive knowledge in building and construction. 

For this reason, before you select an ALTA survey company, make sure that they are highly experienced in conducting ALTA surveys and commercial real estate closings. On many occasions, local land surveyors may be specialized in other types of surveys, only performing ALTA surveys every once in a while, which may not bring the level of quality that you are expecting.

So, make sure to pay attention to the amount of experience they have, more specifically their experience in ALTA surveys, to ensure that the highest standards and levels of precision for your project are always being met. 

This way, you will be able to select an ALTA survey company that really brings out the level of detail that lenders or insurers may need. For example, Tucker Engineering has over 25 years of experience in the land surveying industry, and is highly specialized in conducting ALTA surveys in Alabama.

2. Look for trust indicators

Authority and trustworthiness are always essential when it comes to working with a company, whether we are talking about land surveying or any other industry. This is especially true if you are doing your own due diligence instead of getting a recommendation from a friend or family member. 

Considering that most searches for the purchase of products and services start online – more than 76%, according to research, there is no doubt that establishing a trustworthy online presence is key for all businesses.

However, in today’s digital era, even though it’s easy to look for products and services online, it’s also quite easy to get scammed. This applies to land surveying companies as much as it applies to other businesses as well. 

As a customer, if you want to select an ALTA survey company that’s experienced, professional and credible, make sure to look for some of the following trust indicators:

  • Contact information – do they have their complete contact information, including physical address, phone numbers, email and/or form? If they only have a form, or the rest of the information is hidden or difficult to find, be very careful. 
  • Social media channels – does the company have social media channels, and how active and well-maintained are they? While an ALTA survey company will probably be a lot less active than other businesses due to the nature of the service, having at least their channels set up and polished will add a lot of credibility.
  • Reviews – and last but not least, reviews can also be a great indicator that an ALTA survey company is credible and trustworthy. They can be typically found on the surveyor’s website and/or their Google My Business profile. 

3. Pay attention to how professional they are 

Before ordering an ALTA survey, people will typically do their due diligence and research the different land surveyors that they have available in their local area. On many occasions, they will request quotes from each candidate before making their final decision.

If that’s you, don’t underestimate this step of your research journey. Pay close attention to the professionalism that each company has when interacting with you. 

How quickly do they get in touch with you once you’ve tried contacting them? If they get back to you within hours of completing the form or sending the email, that’s great; but if it takes various days, they may lack professionalism in other areas as well. 

How fast do they come back with a proposal? Are they communicating all the details of the ALTA survey clearly and with all the transparency you need? Keep all of this into account before selecting the right ALTA survey company for your project. 

How can you order an ALTA survey?

As we mentioned earlier in the article, a person may need to order an ALTA survey on behalf of insurers, lenders, and financial institutions for the completion of a real estate transaction. If you find yourself in this position, you should file a request for the survey as the client with the company that you have selected. 

If you aren’t the client, you should speak with the client to have them make the request, which should specify that an ALTA/ACSM or an ALTA/NSPS survey is required. The person who is responsible for the payment of the survey needs to submit a written authorization to the accredited surveying company. 

Before the land surveyor starts conducting the ALTA survey, all parties that are involved in the real estate transaction or the development of the land should determine the scope of the survey and the details that need to be included. Once all parties sign off the agreement, the professional land surveyors will begin their work. 

While there are many obligatory requirements, there are also some that are optional, such as the location of utilities, the addresses of the surveyed property, as well as substantial features like billboards and landscaped areas.

Step 1: Select an ALTA survey company

The first step to take if you want to order an ALTA survey is to select an ALTA survey company. Make sure to do your research, following the tips that we mentioned, and choose the one that fits your needs and goals the best.

Step 2: Request a quote

The next step is to request a quote about your project by providing as many details as possible. If you haven’t selected a specific company yet, you can request quotes from multiple companies at the same time.

For example, if you are purchasing vacant land for further development, it will be important to mention the planned upgrades to ensure that the ALTA surveyor has a clear understanding of the scope of the project, and give you the right quote for it.

The ALTA surveys for complex projects are usually more expensive and take longer to complete.

Step 3: Provide the necessary information 

Once you’ve selected the ALTA survey company that you will want to work with, the next step is to provide additional information about the property, including but not limited to:

  • Full property address
  • Tax parcel number
  • Acreage of the property
  • The requirements of the lender/insurer
  • Table A item checklist (which includes the optional survey responsibilities and certifications) as described here.

In addition, make sure to specify the requested turnaround time, as well as any preferences that you may have when it comes to the color-coding and the final format of the survey. 

These essential items are important to help advance the project as quickly and efficiently as possible, and ensure that there aren’t any misunderstandings.

As soon as all the requirements and details are defined, and all participants in the real estate transaction have agreed on them, the land surveyor can start working on the ALTA survey. It will take a couple of weeks to a few months depending on the complexity of the project and the amount of the requested optional requirements on top of the obligatory ones.

About Tucker Engineering: an ALTA survey company

Tucker Engineering is a civil engineering and ALTA survey company based in Centre, Alabama. 

With more than 25 years of experience, our team of highly skilled professionals will conduct your ALTA survey with state-of-the-art equipment, and ensure that it adheres to the highest standards possible.

Are you ready to get started? Contact us today!