Guide to the New 2021 ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards

Every 5 years, the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS) and the American Land Title Association (ALTA) review the Minimum Standard Detail Requirements for ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys and adopt revisions. The new 2021 ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards go into effect on February 23, 2021 and supersede the 2016 requirements.

What does this mean?

All ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey contracts authorized after this date will need to abide by the new standards. Also, any survey that needs an update, will require a survey field visit to complete the update and meet the new Minimum Standard Detail Requirements.

In this post, we’ll outline the key changes and how they may impact you.  We will also provide some general information on ALTA surveys.

Let’s start with the basics:

What is an ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey?

ALTA/NSPS Land Title Surveys, more commonly referred to as ALTA surveys, depict a land surveyor’s findings of a parcel in a detailed map. An ALTA survey identifies property boundaries, easements, encroachments, improvements, local zoning information, and flood zone designations. They help identify potential issues that may affect the value or future use of a property. 

When do I need an ALTA Survey?

Most lenders, title insurers, and attorneys require an ALTA Survey as part of real estate transactions, especially for commercial, industrial, and large residential properties.

To protect your investment, you should have an ALTA performed when:

  • Purchasing commercial real estate.
  • Planning for future development.
  • Considering a different use.
  • Involving multiple users.
  • The property is located in urbanized or growing suburban areas.
  • There is a lack of previous ownership transition and documentation.

What does an ALTA Survey cost?

The cost is mostly dependent on the Table A Optional Survey Responsibilities and Specifications. If you need an ALTA survey, the first thing a surveyor will ask for, are the Table A requirements. These can be obtained from your lender or bank and will outline what is needed in the survey. Items on the list can swing the price of the survey by $2,000-$3,000. That’s why it’s critical for you to have these requirements identified before requesting a proposal from a surveyor.

Table A options play a big part in the scope of your ALTA survey. The new changes affect them, so now let’s take a look at what’s new.

The New 2021 ALTA/NSPS Survey Standards

What’s new?

  • On the Table A, instructions now allow for negotiation in wording and fee between the Surveyor and the Client. This leads to problems and miscommunication. That’s why it’s important to have a mutually agreed upon contract with the scope of work, executed prior to performing the field work.
  • Item #18 of Table A regarding off-site easements has been revised. As part of the minimum standards, off-site boundaries that benefit the property will be surveyed. However, if you want improvements within the easements depicted, you will want to check this box.

New requirements imposed on the Client:

  • Table A Option 11 regarding the evidence of underground utilities has been edited and been reduced to two options. If Option 11 is checked off, the client must either provide plans indicating where underground utilities are located or contract the surveyor to coordinate with utility companies to obtain the information. The 811 utility locate option was removed as it was not considered to be reliable. This may lead to both increased cost and time for the ALTA survey.

New requirements imposed on the Surveyor:

  • A minor change to the minimum standards, utility poles now need to located within 10 feet of the property, it was previously 5 feet.
  • Also, tax parcels are now required for non-platted adjoining properties.

Both of these changes offer more clarification to a property’s surroundings.

Items no longer required:

  • #18 – Wetlands mapping has been removed from the Table A. Surveyors are no longer required to locate and map wetlands delineation markers. Because this was often misinterpreted by clients and it is not part of a surveyor’s expertise, the entire item has been removed.

One additional item worth noting:

  • Zoning items (Items 6a & 6b) on the Table A. While this is not a new requirement for the client (it was actually an update in 2016), it has been an area of confusion since then that can cause last minute headaches. Zoning is no longer the surveyor’s responsibility. If your lender requires either 6a, 6b, or both, you will need to provide the surveyor with a zoning letter, and well before the expected completion of your ALTA survey!

If you own, plan to buy, or lend against commercial real estate, it’s good to be aware of these changes. Knowing what to anticipate and what you may need to provide can help expedite the processing of your ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey.

Download a copy of the NEW 2021 ALTA/NSPS Land Title Survey Standards & Table A.

Nave Newell has an expert team of land surveyors available to walk you through the process and changes and quickly expedite your ALTA and other survey needs.

Contact our Survey Department Manager, Matt Kelly at [email protected] or 610-265-8323.