All You Need to Know About ALTA/NSPS Surveys

March 23, 2024

Today’s real estate environment is constantly changing, making tools like ALTA/NSPS Surveys an essential part of any property transaction. For those who are not versed in real estate dealings, the terminologies and processes around these surveys can initially appear complicated and daunting.

Despite these complexities, ALTA/NSPS surveys play a pivotal role in securing a proper understanding of a property’s condition and limits. Hence, our mission in this discussion is to unravel the intricacies of these surveys for everyone. We’ll be breaking down the concept, components, and implications of ALTA/NSPS surveys into easy-to-understand terms, underlining their importance in making informed decisions in real estate.

Understanding ALTA/NSPS Surveys

ALTA/NSPS surveys offer a comprehensive insight into a property’s details, crucial for real estate transactions.

What Are ALTA/NSPS Surveys?

ALTA/NSPS surveys are a breed of land surveying with high detail recognition, governed by the cooperation of two major organizations: the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors.

The Purpose of ALTA/NSPS Surveys

The goal of these surveys is to give a clear, detailed picture of a property’s limits and the rights and responsibilities tied to it.

  • Understanding Property Boundaries: Show the exact lines that delineate where one property ends and another begins.
  • Identifying Easements and Rights-of-Way: Easements may grant others access or use parts of the property, and rights-of-way can affect where you can build or alter the landscape.
  • Revealing Possible Encroachments: If a neighbor’s building, fence, or other structure spills over the property line, it’s vital to know.

The Unique Aspects of ALTA/NSPS Surveys

ALTA/NSPS surveys go beyond regular surveys by uncovering both the seen and unseen aspects of a property.

  • Enhanced Detailing: Not just about boundary lines but also includes the location of buildings, improvements, and utilities.
  • Legal Considerations: Address legal matters like property ownership, land use, and zoning restrictions.
  • Precision and Compliance: These surveys adhere to a strict set of national standards, ensuring uniformity and precision.
Topographic Survey Theodolite.

Tools Used in ALTA/NSPS Surveys

Specialized tools are essential for the precision and comprehensiveness required in ALTA/NSPS surveys.

Geographic Information Systems (GIS)

GIS technology is like a high-tech map-making tool, merging maps with important data for a full property analysis.

  • Data Collection: GIS helps gather detailed information about the land.
  • Data Management: Organizes large amounts of location-specific information.
  • Data Analysis: Analyzes the layered data to provide insights into property characteristics.

Global Positioning System (GPS)

GPS tools tell surveyors the exact spot on Earth where property features are located.

  • Accuracy: Provides precise location data to within a few centimeters.
  • Efficiency: Speeds up the survey process by quickly finding property features.
  • Integration: Works with GIS for a complete and accurate property overview.

Data Collection Process

A systematic process ensures reliable information for ALTA/NSPS surveys, covering all aspects of the property.

Collection of Property Information

Gathering complete details about the property is a fundamental aspect of the survey.

  • Boundary Data: Locates the exact edges of the property.
  • Neighboring Property Relationships: Looks at physical connections and potential problems with nearby lands.
  • Land Improvements: Documents all buildings, fences, paths, and other alterations to the property.

Identification of Unique Aspects

Understanding unique aspects can help avoid potential legal or practical problems later on.

  • Possible Encroachments: Searches for any structures that might have crossed from a neighbor’s property onto the surveyed one.
  • Easements: Maps out any paths or areas that others have the legal right to use.

Expertise Required

Professional competence is a must for conducting a thorough and accurate ALTA/NSPS survey.

Licensing Requirement

Being authorized to carry out such precise surveying comes with its own mandated prerequisites.

  • Professional Accreditation: Surveyors should be licensed, proving they have the necessary training and knowledge.
  • Experience: Previous hands-on experience can ensure a more accurate and efficient survey.

Knowledge of Survey Standards

Surveyors need to have a deep understanding of survey guidelines and conform to them.

  • Legal Descriptions: Interpreting legal definitions of property boundaries is vital for accuracy.
  • Recognition of Easements: Identification of legal rights others might have on the property.
  • Identification of Potential Issues: Spotting possible encroachments or any other form of potential problems is crucial for the advisory role of a surveyor.

Importance in Real Estate Transactions

ALTA/NSPS surveys provide important insights that support informed decision-making in property transactions.

Disclosing Potential Problems

An ALTA/NSPS survey uncovers possible issues that could complicate the sale or purchase of a property.

  • Boundary Disputes: Identifies if any conflict exists regarding property borders.
  • Title Issues: Detects any anomalies or irregularities that might affect property ownership.

Guiding Buyers, Sellers, and Lenders

This type of survey plays a crucial role in offering relevant information to all the involved parties.

