Marketing and cadastre
Thursday, 06 September 2007

The cadastral organizations in Europe and all over the world form part of public administration. In the market economy, the demand for data and services has radically been grown everywhere, but especially in the field of land and property registration.  At the institutions offering services, it is a real expectation that the income should possibly cover the whole budget.

Marketing in the land and property registration sector:
Hungarian and international issues

 András Osskó
Chairman FIG Commission 7 (Cadastre and Land Management)

The cadastral organizations in Europe and all over the world form part of public administration. It differs country by country that they belong to this or that supervisory authority or ministry, and also the data content of the cadastres is different too. But it is the same with all of them that they keep and maintain legal and mapping data, and they perform duties of an authority and a data provider too.
Marketing in the public administration? Marketing in this field has been unknown for quite a long time also in the developed countries, not mentioning those in the politically and economically less developed regions. 
Earlier, this was the situation in Hungary too, and many colleagues still nowadays dispute if marketing has place in public administration or in governmental organizations with duties of authority. The change of those opinions and the change in the practice happened first in the USA in the 70s, and developed European and Asian countries followed the newly set example.
What caused this change? The market economy required a reform of public administration to enable the State organizations cope with the changes and new challenges. What kind of demands is created by the reform? In this reform procedure, we have to make a difference between public administration itself and those State institutions, which – beyond being authorities – are also providing services to users and citizens against payment.
In the former case, it is about the slimming down of administration and the financial recognition of public servants. In the second case, at the organizations, which are providing services too – beyond the implementation of the reforms – it is also an expectation that the income generated by services should possibly cover the complete budget of the institution.
The question emerges: Could you fulfil this requirement? The answer: yes, because the demand for data and services has grown dramatically in the market economy, especially for data and services connected to land and property.
The maintenance and servicing of legal and mapping data of land and property have been the duty of State organizations both in Europe and in Hungary for long decades as it was provided by law; in fact, they have been and are also nowadays in a monopolistic position.
Traditionally, the cadastral institutions performed the duty of mapping data servicing and the Grundbuch/Land Book offices supplied data concerning proprietorship and other rights. But during the past couple of years, more and more countries have established their uniform land registration systems, they have merged the cadastre and land book, and one single institutional system has been performing all the mentioned duties. 
Moving towards market economy and coping with new challenges 
After the formation of active land markets and as a consequence of the growing demands for land and property data, next to the monopolistic State organizations also the competitors appeared in the private sphere: mostly due to the quick development of computer and information technology, they shortly became real rivals. This happened in spite of that fact that the rules of law kept on strengthening the monopolistic position of the State enterprises later as well. The data servicing State organizations of Western Europe recognized that if they do not adapt themselves to the new requirements, they can lose the advantages coming from their monopolistic position, and can fall back to the second place in the servicing market as this also happened in the USA. To avoid it, it was necessary first of all to improve the quality of data and servicing, form competitive prices, and marketing activity – that was not applied earlier in the governmental sphere – came into the limelight.
As a result of the recognitions and efforts, the majority of cadastral and land registration organizations in Western Europe successfully coped with the challenges. Without aiming at completeness, the following steps were made that proved to be successful:

  1. Monopolistic position provided by rules of law, which in fact oblige the user to use State owned data (it existed earlier too).
  2. Elaboration of marketing strategy, wide-ranging market research 
  3. Elaboration of user-friendly services, improving the quality of data and services 
  4. Developing the technology and using IT  
  5. Intensification of promotion and marketing activity 
  6. Forming the image of the organization and making publicity for it in wide circles 
  7. Regulation of forwarding value added products (based on the supplied data) to third parties 
  8. Recruiting colleagues in the cadastral organizations who are able to cover the new demands and perform according to new requirements. 

There will be some European examples introduced below, where the cadastral organizations successfully applied marketing, carried out those changes that correspond to the new requirements and met the demands of the users.
Though the following organizations are operating within different legal and institutional frameworks, but they are all able to satisfy the demands of the developed market economy by adapting the same principles in the field or marketing. This is very important for us, because it proves that it is not the first thing what legal or institutional frameworks are operating in the EU, but the priority is to satisfy the demands for constitutionality, an active land market and the demands of the users.
All listed organizations are in monopolistic position of servicing data related to land and property, in given cases of servicing mapping data or other information too.

