New ALTA Survey Standards from ALTA/ACSM

The ALTA Survey Standards have been revised and are effective February 23, 2016. Recently, committees from both the NSPS and ALTA ALTA Survey Standardsmet to review and approve the upcoming standards.

The National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS), which is the trade organization representing surveyors nationwide, has replaced the American Congress on Surveying & Mapping (ACSM).

ALTA is the American Land Title Association,  and is the trade association and national voice of the abstract and title insurance industry.

Changes to the ALTA Survey Standards

The NSPS website has a “Summary of Significant Wording Changes” document, which spells out changes to the ALTA survey standards from the 2011 edition to the 2016 edition. Some of the noted changes are:

  • Expands on documents to be provided to the surveyor and clarifies what the surveyor is to do if not provided with samensps-logo
  • Requires the location of observed buildings on the property
  • Requires only monuments on the same side of a right-of-way to be located for streets
  • Gives an access caviat for locating improvements near the property boundaries and reason for non accessibility
  • Further adds to and expands the survey of easements and servitudes and noting of such
  • Limits the extent of cemetery location to the perimeter
  • Allows the surveyor to choose the Degree of Precision for measurements to be shown
  • Requires the current record legal description and any new legal description prepared to be shown on the map with differences noted
  • Building locations are to be dimensioned from boundary lines as deemed appropriate
  • Additions and changes to the Presentation of the survey drawing or map
  • Digital images of the plat or map may be used in lieu of hard copies
  • Revises Table A items which may be requested by clients

While none of these are major changes, surveyors AND those ordering an ALTA survey should be aware of them.

One item that remains as an option on Table A, is the professional liability insurance item for the particular survey project.

Many surveyors don’t carry professional liability insurance because of the expense of this type of insurance. This will significantly change the price of an ALTA survey if the item is checked.

Surveyors and Clients should discuss the Table A items in detail each time anyway, but this is a big red flag that should be addressed. We’ll see how this continues to play out.

Qualification Based Selection (QBS) for Alabama ALTA Surveys

Those ordering ALTA surveys in Alabama should be aware of the recent tightening of the requirements for NO BIDDING by surveyors as communicated by the Alabama Board of Licensure. This puts a land surveyors license in jeopardy if he/she bids on a project.

Maps & Resources for ALTA Surveys in Alabama

Subdivision Development: Issues We Face

Developing a subdivision is a somewhat complicated job. Land Surveyors and Engineers face many obstacles during the process of subdividing a parcel of land. One more has just been added to the mix.

According to a recent email that I received from our local City Planner and City Engineer about a meeting they had with the new USPS local postmaster, subidivision developers must now get the “mode of mail delivery” approved by the local Postmaster. AND, that approved mode will likely not include curbside mail boxes. The postmaster sent them a letter to backup his opinion and plan for this process. In part, it says



Some Popular Land Surveying Myths Debunked

Land surveying is an important process for land owners. A land survey helps find information on properties and pieces of land that otherwise may not be found. Unfortunately, not a lot of people appreciate land surveying. In fact, some people even think that land surveying is not important at all.

Here are some popular land surveying myths and the truth about them:

If I can find the stakes, I don’t need a land survey – A lot of people seem to think that finding the stakes around their property is good enough. Not really. Finding stakes around your property indicates that there may have been surveying done on it, but that’s it. In actuality the stake isn’t the corner.

Corners are required to be metal if they have been placed within the last 20 years or more. The stake doesn’t tell you what kind of survey has been made, or what the results of the survey are. It can’t even tell you if the surveying has indeed been done on your property or your neighbour’s. Not all lots are rectangular. In fact most are not. I’ve seen dozens of times where a pin was used for building a fence and the true corner was 5 to 20 feet away.

Encroaching over property lines rarely happens – It does happen, a lot in fact. There are too many instances when an owner decided to have his property surveyed for an entirely different reason, and the surveyor found out that he is in fact encroaching into his neighbour’s property or vice-versa. This causes many problems and tests even the best of neighbours. I personally know TWO people who have had heart attacks over land disputes.

The fence line is the property line – not always true. In fact, not even close to being always true. Fences in town may “usually” be on the property line. BUT, in a lot of cases they are not. It just depends on how detailed the fence installer or previous land owner were when constructing the fence. In rural settings, fences are only sometimes on the property lines.

When farmers or land owners ran fences in the past they sometimes “meandered” or went from tree to tree. The tree wasn’t always on the line but it saved the land owner putting up a fence post. The only way to know is to have the line surveyed. A word of caution here, sometimes fences that are not challenge over a long period of time can become the property line. This process is called adverse possession.

