Xenia: the Build-to-Rent Imperative.

The ancient Greeks took xenia very seriously indeed. The classical scholars among you will know that it is a central theme in Homer's Odyssey and the Iliad where a breach of xenia resulted in the Trojan war. Well, stealing your host's wife could rightly be described as a lack of etiquette. The reasons the Greeks took xenia so seriously is their belief that the gods walked among them as strangers and one's guest could easily turn out to be a god. Offending a god with a lack of xenia could have serious repercussions!


But what is Xenia?


Xenia is the Ancient Greek principle of hospitality and has two main themes or rules: 1. The respect from host to guest. The host must be hospitable to the guest and provide him/her with food, drink, bath and gifts when they leave. 2. The respect from guest to host. The guest must be courteous to the host and not be a burden. Some say that there is a third rule which declares that the guest must also provide the host with a gift upon leaving, but many say that's implicit in the second rule.


For a while now, BTR has wrestled with the succinct. When asked to differentiate what we do from what the PRS has done in the past, we struggle to keep it simple. So much of what BTR is about is so radically different from what we have all previously experienced it's very difficult to encapsulate it in a few words. But now we can.


Xenia is the word...


Yes, there's more to BTR than 'hospitality': the design and quality of the buildings are clearly crucial to contributing to what we can offer and the professional infrastructure that delivers these buildings is central to our ethos. But the central theme of BTR is xenia. Xenia is more than 'just' hospitality. It embodies respect and trust and the desire to provide one's guest with the very best of what one has to offer; to be courteous and attentive. All those qualities we wish to bring to the rental experience. But xenia has two parts; the onus is also upon the guest to respect the host and his hospitality. Clearly, to get to the second part, the olive branch has to be extended by the BTR host. And it may take some time before we reach a position of mutual trust; such is the legacy of the PRS and the adversarial relationship between landlord and tenant which has suited some vested interests. If the Gods do walk among us, I suspect the PRS has serially offended them


But that relationship doesn't suit BTR and nor is it something we can accept.

A short while ago, I wrote of 'The Grand Illusion' and argued we had to find a form of positive expression with which to discuss and promote the rental market. That begins with words and phrases that are intrinsically positive. We don't use tenant any more, we shouldn't use landlord (too feudal). Xenia is an ancient concept that BTR can take ownership of. Xenia perfectly articulates how the BTR relationship with our guests/customers/renter should be.


In the modern Western world, we may no longer believe that the Gods walk among us, testing us and our ability to be good hosts. But in place of gods and quick to seek revenge on those hosts that fail in their duty is social media. Like the ancient gods, Twitter's revenge can be swift, far-reaching and devastating. So the resurrection of xenia and underlying principles could hardly be better timed as the BTR sector looks to transform the rental experience.


Beginning this piece I expected it to run on for 1500 words or so. But the simplicity of xenia and the ease and accuracy with which it clearly articulates BTR principles is neatly mirrored in the few words required to express its appropriateness.


And so xenia is the word. It's a BTR word. It's what we are and what we do.


Richard Berridge @ResiRichard

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