Who Owns Urban America? A Methodology for Identifying Real Estate Owners
28 Pages Posted: 20 Jul 2022
Date Written: May 12, 2022
Scholars and practitioners are increasingly interested in understanding who owns real estate in communities and the implications for approaches to planning and other public policy. Yet, practitioners lack an efficient and comprehensive methodology to assess ownership patterns. Variegated ownership, multiple legal entities, siloed databases within government bureaucracies, and inconsistencies in spelling and documentation across data entries add significant time and search costs in identifying real estate ownership and its concentrations. To address these challenges, this study provides a data-driven solution. Using OpenRefine, an open-source software, we present a step-by-step methodology for amassing data, cleaning textual inaccuracy, and clustering properties to uncover the ownership structure in local housing markets. Using a large U.S. urban county—Fulton County in Georgia—the application of our proposed methodology demonstrates its superior efficiency, comprehensiveness, and accuracy, compared to traditional approaches.
Keywords: property records, text as data, real estate ownership, concentration, market power
JEL Classification: R12, R14, D23, G32, Q15
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation