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.

Boundary Surveys Vs. Topographic Surveys


Land Survey Map

There are many types of land surveys you can have done on your property, each of which has its own purposes and uses. Two of these are boundary surveys and topographic surveys. Often, one or both of these surveys are necessary if you are looking to purchase, sell, or develop a parcel of land. Here, we’ll go over the uses of these two surveys and how they differ.


Boundary Surveys


A boundary survey does basically what the name implies: it plots out the boundary lines of a parcel of land. This is important when buying or selling land since it provides specific information about where the property ends and where it begins. This helps keep improvements from encroaching on other properties and ensures a fair sale.

In addition to pinning down the precise boundary lines, many types of boundary surveys provide extra information, such as:

• The locations of any easements (permissions to enter or cross the property, such as for utilities)
• Encroachments, or improvements on other properties that intrude into the plot
• Limitations, including zoning regulations

Certain boundary surveys, such as ALTA/NSPS surveys, will include even more information in accordance with ALTA and NSPS standards.


Topographic Surveys


One bit of information that many boundary surveys do not provide is topographical data, or the elevations and contours of the land described in the deed. These surveys will also provide information on any structures on the land, both man-made and natural. This is especially useful for those who intend to develop the land since it gives detailed information on where different features are located.

Features shown on a topographic survey may include:

• Trees
• Slopes, hills, valleys, and other changes in elevation
• Streams and rivers
• Buildings
• Streets and walkways
• Utility poles
• Manholes
• Fences and walls

The elevations on the land are shown on a map as contour lines. Construction contractors, engineers, and architects use this type of map to design and plan improvements to the land.

Contact Votex Surveying Company for assistance with land, topographic, or any type of surveying services you need.