European examples 

1. Dutch Cadastre (KADASTER) 
The Dutch Kadaster is introduced as the first and with many details. Namely, Kadaster is very similar to the legal and institutional system of the Hungarian uniform land registry. Kadaster’s duty is maintaining and servicing legal and mapping data relating to land and property. The Dutch Kadaster has been operating since 1812 as a governmental institution.
Since 1994, it has been an independent organization, it does not belong directly to any ministry; the Government exercises a limited supervision only.  It has been operating since 1994 like a large private institution. Similarly to other governmental institutions, Kadaster had no tradition with marketing either. They started their marketing activities at the beginning of the 90s. They went forward step-by-step, and nowadays marketing is as important part of their activities as that of other private servicing organizations.
The first step had to be made in the level of strategic decision-making. They determined the proportion of the Kadaster in the market and among users in the field of servicing land and property information, considering its monopolistic position. They investigated the market concerning the demand for data, and also they got information: what kind of other data are needed that Kadaster could offer as value-added service.
Based on the collected information, a long term plan was elaborated and as being the owner of mapping and legal data related to land and property, they decided to be the producer and provider of those data. But to do so, they had to know the users’ demands and satisfy the following requirements: 

  • Servicing quality data (accurate, up-to-date, reliable and complete) 
  • Pricing based on the value of the data (“value for the price”) 
  • Flexible and digital data service meeting the users’ demands  · Permanent contact with the users.

To reach these goals, the necessary investments had to be made both relating the staff and the technology.
First, a marketing-oriented approach had to be adapted by the management, and then the central and regional offices recruited people specialised in marketing.
The most expensive part of the investment was the complete building up of the information systems. Between 1995 and 1999, Kadaster invested 150 million Dutch Guilder (about HUF 17 billion) for computers and IT. This had to be done as nowadays digital data supply is the only way to satisfy the users’ demands. The quality and up-to-dateness of data, also the quick availability are also very important. Demands for electronic contracts and transactions are growing especially from the side of banks and public notaries. These requirements could only be satisfied by perfect information systems. Pricing of data and services was a difficult task with double aim: the price could not be too high, because the users had to be able to pay for data and services, but the price had to be high enough to cover the costs of the operation, as the organization became independent without any support from the central budget.
The Dutch Kadaster has been self-sustaining for many long years. Due to the development of the technologies, the price of data and services was cut by 45%, keeping their quality and up-to-dateness. The essence of marketing is that the service should meet the demands of the users first of all. 

2. The Swedish Cadastre 
At the moment (2007), the cadastre and the land book in Sweden are still two separate institutions, but it was decided in 2006 to merge them and establish a uniform land registry. The Cadastre is also in a monopolistic position for servicing the data related to land and property.
They started their marketing activity also at the beginning of the 90s. They made the same steps as the Dutch Kadaster: establishing a perfect information system, setting up a countrywide institutional network, servicing data and other information, providing the quality and up-to-dateness of data.
Another significant method: they are permanently observing the demands of the market and the users and produce more and more value-added products. They are laying great stress on the development of ever new software and the modernization of their information system, because in spite of being in monopolistic position, they can keep it only this way in the increasing competition.

3. Great Britain's Ordnance Survey 
There is no cadastre operating as authority in Great Britain. The production and maintenance of large scale maps (cadastral maps) showing lands and properties and the relevant data service are the duties of State-owned Ordnance Survey (OS). They started this kind of activity around 1992, practically from out of nothing. By now (2007) they are having a monopolistic position in cadastral map production and data service. Though Ordnance Survey is a governmental institution, its operation is business-based and the income covers the costs. The OS leading business principle is to elaborate products and services that correspond to the users’ demands. For this purpose, they set up an independent marketing unit.  More than 10% of the staff is dealing with marketing.
Ordnance Survey is a good example: with good marketing methods and creating user-friendly data and services, one can establish a competitive institutional system, if it corresponds both to the demands of the users and the market economy. 


