objectives for this development. The development of these functions was also put high on the agenda as part of the recent dramatic political changes in eastern and central Europe. They were seen as very important steps in order to establish market oriented economies as well as strengthening democracy. The situation in the United States is very different. The US has a unique position among the most developed countries, having no state or federal system for land registration in a title system or computerized deeds system. Instead the property market relies on title insurance companies to provide stability and order. Public initiatives seem to be restricted to information about federal land.

He concludes that the American home owner is paying dearly for the inefficiencies in our real estate markets by paying extremely high property transaction costs because of the complexity in finding the needed property information.

Therefore, the development of nationally integrated land parcel data could provide private citizens with the benefits of increased access to property data and lower property transaction costs. Private citizens also benefit as a whole from the increased efficiency of government that would result from national data—for example, more effective emergency response operations.


Many changes have taken place over the past quarter of a century, but the list of benefits outlined by the 1983 NRC report remains relevant for all levels of government, the private sector, and individual citizens. Besides needing parcel data for their land management responsibilities, many federal agencies need parcel data to carry out their mission responsibilities. In fact, as discussed further in the next chapter, in the absence of nationally integrated land parcel data many of these agencies are collecting parcel data to more effectively manage their programs. State governments are realizing the benefits of having statewide parcel data systems for property assessment as well as other purposes and are beginning to create such systems. Private citizens would benefit from more efficient property transactions and from more effective government operations at all levels that would be facilitated by national land parcel data. Also, while some sectors of private industry have developed their own parcel databases to meet their own business needs, other companies are capitalizing on the growing interest in and needs for parcel data by creating data sets for sale.

It was no surprise that almost all federal- and state-level respondents to the web forum who produce parcel data believe that a national parcel database is necessary, while only slightly more than half of the local government producers saw the need for such a program. Many local governments create data for their own applications and may not understand how a national effort would benefit their own local use. It is also not surprising that the vast majority of respondents to the online forum who consume or use land parcel data are anxious to have a national program that would facilitate access to the data. This desire was expressed by public sector parcel data users from every level of government.

Certainly, the nature of the various entities’ needs regarding timeliness, coverage, and accuracy of land parcel data varies widely. For example, individuals are interested in data for a single property (e.g., its current value, a history of its owners). Some businesses want data that cover all or most of the country. Other users, such as those responding to disasters, need data for specific areas on very short time frames. Obviously no one system or database could meet all needs. Therefore the challenge of a national land parcel data program will be to meet the most basic needs while linking to parcel data producers who can provide access to more detailed data for those who need it.

Finally, many people believe that a national system of land parcel data is inevitable and it is important to move ahead, as illustrated in the following comments.

The task to achieve this would clearly be huge and costly but is something which must ultimately be done. A State based system which could then be integrated to a federal system may in

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