A simple definition of a land improvement is any modification or addition to a piece of real property that increases its value. Improvements may include things like fences, paved walkways or buildings. Real property is defined as land and any buildings or other structures affixed to that land. A land improvement is real property if it is of a permanent and immovable nature. Your home is an example of real property, while your vehicle is not.
Not only does real property encompass the land and all structures attached to it, real property also includes all interests you may have in said property, such as future ownership or occupancy rights. Additionally, real property is comprised of all integrated and securely attached equipment on the land or structures, like light fixtures, in-ground swimming pools and anything growing on the land (trees, crops). If you added a covered deck to your backyard landscaping, it is a land improvement and considered to be real property.
Personal property is everything you own that does not fall under the category of real property. Typically, it is those things that are not permanent structures of your land or buildings located on the land. Items such as furniture, vehicles, and cash are personal property. For legal purposes, it is interesting to note as well, that carpeting may be considered to be personal property if it is installed over an existing finished floor. If you have new carpeting installed, and it is the only finished flooring (there is no linoleum, tile or finished-wood flooring underneath), then it is classified as real property.
Corporeal vs. Incorporeal Property
Both real and personal property can be primarily categorized in two ways: corporeal or incorporeal. Corporeal personal property includes items like jewelry or animals, and incorporeal personal property includes ownership rights in things like stocks, bonds, copyrights or patents. Real property categorized as corporeal consists of permanent and substantial (visible and tangible) items that fall under the general designation of land. Incorporeal real property consists of a right or group of rights, which is supported by, or is an integral part of, some corporeal (tangible) property. An example would be the ownership rights you may have to real property by way of inheritance. A land improvement would generally be categorized as corporeal real property.
A distinction is made between real and personal property when it comes to valuing your property for the assessment of property taxes in the county where you live. An assessor will judge a land improvement, such as a building, water well, septic system, roads, vineyards, orchards and certain types of machinery or other equipment affixed to the land, as real property to be included in the valuation of the property for tax purposes.
Based in California, Debbie Donner is a freelance online writer who primarily writes articles related to personal finance. Donner received a Mensa scholarship in 2006 while attending California State University, Fresno. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in liberal arts and a multiple-subject teaching credential.