Before the transition 
The current uniform land registration system was established in 1971, by merging the cadastre and the old Grundbuch/land book. Earlier, the supervisory branch offices of the State Surveying and Mapping Office (Cadastre) had the duty of data servicing related to cadastral maps and the proprietary rights recorded in the Grundbuch.  The latter one was not very significant, mostly because of the prevailing State ownership and the very few transactions resulting from that. The surveying data service was not very busy either, as a part of the mapping data and the coordinates were “classified”, and the access to data was strictly regulated as well. This situation has not changed after the establishment of the uniform land registry either. But towards the end of the 80s, and especially after the start of transition to market economy, the demand for land and property transactions and the relevant data has grown dramatically. The wide-ranging privatization and the transition of companies caused an extraordinary growth in the number of transactions, and the turnover of servicing legal and mapping data became many times bigger than before. 

After the transition: land registry as data provider
In the transition period, the Hungarian land registry has fallen into a “schizophrenic” situation: as data provider it had a lot of advantages, but several disadvantages too.


  1. Monopolistic position provided by rules of law for servicing mapping and legal data related to land and property. 
  2. The Hungarian land registration system is uniform: one single organization is the owner of legal, mapping and other data relating to land and other properties. The databases keep huge datasets: this is a real multi-purpose system, which is extraordinary also on international level. Its data content can be extended further on. 
  3. The countrywide institutional system, the network of county and district level land offices is suitable to supply data in the whole area of the country.  


  1. In 1990, the land offices were not prepared to satisfying the demands caused by the political changes. 
  2. Lack of computerisation. In the period of transition, the technical support of land offices was very weak, though information technology started to develop at a high speed; consequently, more and more clients requested the digital maps of their land or other property. The land offices and FÖMI were not able to meet his kind of demand. Several IT-firms tried to fill this gap, many times successfully.  
  3. Lack of marketing activity, as the management of the sector had enough trust in the monopolistic position supported by rules of law.

To reduce the existing disadvantages, several projects were launched and mostly successfully implemented with the financial support of EU Phare Aid Programme and the Swiss Government. The management of the land administration also recognized that the development of the technology is not enough, the capacity building and modernization of the institutional system is necessary as well for the success of the land office data servicing. Supported by Phare, directed by the British Ordnance Survey and in cooperation with the Hungarian Geometria System House, a study was produced. As a result of the analysis, the experts stated that the legal and institutional system of the Hungarian land registry is suitable for generating income that can cover the expenses within short time, but of course they called the attention of the management to those insufficiencies, like the lack of marketing activity, data quality, technological development, without which they cannot reach their desired goals.
The State budget does not support satisfactorily the continuous development and modernization of information systems that is a basic requirement in the developed countries. In the Netherlands, where the Kadaster is very similar to that of Hungary, and the size of the duties is almost the same (expressed in the number of land parcels and other properties, number of transactions etc.) they invested a sum that is equivalent with HUF 17 billion in the development of the information system between 1995 and 1997. Please do compare this sum with the Hungarian investment in the development of IT background, without saying a word about the starting points that were far away from each other…
In the light of the above mentioned facts I would tell my opinion about the current situation of the land management sector, its opportunities, limits and insufficiencies related to data supply and other services of the land offices, based on foreign examples and the experience collected at the Budapest Land Office in the past 1-2 years. 

Opportunities, insufficiencies 


As I mentioned above, the Hungarian Uniform Land Registration system in reality and potentially has got all those opportunities that enable it to supply land registration data and provide other services too.  As the current system was created by merging the traditional cadastre and the Grundbuch, it is the owner of legal, mapping and other data related to land and property, and at the same time, also the only provider of those data, determined by rules of law.
The Land Registry’s duty is to register the applications concerning the transfer of ownership rights and other land affairs, updating the Registry with the changes of legal data and mapping data, checking the sketch maps of parcels and floor plans of other properties. All activities form part of the authority’s duty; the data service is going against payment of fee.
Excepting the Dutch Kadaster, no foreign cadastral office or land registry can provide such complex data and other services in relation with land and property.
The legal background of mapping and legal data service helps a lot; in fact, it creates a monopolistic position in this respect. The Act on Land Surveying provides that while establishing registration systems of maps outside of the land offices, it is obligatory to use basic governmental geodata.
All these circumstances formed a real basis for land administration to generate income that covers the budget. In Western Europe and also in developed countries of other regions, the majority of governmental organizations providing similar services have already earlier reached the income that covers the budget, as it was shown in the examples above, though their potentials perhaps were not very favourable. But they were able to follow the changes and cope with the challenges of the market economy. In those countries they used the marketing methods that were missing in Hungary.
The land management sector (the institutional system of the land offices) has been self-sustaining since 1 January 2006, the incomes cover the budget. Its only defect is that the budget sections are determined by the State central budget, so not much is left for investments.  This is also true that the self-sustaining income was generated by the changing of procedure stamp duty into procedure fee and not because of the extension of services or marketing activity. There is much to do in this field too. 


