Planning a CRE transaction? Don’t forget the ALTA survey.

ramaker insights

Planning a CRE transaction? Don’t forget the ALTA survey.

civil engineering

ALTA surveys matter for CRE purchases. Here’s why.


Ask any commercial lender or title insurance provider: Details matter in commercial real estate transactions.

When it comes to boundary surveys, ALTA/NSPS surveys are among the most detailed. By providing insights into zoning codes, land use, boundaries, and potential risks, ALTA surveys help buyers, lenders, developers, designers, and legal professionals navigate commercial real estate purchases with confidence.

In this post, we explain why ALTA land title surveys have become a necessary due diligence practice for commercial real estate transactions. We outline why ALTA surveys matter, what they cover, and when they’re needed.

Why ALTA surveys matter for commercial real estate transactions


If a lender is involved in your commercial real estate transaction, you’ll probably need an ALTA survey.

Commercial property lenders require ALTA surveys for several reasons. Confirming property value. Investigating boundaries. Detailing previously unrecorded risks like encroachments and easements (or claims of easements). ALTA surveys give all parties involved a comprehensive look at the property. Owners and lenders can then decide whether or not they should move forward with acquisitions or loans.

But why ALTA surveys instead of other types of boundary surveys?

ALTA surveys are typically thought of as the most rigorous land surveys because they adhere to national requirements set by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). These standards serve as a useful reference for all parties involved in commercial real estate or vacant land purchases. They keep everyone on the same page.

Planning a CRE transaction? Don’t forget the ALTA survey.

ALTA surveys, explained


ALTA/NSPS surveys (formerly known as ALTA/ACSM surveys) are detailed land surveys performed by qualified land surveyors. ALTA surveys have been around since 1962. These surveys were originally created with title insurance companies in mind. After ALTA surveys, title insurers could remove standard survey exceptions from policies. Since 1962, the standards for ALTA land title surveys have been revised several times. The most recent updates to these standards took place in February 2021.

Today, many parties benefit from ALTA surveys, including owners, lenders, title insurance providers, and legal professionals.

The purpose of an ALTA survey is to help buyers and lenders avoid liabilities related to property boundary disputes, encroachments, and easements. Finished surveys include an accurate parcel map, outline existing aspects of the property, and detail the licensed surveyor’s observations. They may also provide information about coverage in the title commitment, utilities, and public access.

Read our introduction to ALTA surveys for more information about what sets ALTA land title surveys apart from other types of boundary surveys.

ALTA surveys and Table A items


ALTA surveys also give decision-makers a chance to negotiate with the land surveyor and include specific Table A items. Exploring optional Table A items can provide insights into zoning considerations, flood hazards, topography, parking, and more.


When to schedule an ALTA survey


Most lenders require owners to schedule an ALTA survey before approving a loan to complete a commercial real estate or vacant lot transaction. By commissioning ALTA surveys before the purchase is finalized, buyers and lenders are protected from assuming potential liabilities.

It’s important to note that ALTA land title surveys are not always necessary. If your transaction does not include a lender or title insurance company, other types of boundary surveys may suffice. Before deferring an ALTA survey, weigh the costs of due diligence against the potential risk of remediation costs.

If you’re purchasing with development in mind, you may also consider conducting an ALTA survey after your project is completed. A professional surveyor can determine if your property complies with zoning laws and ordinances and observe any conflicts with the original A&E design plans and drawings.

Planning a CRE transaction? Don’t forget the ALTA survey.

ALTA/NSPS surveys in Wisconsin


ALTA surveys are a vital part of today’s commercial real estate transactions. Need an experienced team of surveyors to protect your purchase? Request an ALTA survey from Ramaker here.

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