Consider having your land surveyed an investment. How much cheaper is a $500 survey compared to paying thousands of dollars to have your entire fence moved a few feet to the right?

For land surveying in Auburn, Alabama, call Pro17 Engineering at (888) 776-3610 or send us a message using our contact form. 

ALTA Title Survey

ALTA Title Survey | ALTA Boundary Survey

An ALTA Title Survey is completed based on the “Minimum Standard Detail Requirements and Accuracy Standards For ALTA/ACSM Land Title Surveys.” This standard document was developed and is revised on a regular basis by a combination of Title industry and Surveying industry professionals. The latest version of this document is the 2011 revision.

ALTA Title SurveyAn ALTA Title Survey is generally similar to a boundary or lot survey on a piece of property. But, the ALTA survey goes a little farther in the requirements on the land surveyor as he/she carries out the survey, both in the field and in the office.

ALTA Title Surveys are generally used on commercial or multi-family residential sites and also when either the lender or owner is in another state jurisdiction. The ALTA standards are somewhat of a “national standard” for surveying, intended to yield a consistent survey no matter what state the work is done in.

While most States have surveying standards, they vary widely from one state to the other. So, the ALTA standard is used to cut down on this variation.

Since ALTA Surveys take more time and effort, 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 200% 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.

In regard to this, one of the things I appreciate is that the client is “supposed 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 its planned, at least we have the chance to review the documents before issuing the final version of the survey.

So, if you have a commercial parcel or a large multi-family residential complex, you should consider asking for the ALTA survey standards to be used. You should also probably do this if you are considering the purchase or development of a parcel outside your state. Most of the banks will require this if you ask for a loan on this type property, but I recommend this even if the bank doesn’t require it.

If we can help you with an ALTA Title Survey in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact us at Pro17 Engineering at (334) 826-9540 or fill out our contact form on our Contact page.


How Important is Land Surveying in Today’s World?

land surveying

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Most of you have probably never thought about land surveying until you needed it at some point. Many of us hear about land surveying all the time but never really give it much thought.

Since an investment in land and/or a home will likely be the largest investment you will ever make in your lifetime, knowing where your property lines are becomes very important indeed.

The art of land surveying was developed centuries ago. In fact, it’s one of the oldest professions in the world. The fact that it was used by man at such an early time and is still being used now shows how important surveying is to our survival.

The Many Uses of Land Surveying

Surveying land has many uses. Boundary surveying, for instance, allows you to know where your property corners or property lines are. This is especially helpful when disputes with a neighbour or with other people arise in terms of where your property ends.

If your family wants to divide a tract of land and transfer ownership to other family members, a boundary survey is the first step to do so. If you’re having a building constructed, it is very important that you have the land surveyed to make sure that you are not encroaching onto other peoples’ property.

A mistaken building location is very expensive to fix so you might as well invest in a boundary survey to prevent this.

A topographic survey, or topo survey for short, is another important type of land surveying. A topo survey is done to locate natural and man-made features on a particular parcel of land. A topographic survey is different in that the elevation of the land is surveyed which means it can show man-made underground features, retaining walls, utility lines and etc.

Before you start any kind of construction activity, it’s important to have a topo survey done in the area so they’ll have an accurate record of the land’s existing conditions. Yes, that spot with the new mall in the neighbourhood had to have a topo survey done first.

Now, a flood survey or flood determination – this is very important too. It isn’t evident just looking at a property whether you are at risk of flooding or not. And, in some cases, even looking at the flood maps doesn’t give you an accurate answer. The flood survey determines the elevation of the home and compares that to the base flood elevation.

This is the only way to be sure you’re not in a flood hazard zone. If you’ve just been told that you live in a flood-prone area, having that confirmed by a professional land surveyor would let you know how to best proceed.

When getting flood insurance, insurance companies would require an elevation certificate from you. A land surveyor would be able to assist you with this.

If a company wants to invest in another state, or if there is a national lender on a commercial project, they will likely need an ALTA Land Title Survey done before anything is constructed. An ALTA Land Title Survey is a lot like a regular boundary survey except that nationally accepted ALTA Standards are used to guide the surveying effort.

Land surveying standards vary widely from state to state and an ALTA Land Title Survey is used to cut down on this variation. Also, an ALTA Land Title Survey typically is more involved than the state standards variety. Because of this, an ALTA survey can be more anywhere from 50% to 200% more expensive than using the state standards only.

If you need this type of survey, I suggest seeking an experienced land surveying company who is familiar with these additional requirements.

In summary, there are many uses for land surveying and for seeking the services of a land surveyor. If you’re unsure of your situation, consult Pro17 Engineering at (334) 826-9540 today or go to the Contact page and send us an email.