All Things ALTA

We Conduct Hundreds of ALTA's Every Year

Westwood does several hundred ALTA surveys every year to support our clients and their land development, power generation, and large-scale corridor projects. ALTA surveys are an important part of the due diligence process, especially on high-value properties. The ALTA minimum standard survey requirements were updated back in 2016, but are worth looking into if you have a project that requires an ALTA survey.

On the right, we’ve listed our top 10 updates to the minimum standard requirements for ALTA surveys. Each provides detail on how the changes could impact projects. View the full revised and redlined ALTA Minimum Standards update here.

What is the value of an ALTA survey?

It is the things we can’t see that create the most risk.

Intrinsic to the buying and selling of real property, especially that which is of high value (i.e. shopping centers, development land, etc.), is the due diligence process by which owners and developers collect information in order to make an educated decision regarding the potential purchase of property. The due diligence process not only allows them to document things which may already be known, it also provides a means to mitigate risk by uncovering things that might otherwise be hidden. When buying or selling a piece of real property, one of the most overlooked parts of the due diligence process is the land survey.


Not all surveyors produce the same product.

To some, all surveys are created equal. While it would be nice if this were actually the case, the reality is that unless the owner or developer are deeply involved in the survey process, most don’t realize that the contents of a land survey are determined by a variety of factors. Some of these factors include who’s preparing the survey, what state or jurisdiction is the survey prepared in, and what the survey is being used for.  Unfortunately, not all surveyors produce the same product. Depending upon which state the survey is prepared in, there may be criteria already in place with regards to the preparation of a land survey. And, if the surveyor and client aren’t on the same page regarding what the survey is for, many times the survey ordered can be either lacking necessary information, or even worse, containing useless information.

ALTA surveys help to eliminate costly mistakes.

The Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys have become the bridge that has allowed all of the parties involved in a real estate transaction to understand a piece of real property on common terms. By creating a national set of standards for land surveys, the owner, surveyor, attorney, and Title Company are all in sync when it comes to understanding the matters that affect a particular piece of property. In addition, ALTA surveys also provide a consistent framework for the preparation and presentation of the survey, helping to eliminate costly mistakes, such as missing or unnecessary information.

More tools for the negotiating process.

For years, buyers and sellers of property have commonly regarded ALTA surveys as being a means to an end; a necessary evil to satisfy title insurance endorsements or lending requirements. However, smart investors understand the value of an ALTA survey as it relates to the due diligence process, giving them a tool to not only discover and address costly issues before it’s too late, but to provide valuable information that may contribute to the property negotiation process. Depending on the project, choosing an ALTA survey might be one of the best initial investment decisions an owner or developer can make.