Unlocking the Power of Python property Decorator A Comprehensive Guide


The property decorator in Python is an invaluable tool for designing elegant, Pythonic classes. With @property, you can write attributes that act like normal instance attributes, but execute custom code when accessed. This opens up many possibilities! In this article, we’ll explore common uses for @property and unlock its full potential with examples.

How Python property Decorator Works

The @property decorator is applied to methods in a class definition. When you access a @property method on an instance, the method will be called and the return value accessed. Consider this example:

class Person:
    def __init__(self, name):
        self.name = name

    def name_length(self):
        return len(self.name)

p = Person('Eric')
print(p.name) # 'Eric' 
print(p.name_length) # 4

The name_length method is decorated with @property. When we access p.name_length, the method is called automatically and the return value used. But we don’t have to call it like a method – it looks like an attribute!

Benefits of Using @property

@property methods provide several advantages:

  • Makes attributes readable and writable
  • Encapsulates validation logic on attribute access
  • Allows computed attributes based on internal state
  • Easy to add change notifications when attributes are modified

Next, we’ll go through examples of these benefits.

Turning Methods into Readable Attributes

A common use of @property is making attributes readable while restricting write access. Consider this class:

class Circle:
    def __init__(self, radius):
        self.radius = radius

    def get_area(self):
        return 3.14 * (self.radius ** 2)

c = Circle(5)

To find the area, we have to explicitly call get_area() like a method. With @property, we can streamline this:

class Circle:
    def __init__(self, radius):
        self.radius = radius

    def area(self):
        return 3.14 * (self.radius ** 2)

c = Circle(5)

Now area can be accessed like an attribute for a cleaner syntax!

Encapsulating Validation Logic

A common need is validating values before assignment. With @property, we can encapsulate this logic neatly:

class Circle:
    def __init__(self, radius):
        self.radius = radius

    def radius(self):
        return self._radius
    def radius(self, value):
        if value <= 0:
            raise ValueError('Radius must be positive')
        self._radius = value

Now setting radius will automatically run validation. Properties make encapsulation easy!

Computed Attributes

Since @property methods are just methods, we can use them to compute values on demand based on the internal state.

class Person:
    def __init__(self, first_name, last_name):
        self.first_name = first_name
        self.last_name = last_name

    def full_name(self):
       return self.first_name + ' ' + self.last_name

p = Person('Eric', 'Idle')
print(p.full_name) # 'Eric Idle'

full_name is computed on the fly based on first_name and last_name. No need to store redundancies!

Change Notifications

Here’s one last neat trick – we can trigger actions when attributes are modified by listening for attribute changes.

class Person:
    def __init__(self, name):
        self._name = name

    def name(self):
        print('Getting name')
        return self._name
    def name(self, value):
        print('Setting name to ' + value)
        self._name = value

p = Person('Eric')
p.name = 'John'

This will print ‘Setting name to John’ when we assign to name. Powerful stuff!


The @property decorator enables rich object behaviors while providing a clean interface. By unlocking cool capabilities like change notifications and computed attributes, @property makes your classes versatile, reusable and Pythonic. So next time you’re designing a class, reach for @property to take things to the next level!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What happens if I only use @property without a setter?

A: The attribute will become read-only, since writes will be blocked. Attempts to assign to the property will raise an AttributeError.

Q: Can I use @property on classmethods or staticmethods?

A: Yes, the @property decorator works on any kind of method in a class definition.

Q: Does @property have any performance costs?

A: No, since the lookup happens on the class, not per instance, there is no performance penalty for using @property.

Q: Can I have multiple @property decorators on the same method?

A: No, only one @property decorator can be applied per method. However, you can stack other decorators like @classmethod before @property.

Q: What is a common use case for @property methods?

A: Validating attribute values before assignment is probably the most frequent use case for @property methods. This encapsulates the validation cleanly.