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The F-Word: ‘Fractional’ Ownership or ‘Shared’ Ownership?

July 27, 2010Article by Ray Withers

George Bernard Shaw once remarked that the British and the Americans are ‘divided by a common language’.  Nowhere is this more true than in the case of  ‘fractional ownership’.

Fractional ownership has caught on well with US investors for some years now, because it makes sense.  Owning a portion – otherwise known as a ‘fraction’ –  of a property investment opens a range of new possibilities to the investor.  It makes luxury properties affordable.  Because of fractional ownership, one of our flagship products – Caribbean Residences at Bacolet Bay, Grenada, is within reach of many investors who would not have considered the idea even a few months ago.  With fractional ownership, investors enjoy full rights of ownership (or ‘usufruct’), including the right to raise rental income for a portion of the year.

But there is a problem – the word fraction.  We have found that in Britain, unlike the US, using the ‘F word’ raises eyebrows.  This is partly, of course, because nobody ever uses F words at Property Frontiers during the normal course of events. …  It is mainly because the word ‘fraction’ suggests to British ears a breaking-up or smashing into small pieces.

This tells us something about the way we use language and, perhaps, some of the cultural differences reflected in our choice of words.  Americans are more direct, more logical and in the best sense more literal in the way they approach words.  In Britain, our approach is more sceptical and cautious: the glass is always half-empty, or in this case broken into small pieces!  We are also perhaps more argumentative – i.e. ‘fractious’ and more ready to suspect the motives of others.

Our experience with the word fraction reminds us that we neglect such cultural niceties at our peril.  ‘Shared ownership’ means exactly the same thing as ‘fractional ownership’ but stirs warmer feelings in British hearts.  It conjures up reassuring,  even homely images as well as appealing to the concern for equality and fair play, which as a nation we profess often but fulfil less frequently.

So it’s  ‘Down with Fractional Ownership, Long Live Shared Ownership!’  This has been a steep learning curve for us and a welcome reminder to choose our  words with care.

Written by: Aidan Rankin


Ray Withers

Ray has over 17 years’ experience in the international property market and bought his own first international property investment back in 2002. Aside from running Property Frontiers, Ray has been involved in residential, hotel, student and commercial property investment and development in both the UK and overseas and co-wrote "Where to Buy Property Abroad - An Investor's Guide". As Founder and Trustee of the Frontiers Foundation, Ray is directly involved with many of its projects to ensure they have a direct and tangible impact in individual communities across the globe. He is passionate about property, travelling, scouting out new opportunities and finding time to spend with his young family.
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