Residents ≠ Tenants, Properties ≠ Assets

There are times when the right word escapes me. When I try to describe a concept or notion that I may or may not fully comprehend, I sometimes struggle for the right word or phrasing. Nevertheless, I well remember a day that I was gently corrected about terminology.

"We have residents, not tenants."

To many, that may seem a meritless distinction, but it conveys a particular viewpoint about the relationship between owners and managers and the people who pay rent. "Tenant" is a contractual term, one that suggests a notion of commodification of both the leasee and the lessor. "Tenant" suggests either could be easily substituted with no ill effect. "Resident" connotes a deeper sense of relationship, and to my ears, an increased amount of respect for the individuals who pay rent.

Relatedly, even though my title has long been "Asset Manager", I almost never referred to my portfolio with that term. I run properties or communities, not deals or assets. I started in this industry as a 'real estate guy" who walked markets, analyzed floorplans, and stood in front of buildings to answer the "what if" questions. I only gradually and painfully learned the financial side of the business, where one is more likely to hear the word "asset". One of my supervisors hired me in part because, "You kept using the word property instead of assets, and that's the kind of person we want on this team."

It may seem a small thing and perhaps it is, but in my experience, it shapes the relationship in important ways.