ALTA Vs. Topographic Surveys

ALTA/NSPS surveys and topographic surveys are two common types of surveys performed on plots of land. Both surveys provide important information about the land, and each survey is useful under different circumstances. Choosing between the two depends on what you intend to do with the property since each is intended to provide specific information.


The ultimate purpose of an ALTA survey is to facilitate real estate transactions. More specifically, it provides information that is vital to making sure the transaction is fair. Information included on these surveys includes:

  • Boundaries
  • Improvements, such as buildings and other structures
  • Easements, which are rights of access by utilities, roads, etc.
  • Encroachments, which are intrusions by outside structures onto the property
  • Zoning restrictions
  • Flood zone areas

These surveys must comply with standards set by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors (NSPS). As such, they need to be done as precisely and thoroughly as possible, which is helpful when you’re buying or selling land. This ensures that the transaction is completely fair by keeping everyone fully aware of the land’s precise nature.

Topographic Surveys

A topographic survey is fairly straightforward in principle. With this type of survey, the surveyor draws a map of the land with contour lines to mark different elevations, thereby marking out valleys, hills, drainage, and so forth. Additional land features, such as buildings and other improvements, may also be mapped.

These surveys are a necessary part of construction planning since they provide vital information about the lay of the land, drainage, elevation changes, and so forth.

Choosing the Right Survey

Generally speaking, you need an ALTA survey when purchasing land and a topographic survey when planning construction. There are other uses for these as well, and in some cases, you may have both of these done, such as if you intend to develop a plot of land you are purchasing.

Naturally, you need skilled professionals to perform ALTA and topographic surveys. Votex Surveying Company offers skilled surveying services to suit a broad range of needs. Contact us at (469) 333-8831.

ALTA Surveys Vs. Regular Surveys

ALTA Surveying
ALTA Surveys Are Used for Real Estate Transactions, Titling, and Mortgages.


There are many types of surveys used when assessing a parcel of land. Among the most common are ALTA/NSPS surveys, called ALTA surveys for short. These surveys differ from more basic surveys in that they must provide highly specific information in accordance with strict standards. When deciding on the type of survey you need for your parcel of land, it helps to know the difference between ALTA surveys and regular border surveys.


Regular Border Surveys


The purpose of a regular border survey is simply to pin down the boundaries of the property. These surveys may also show the easements (permissions that allow others to use or cross the land) as well as other significant details.


These surveys are fairly basic, and as such, generally cost far less than an ALTA survey, but can still be costly for larger pieces of property. Border surveys are primarily necessary for construction and permits, though they also form a foundation for other types of surveys.


ALTA Surveys


ALTA surveys are a more advanced type of boundary survey and are used for mortgage, title insurance, and real estate transactions. ALTA surveys must adhere to very specific requirements set forth by the American Land Title Association (ALTA) and the National Society of Professional Surveyors.


ALTA/NSPS Requirements


These standards are intended to make real estate transactions as fair and comparable as possible. Some of the items that must be included in the survey are:


  • Easements, rights of way, and other encumbrances
  • Encroachments, or improvements on other pieces of property that intrude into the one being surveyed
  • Legal routes to access the property, such as public roads
  • Zoning setbacks, which are improvements that may be in violation of zoning laws
  • Flood zones
  • Water boundaries
  • Evidence of cemeteries
  • A legal description of the property along with plenty of preliminary research


ALTA surveys must be highly precise, meaning there is very little room for error when determining the boundaries and locations of improvements, encroachments, etc.


It takes highly precise equipment and extensive research to perform these surveys. When you need an ALTA survey, or any type of land survey, choose Votex Surveying Company to deliver an accurate, high quality work. Contact Votex today at (469) 333-8831 to discuss the details of your project.