Surveys - What Everyone Needs to Know

      Survey issues lead the list of calls and questions that affect closings and post-closing concerns in both commercial and residential transactions.  The definitions and guidelines in this article will help Realtors, lenders and their clients understand products and issues.

Types of Surveys

(1)  Improvement Location Certificate (ILC)  Not a survey at all!  This product is an educated representation of the improvements as they relate to property lines and easements.  Not “certified”, so the surveyor has very limited liability.  Usually accepted by a title company to delete Schedule B-2 Exceptions 2 and 3 and to provide Endorsement 100 to lenders and extended coverage to purchasers in residential transactions.  An ILC may not be acceptable to provide survey coverage on owner’s policies or in commercial transactions.

(2)  Boundary Survey or Improvement Survey

       (a)   The boundary survey is a certified representation of the location of boundary lines.  The property corners are “surveyed” and set in accordance with minimum surveyor’s standards. Encroachments of improvements across boundary lines are disclosed, and the surveyor has liability for representations on survey.

        (b)  An improvement survey is a boundary survey which also surveys the improvements.  These are the surveys typically required by a title company when survey coverage is requested for commercial property or unimproved acreage. 

 (3)  ALTA Survey  The Cadillac of surveys!  This is an improvement survey in which the surveyor makes more representations as to the location of “off property” matters such as the location of the the nearest sewer lines, water lines, electrical boxes, etc.  The surveyor has greater liability due to the extent of the certification.  The survey is prepared according to a very restrictive standard. 

Cost is often a factor in determining survey standards - the ALTA survey is more expensive due to the time and standards of preparation.  The ALTA survey is generally a requirement of a major commercial transaction, and may actually be specified by  the contract.


Here’s what the title company generally reviews on the ILC:

(1)  Are there encroachments…i.e., do buildings encroach across boundary lines or into easements?

(2)  Does the legal description match the description on the title commitment?

(3)  Is the survey dated?  Generally, a survey should be within 6 months of the closing date.  If construction is in progress or recently completed, a completion survey is needed.

(4)  Do the easements shown match Schedule B-2 of the commitment?

(5)  For lenders:  does the property address on the survey match the loan documents?

(6)  Fences:  No guidelines exist for ILC’s. If fences are shown, then they probably are not on the      property line, and a problem may exist.

(7)  Any survey (other than an ILC) should be certified to the title company, lender and purchaser.