ALTA Land Surveys in Atlanta are normally completed for commercial real estate projects or for projects that have an out of town owner or lenders. The ALTA Land Title Survey is done according to the “Minimum Standard Detail Requirements and Accuracy Standards for ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys.” This standards document was developed and is revised on a regular basis by a combination of the Title industry (ALTA – American Land Title Association) and the Surveying industry professionals (NSPS – National Society of Professional Surveyors, formerly the ACSM – American Congress on Surveying & Mapping). The latest version of this standards document is the 2011 revision.
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The Need for ALTA Land Survey Standards
The ALTA Land Survey standards were developed as a way to “standardize” the surveys across multiple states. While most states have developed land surveying standards, most of them are quite different from the others. One state may require deed research, another may not. One state may require a drawing for all surveys, another may not. The ALTA survey standards are consistent across all states. Therefore, a national lender or property owner can familiarize themselves with the one standard and will be able to read and interpret the results of a survey from any surveyor in any state.
Atlanta ALTA Land Survey
As we said above, An ALTA Land Title Survey in Atlanta is the same as in about any area of the state of Georgia, or the nation. The survey itself is generally similar to a boundary or lot survey on any piece of property. But, the ALTA survey does require the surveyor to dig a little deeper into the deeds (furnished by the client/attorney) and to look a little wider in the field. The ALTA land survey standards call for more information on the survey drawings, and, depending on what the client or title company has requested, may require other information from the local zoning and/or city planning departments. These additional requirements should be discussed up front during the contract negotiation phase of the work. That way, everyone knows what is expected. Actually, this coordination is actually written into the standards themselves to try to alleviate misunderstandings and scope of work questions. For example, most commercial projects will need to have the parking lots shown on the site. This is typically a question of whether the number of parking spaces are sufficient for the intended use. While not strictly a land surveying question, this is very important from a local planning and zoning standpoint.
For example, let’s say a national restaurant chain was contemplating locating in an existing building on an out-parcel lot at a large commercial development. All of the local Atlanta jurisdictions have parking requirements depending on the type of use. If the building was not a restaurant in the past, and if it didn’t have a drive-thru, the new owner will have to go through the local planning department, and possibly planning commission and city council in order to get approval for the new use. There are many times where parking has been shared among neighboring businesses – and this has been approved by the City. Say the new owner needs all of the parking, which will cause a shortage for the neighboring use. These facts need to be found early in the process – thus the reason for asking the surveyor to identify the location and number of parking spaces AND to check with the local Atlanta area municipal planning department.
ALTA Land Survey Costs
Since ALTA Land Surveys normally take more time and effort in the courthouse, field, and office, these surveys typically cost more than a survey done according to a particular state standard. It should be pointed out that if the state standard is more restrictive on a certain point, then the most restrictive standard is required on the survey. I see ALTA surveys priced from 50% to 300% more than a comparable boundary survey. This depends on the items checked in “Table A – Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications.” This table adds additional or specific tasks to the surveyor’s scope of work. One item that is usually included with most all ALTA survey requests is Item #1, monuments placed. Most state standards probably include this and, in my opinion, all surveys should, but the ALTA survey leaves this optional unless the item is checked on Table A.
As I mentioned earlier, the ALTA survey standards require the client to not only fill out this Table A but also to furnish title documents to the surveyor BEFORE he starts the survey. In practice we rarely get the title documents until we issue the first draft of the survey. At that time the documents are sent to us and we are asked to revise the survey and show them. While this is not the way it is planned, at least we have the chance to review the documents before issuing the final version of the survey. Depending on what is found in the title documents, there may be significant additional work needed. (This is the reason that this work should be done early in the process – to minimize non-contracted work and possible cost negotiations at the end of the job.)
“ALTA” in ALTA Survey stands for the American Land Title Association
So, if you are working on a commercial parcel or a large multi-family residential project in the metro Atlanta area, you should ask for the ALTA land survey standards to be used. You will also definitely want to do this if you are considering the purchase or development of a parcel outside your state. Most lenders will require this if you are seeking a loan on this type property, but an ALTA survey is recommended even if the bank doesn’t require it.
What are some of the requirements of the ALTA/ACSM Land Title Survey?
- Deeds and easements must be provided to the land surveyor prior to the survey
- The ALTA survey drawing should be a minimum size to accurately show the items found in the field
- All of the dimensions of the property must be shown so that the minimum survey precision can be met
- Show differences between the survey measurements and recorded measurements, if any
- The recorded documents or maps relied upon to perform the ALTA survey must be referenced on the survey drawing
- The type of monuments that occupies each property corners must be shown on the ALTA survey drawing
- Any evidence observed of any possession line over or onto the property must be shown
- Easements affecting the property must be shown on the drawing
- All improvements (fences, retaining walls, and buildings) will be shown on the survey drawing out to five-feet beyond the property boundary
- A contract between the owner and the land surveyor which authorizes the surveyor to proceed and providing payment to the surveyor
“Table A” mentioned above is a very important part of the ALTA survey contract. This table provides any additional items, beyond the normal survey information, that an owner or lender might be need to complete the title work and closing.