The Value of the ALTA | NSPS Land Survey Standards

4 min read

It is often said that a “picture is worth a thousand words.” Real property is often composed of several pictures from years past. As a professional surveyor it’s my responsibility to bring all of the pictures related to your real property together to tell its story and to protect it.

The surveyor’s job isn’t to merely make a map and reflect observed evidence but to review and interpret title documents and survey evidence and convert what they say into a picture. Professional surveyors are not only trained and licensed, but also experienced and creative. They serve as experts in rendering professional opinions as to the locations of title boundaries and land features and relate how these affect the land or conflict with one another. A professional surveyor must relate the title boundaries and land uses in a manner that is visually appealing and easy to comprehend to create a picture that conveys the property’s story in a clear and concise format.

One of the greatest tools I’ve embraced as a professional surveyor to help tell these stories is the ALTA | NSPS Land Title Survey. The standards published by ALTA|NSPS have consistently strived to inform owners, land agents, attorneys, lenders, etc. about their properties and convey information that otherwise may be difficult to discern without the story telling expertise of an accomplished PEA surveyor. Using these requirements as a framework for my work not only allows me to deliver a consistent quality product, but it also provides an opportunity to proactively identify potential conflicts that could result in increased expenses later in the project. This attention to detail is consistent in all aspects of the project, including the adoption of new technology to assist with utility location services that are now required to be completed by the surveyor, not the client.

Using the ALTA | NSPS Land Title Surveys as a tool to convey the land’s story the surveyor and the client must be aware that the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA | NSPS Land Title Surveys undergo periodic reviews and updates with the most recent update taking effect this past February. In general, the current update works to clarify the client/surveyor relationship by specifically defining responsibilities for each.

Several areas within the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements which have historically required the surveyor to complete work or provide opinions on matters that are outside the surveyor’s area of expertise have been modified. These items now specifically state that the client is responsible for providing the surveyor with the information they wish to have referenced on the survey and note that it is pertinent to have these assessments or reports completed by qualified specialist. These particular sections are as follows:

  • Table A, Item 6 states that the client is responsible for providing the surveyor a zoning report containing the particular information the client wants referenced on the survey
  • Table A, Original Item 18 “Observed evidence of site use as a solid waste dump, sump or sanitary landfill” is no longer part of the standards
  • Table A, Item 18 was previously Item 19, wetlands, indicates that the client is to hire a qualified professional to delineate the wetlands and limits the surveyor’s responsibility to locating the observed delineation markers

With the exception of the research requirements under Section 4 these changes are Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications and are not required to be completed and in many instances may not be needed for your land transaction. If, however, your ALTA | NSPS Land Title Survey is part of a due diligence report or feasibility study and you need an environmental assessment, wetland delineation, zoning/planning review, underground utility locations, etc. PEA can coordinate the resources to support those needs.

Want to know more about how ALTA | NSPS Land Title Surveys can help protect your investment and how PEA can assist you or your clients with land transactions? Contact me today!

About the Author:

Chris Beland P.S., is responsible for leading land surveying activities for PEA’s Brighton office. Chris has been working in the land surveying industry for over 20 years. He has served the public as the Director of the State of Michigan’s Office of Land Survey and Remonumentation and worked throughout the years as a Department Manager, Project Manager and Project Surveyor. His surveying experience encompasses many facets of the industry including land development for residential, commercial|retail and education markets, route and right-of-way surveys for energy|utility, transportation and municipal clients. Chris specializes in land development with a focus on acquisitions and redevelopment.

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