Studying the activity of related foreign institutions, it can be stated that the successful marketing activity has several elements. I would stress some of them that are partly or totally missing from the Hungarian land management.    

  1. The image of the institution should be created, its activity to publicise in wide circle. What is the duty of the institution, what kind of services can it offer? All these should be published yearly in suitable publications. In Hungary, nothing has been realised. The wide public does not know the essence of the Hungarian land registration system, how many advantages it means that our system is uniform, what opportunities it has for servicing; many times it happens that even the colleagues do not know it, and the cooperating lawyers are speaking about Grundbuch etc. This is an extraordinary insufficiency compared to the foreign institutions. There are only few brochures or leaflets in Hungarian or in foreign languages that could be given to users, customers, Hungarian or foreign partners for information. Visiting a related institution in Western Europe, we can see they have huge amount of information material, not only paper-based but in digital format too. We should use the technology (Internet, homepage etc.).
  2. The other element of the marketing activity is the market research, the improvement of data and service quality upon the request of the users. Similar institutions in the developed countries are not satisfied with the monopolistic position provided by rules of law, because they know that in the market economy they can sell data and services of good quality only; if they cannot fulfil this requirement, the players of the market will find other channels and other providers will offer the same services. In Hungary, based on the old routine, several colleagues in the land offices have still trust in the monopolistic position provided by rules of law, saying that the clients do not have any other place to go for purchasing data etc. In many cases, the quality of the authority job (and partly servicing), of the data, and that is most important, of the mapping and surveying data is not good enough. There is another problem – though it does not belong directly to marketing – that an Act obliges the land offices to issue copies of property sheets free of charge for local governments (which often misuse this allowance). This free of charge data supply means that the land offices lose several billion HUF. In the past two years (2005-2006); only the Budapest Land Office alone issued copies of property sheets free of charge to the value of HUF 500 million yearly.   
  3. Permanent and continuous investments in human resources and information technology. There is a lack of colleagues with manager-attitude both among decision-makers and on executive level. 

Lessons learnt by Budapest Land Office 
Concerning the development of technology, the Budapest Land Office was in a relatively lucky position resulting in an information system called BIIR for handling the property sheets, and two other (INFOCAM and later Topobase) for handling the digital maps, both working well. In this way, we were able to get closer to those conditions, under which the quality of data and services could be improved, and we were enabled to provide data from digital maps and to issue copies of property sheets. As a result of this development, the extent of data service has increased, within that also the proportion of data serviced in digital format. Beyond that, there are several opportunities for additional services through different queries. Of course, it was necessary to carry out serious IT and programming jobs, and also the marketing activity to reach the users was very important.
The essence is that we had got the practical experience: marketing has its positive effect also in our country, not only in the land registration institutions of Western Europe.
In the interest of further steps forward, it is vital to modernize the information system and increase its capacity.  

The Hungarian and foreign experiences show that we do need marketing in the public administration, especially in the governmental organizations that provide services.The following are needed: 

  1. Market research, to investigate the users’ demands,  
  2. Quality data and services corresponding to the users’ demands, 
  3. Establishing up-to-date information systems that can provide digital data and quick access to data and other services of the land management sector, 
  4. Publications introducing the activity of the institution and lobby activity, 
  5. Continuous marketing activity, 
  6. Data security that external users could make business of  their value-added products based on the data supplied by the land offices against further payment of fees only.