  • Buyer Guidance: Provides a clear portrait of what buyers are purchasing.
  • Seller Assurance: Helps sellers confirm that they’re selling what they believe they own.
  • Lender Confidence: Ensures lenders that their investment is protected.

Facilitating Smooth Property Transfer

By identifying and addressing issues in advance, these surveys enhance the ease of property transactions.

  • Transaction Clarity: Details of the survey provide clarity and eliminate ambiguity, leading to smooth transactions.
  • Preemptive Problem-Solving: Potential problems are identified and can be addressed before completing the sale, reducing the risk of future issues.
Man holding a blueprint of the land.

Key Components of ALTA/NSPS Surveys

ALTA/NSPS surveys involve a thorough examination of several integral factors, producing a detailed portrait of the property.

Accurately Marking Boundary Lines

Delineating the property’s exact extent is critical in an ALTA/NSPS survey.

  • Precision: Ensures the boundary lines precisely match the legal description.
  • Clarity: Provides an unambiguous view of the property limits.

Identifying Established Rights of Easement and Encroachments

Knowing established rights and potential intrusions is necessary for lawful property use.

  • Easements: Finds any legal rights that others might have to use part of the property.
  • Encroachments: Looks for any structures from neighboring properties that might be intruding onto the surveyed property.

Assessing Zoning Classifications

Understanding zoning codes help to recognize possible implications on property usage.

  • Zoning Codes: Determines the property’s zoning classification which dictates how the land can be used.
  • Potential Restrictions: Identifies any zoning laws that may restrict property use or future development.

Determining Flood Zone Statuses

Knowledge of flood zones can indicate potential risks and insurance needs.

  • Flood Zones: Identifies whether the property lies in a flood risk area.
  • Implications: Helps to understand the insurance requirements and potential challenges of the property’s location.

Compliance with ALTA/NSPS Standards

Compliance with ALTA/NSPS Standards

Strict compliance with ALTA/NSPS standards guarantees the quality and reliability of survey results, benefiting all involved parties in property transactions.

Adherence to Guidelines

Following established guidelines from reputed organizations like ALTA and NSPS ensures uniformity and professionalism in the surveys.

  • Standard Practices: Compliance with these guidelines signifies that the survey follows recognized standard practices.
  • Reliability: Standard guidelines are designed to provide accurate and dependable results, hence adherence ensures that the report is trustworthy.

Advantages for Legal and Insurance Purposes

Sticking to ALTA/NSPS standards can offer several legal and insurance benefits.

  • Legal Considerations: Compliance helps in creating legally sound documents that can assist in resolving any potential property disputes.
  • Insurance Requirements: Insurers usually require surveys to be done as per recognized standards, making these compliant surveys more valuable in securing insurance policies.

Assurance for Buyer and Lender

Survey results carried out according to ALTA/NSPS standards provide reassurance to both buyers and lenders.

  • Buyer Confidence: Buyers can rest assured knowing they have a precise understanding of their potential property.
  • Lender Security: Lenders require accurate data on the property serving as security for their loan. Survey compliance provides such dependable information.

Cost Considerations

Carrying out an ALTA/NSPS survey comes with certain financial considerations, with its comprehensive nature often justifying the costs.

Price Comparison with Other Surveys

ALTA/NSPS surveys can be pricier than other alternatives but offer unprecedented detail.

  • Higher Costs: Due to their in-depth nature, these surveys typically have a higher upfront cost.
  • Value for Money: The level of detail provided by these surveys often makes them a worthwhile investment.

Factors Influencing Cost

Various elements can impact the final cost of an ALTA/NSPS survey.

  • Size and Complexity: Larger or more complex properties will require more extensive efforts and thus, demand higher survey costs.
  • Legal Issues: If potential legal complications are anticipated, the cost could increase due to the additional time and expertise needed to address them.
  • Market Conditions: Fluctuating market trends can also influence the pricing of these surveys.
Two man surveying a land.


Opting for an ALTA/NSPS survey is a fundamental step for anyone involved in property transactions. These surveys delve deep to uncover crucial property details, offering a safety net against hidden complications. The detailed results serve as a powerful tool, guiding smart decisions and preventing nasty surprises during a deal.

So, while the investment might seem significant at first, the reliable picture of a property’s legal boundaries, rights, and restrictions it offers is invaluable. For peace of mind when buying or selling property, securing a qualified surveyor like Highland Surveying to perform an ALTA/NSPS survey is undoubtedly a wise move. Highland Surveying’s expertise and attention to detail ensure that your property transaction is based on the most accurate and reliable information available, making them an excellent choice for your surveying needs.