ALTA (American Land Title Association), together with ACSM (American Congress on Surveying and Mapping) jointly developed a set of standards for land surveying. This carefully drawn land surveying standards promote uniformity on survey information for land ownership and other important data required for issuing mortgage insurance or land titles. An ALTA survey is a type of boundary survey that specifies various information such as boundary lines, main and ancillary building locations, easements or access lines by service companies like water, gas, railways, telephone, and other utilities, rights of way, improvements, and all other elements that impact the ownership of the land.
ALTA surveys are very complex and they cost much to complete, which is why they are more commonly prepared for commercial properties that might require the survey information for insurance and land improvements. They are often part of due diligence requirements when acquiring commercial real estate, helping would-be owners to avoid surprises that may affect the value and/or the use of the property.
An ALTA survey is conducted for two major reasons: one, to satisfy insurer requirements for the issuance of title insurance coverage and two, to locate record and non-record matters that may affect the property and may be critical for evaluating how to go ahead with the acquisition.
This boundary survey should be prepared and conducted by hiring a licensed surveyor, following all the detailed standards that have been developed and adopted by the ACSM and the ALTA. Not only does an ALTA survey map property boundaries, it also details the location of property improvements including buildings and structures, utility lines, fences, installations, paths, trails, roads, access locations, and other easements that are recorded against the property. Title companies often require this survey before they commit to issue insurance covering various survey risks.