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Demystifying ALTA Surveys: Pro Tips and Table A Items

Transact like a pro with the right ALTA Survey approach

As the 2021 ALTA Survey guidelines came into place, helping real estate professionals navigate the changes and demystify the hard-to-understand Table A items is key to successful deal closings. On a high level, a typical ALTA Survey process takes multiple steps in production by a team of specialists. The process includes document collection, record checking, field visit(s), drafting, reviewing, revision, and certification. Even with good planning, external factors could impact the scope, cost, and project schedule.

To minimize hiccups and keep your deals moving, here are the “pro tips” for a smooth, timely process, and answers to frequently asked questions about Table A items and the implications on how they may impact your deal.

Pro Tips for a Smooth Survey Process

1. The new ALTA standards is showing on all surveys beginning February 23rd, 2021. Any ALTA Survey drafted prior to this date will reflect the 2016 standards. If you would like your survey to reflect the new standards, you will need a new field date on or after February 23, 2021.

2. When you are considering placing an ALTA Survey order, a title report is recommended to be ordered at your earliest convenience. Forwarding your title commitments is necessary to meet your timeframe. If there is a delay in providing the title report, please forward a prior survey or a past title report to keep the project moving.

3. Consider the weather condition in the area of the subject property. If it is rainy, snowy, or even if there are high winds, the Surveyor cannot take his/her expensive equipment out in these conditions. Unforeseen poor weather conditions may affect your project timeframe.

Demystifying the Table A Items

1. Selecting either Table A item 6a or 6b means that the Client will provide the zoning report to the Surveyor. The Surveyor will use the information found in the zoning report to add the details and depict setback lines. Since getting a zoning report requires collaboration with local municipalities, it is prudent to get this ordered as soon as possible since response time may vary. Working with a firm that provides both surveys and zoning reports can expedite the process.

2. About Utilities

  • Observed evidence of above-ground utilities will continue to be included in the standard ALTA Survey quote. There is no need to check either Table A 11 items for above-ground utilities.
  • When Table A 11a is selected, it means that the Client will provide existing plans or reports of underground utilities to the Surveyor. The underground utilities will be depicted on the map.
  • When Table A 11b is selected, it means that the Client requires the Surveyor to contract a private utility locator. The Surveyor will set up a field date after the private locator has finished marking underground utilities in the field. The Surveyor will survey the property to include flags and markings during their fieldtrip. Also, the Surveyor will include the private utility locator’s contact information in the utility note. The utility locator is responsible for the accuracy of the information.

3. When Table A 18 is not marked, the surveyor will depict the outline or boundary of the offsite easement on the map. However, when item 18 is selected, the Surveyor will survey the offsite easement (parking, curbing, and any improvement) and depict the improvements within the easement on the map. This generally requires a substantially increased cost and a longer timeframe.

4. Table A item 20 is recommended when the client is requesting a design or development survey and they have very specific requirements. In this blank item, you can be as specific as necessary for your design scope.

Many factors determine the lead time, scope, and cost of an ALTA Survey project. Having good knowledge of the above items and promptly providing the necessary documents can help you save unnecessary stress when you are working with a tight timeframe. It is essential for all parties to refer to the latest 2021 guidelines as it became effective on February 23rd going forward. For a more in-depth change of the guidelines, please refer to Partner’s discussion here.