Before you ever secure a land lot, you must ensure that problems won't surprise you after you've gone through the purchase process. Surveys done in accordance with the American Land Title Association (ALTA) can produce land and property details that give you a fuller picture about a parcel before money changes hands. An ALTA survey is especially handy in the following property situations.

1. Purchasing Especially Large Plots

Whether you're wanting to get a huge parcel to split it up later or you plan to build multiple structures on a big lot, you're unlikely to walk off every single square foot of space. If you're buying acres and acres of land, however, someone should do a survey for it. Ponds, flood zones, and other things need to be inspected and are part of an ALTA survey. A surveyor can give you the lowdown on where water pools and what kind of soil exists in each part of a parcel, and they can verify other topographical information. This will enable you to ask a seller about specific land issues before agreeing to any contract.

A survey is also useful because it will lay out all the utilities, fences, and easements on a large property. None of this might affect you now, but being able to know what is and isn't yours to build on is important. An easement with the state or a utility company could prevent you from fulfilling certain plans, for instance. A road that is owned by your township could affect what you do with the surrounding area. If there is a fence along one side of the property, that will also require more attention; you'll have to research the history of the fence to see if it's aligned with current property boundaries or whether an informal agreement allowed the fence to be put where it is. All of these issues will come out during an ALTA survey.

2. Inheriting a Property

If you're not buying anything but have acquired a parcel you know nothing about, an ALTA survey is beneficial. Even if you don't have any plans to sell, your ability to find out about the particular lot could help you make other decisions. You might decide after a survey that you do want to sell the lot; the information revealed by the survey could help you realize that you shouldn't sell the lot. The more property information you have, the better your decision-making regarding the lot can be.