What is an ALTA Survey and When Can You Use a Commercial Mortgage Location Survey Instead

The purchase of commercial real estate can be complicated and involves a significant investment, so buyers must exercise due diligence to be sure they are getting exactly what they are paying for – and a land survey does just that. But what type of land survey should you use?

Typically contracted by the title company, lender, or attorneys representing involved parties for commercial property purchases, refinances, or improvements, an ALTA or ALTA/NSPS Survey is based on standards put forth jointly by the American Land Title Association and the National Society of Professional Surveyors. By utilizing a universal standard, an ALTA survey provides confidence that results are guaranteed.

While these surveys are more expensive than the other types, they reveal much more extensive information about real property and help to protect a real property investment. ALTA Surveys can safeguard your commercial real estate investment from claims that a simple title search or more basic survey may not disclose and, ultimately, help to identify the potential benefits and downfalls of ownership.

Title insurance companies and/or lenders typically require an ALTA Survey to be performed whenever a piece of commercial property is being refinanced or exchanging hands. Commercial real estate can come with certain “survey risks,” including boundary line disputes, encroachments, or easements or claims of easements not found in public records, and an ALTA Survey can help identify these risks before the purchase. 

A commercial MLS is a low-cost alternative to an ALTA Survey, although it also sacrifices some accuracy. It is usually up to the lender and underwriter as to whether an ALTA Survey is required. The commercial mortgage location survey follows the same state standards as a residential mortgage location survey, so the lender must be willing to accept these standards in place of the ALTA standards.

Although a commercial MLS may cost significantly less than an ALTA Survey, an ALTA Survey provides information about property boundaries and easements, as well as improvements such as fences, trails, roads, rights of ways, and other features on the property that may affect ownership of the property. Investing in a land survey is an investment in peace of mind, both now, and down the road that your largest investment is accurately documented and protected. At McSteen Land Surveyors we bring more than 50 years of experience to each real estate transaction. Contact us today to let us help you determine which type of survey best protects your commercial real estate purchase.


Buying Real Estate in Our New Normal
A Brief Guide to Land Surveying

Interested in a Career at McSteen?

View Open Positions Learn More