The definition of a property is something that has troubled many proptechs and users of property data for some time. The concept seems relatively simple until you try to write a definition.

Let’s consider, one definition might be:

“A property is a piece of land or building that is owned or possessed by someone or something.”

Great, we nailed it!

But then someone asks “what about leaseholds?”.

OK. Let’s modify the definition to something like,

“A property is a piece of land or building that can be owned or leased by someone or something.”

Seems to cover everything…

So does a sublet, like a desk or office in a co-working space, count as a property?

I can lease a granny flat, is that a property?

What about trailer parks? Is that one property or multiple properties for each site?

And the examples keep coming!

Eventually the conversation changes to just simply define everything as a property.

Why Can’t I Define Everything as a Property?

Defining everything as a “property” is definitely an option, but it has its own drawbacks.

Firstly, obtaining a deep understanding of a property when everything is a property would be difficult.

Integrations to other data sets is extremely difficult taking this approach, as the definition is quite fluid and can lead to inconsistent results.

For example, one data set may contain data on a granny flat and another on a main dwelling on the same parcel of land.

An address match would be used to link the two data sets, and attributes from the granny flat added to the main dwelling, which isn’t correct.

Another issue with defining everything as a property is alternate addresses, which could be mistaken for secondary dwellings, resulting in an over-classification of properties.

So, What is a Property?

Well, it depends. Consider,

  • If you are bank processing mortgage applications, what would a property mean in that context?
  • If you are a website listing private vacation stays, what would a property mean in that context?
  • If you are a website listing hotel accommodation, what would a property mean in that context?
  • If you are a website listing flat shares, what would a property mean, then?
  • If you are a government collecting statistics on the population, what would a property mean in that context?
  • If your customers were property developers, do they care about sub-lets or strata units?

There is no one definition of a property.

A property can be whatever it means to your business and your customers. But it is important to form a view, and be consistent in executing that approach. Inconsistency in approaches to handling the data can lead to data issues that can impact your business.

Tips when Deciding on a Definition of a Property

  • Generally, the broader the definition of a property used, the less depth of information is available.
  • Try to ensure you have integration attributes available for your definition so third party data sets can be integrated.
  • In most use cases, a property definition would align to one of the key concepts in property data: parcels, titles, addresses, or buildings. Read our post on the differences between parcels, titles, addresses and addresses.
  • Finally, extra caution needs to be taken when integrating with third-party property data sets to ensure definitions align, or the differences known and catered for. Research third party data sets using a source like to ensure you achieve your desired outcome.

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