Talking the New Home Talk with Buyers and Builders

young arhitect group in big bright modern new apartment looking blueprints and building plans
Brush up on your lingo so you can talk the new home talk with your buyers and builders.

The Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw once quipped that “Americans and British are one people separated only by a common language.”

That’s an apt description of the valiant attempts that Realtors, home builders and new homebuyers undertake when they attempt to refer to the same thing in conversation or email.

No doubt, there’s great value in having a common language that connects you as a real estate professional with your buyers and the builders you work with.

The good news, as David Fletcher points out in an article in our Agent’s Guide to New Homes, is that it’s not essential for a real estate professional to have the same level of construction knowledge that a builder has in order to assist buyers of a newly built home.

As a top broker with success in new home sales, Fletcher offers agents this advice: Take your buyers with interest in new homes to visit the model home/sales center of builders that match their needs. Register your buyer. Then let the builder’s on-site salesperson share their detailed knowledge.

While you don’t need a degree in construction to work with new homebuyers, it definitely helps to speak the basic language of homebuilding. With that goal in mind, here’s your New Home Source Professional crash course in New Home Lingo 101.

Master these phrases and you’ll soon be talking the talk — communicating with clarity with buyers and builders — and adding great value to your buyer’s new home journey.

Plan: To a builder, a plan is a specific new home that their firm can build. An unbuilt plan is also a starting point that buyers can often personalize and customize with options and upgrades.

Production vs. Custom Builder: Both can be an excellent choice for your buyer’s dream home. The decision will rest largely in the number of choices and changes that your buyer wishes to make.

A production builder typically builds from a library of floor plans and usually makes few major structural changes to their homes, which in many cases are already approved by local governments. Many production builders encourage buyers to select their favorite design styles or to pick from good-better-best upgrades in major product categories such as appliances, cabinets, countertops, faucets and sinks, flooring, light fixtures, etc.

A custom builder may start with a pre-drawn floor plan but will typically offer buyers the opportunity to make more changes to the home’s layout and to select more product options. A custom builder may also create a unique, one-of-a-kind floor plan drawn by an on-staff or independent architect.

A design-build firm, as the name implies, is a single company that offers the services of an architect and builder. The goal of a design-build firm is to streamline the process and save buyers time and money.

Spec Home: Many buyers, especially those relocating for a new job, want to move in quickly. To serve them, many builders build their most popular plans with popular options and upgrades. For buyers who seek to move in quickly (such as at the start of a new school year for their kids) but who also want a new home with all products new and under warranty, a spec home can be an ideal solution.

Quick Move-In Home: This can be another term for a spec home. Or, it can refer to a home that is partially built, where a buyer can shave time off the construction process but potentially still make some remaining product choices based on the home’s degree of completion.

BOYL: Pronounced “boil,” this acronym stands for Build on Your Lot. It refers to floor plans that can be built on a client’s land — and to builders who specialize in that process.

A common question many BOYL buyers have is where to start. The short answer is any of the following: With land the buyer owns or inherits. With an architectural plan they love. With a builder or architect whose homes they love. Or with your help as a Realtor to find their dream lot.

Elevation: The look of the front of the home. By offering multiple elevations for each floor plan, builders appeal to homebuyers with differing architectural tastes. Offering different elevations for each plan also creates a more diverse streetscape of adjoining new homes.

Zero/Zero Lot Line: A home whose exterior walls are purposefully built near the edges of the lot or land the home rests upon. A zero lot line home can be a great choice for buyers who want a detached, single-family home but who don’t want to maintain a large lawn or lots of landscaping.

Many cities now encourage (or even mandate via building codes and local zoning) higher density housing, with the goal of accommodating more residents per acre of land and/or preserving open land for residents to enjoy. Many builders and developers plan for greater density via careful placement of windows, increased sound-proofing and landscaping designs that create more privacy on smaller lots.

50s, 60s, 70s Series Plan: This is not a reference to popular music from those decades. Instead, it refers to floor plans that fit on lots that are 50, 60 or 70 feet wide. In many cases, these plans may also allow for a specific amount of space between adjoining homes called for by local zoning.

Master-Planned Community: A large development — often consisting of several neighborhoods with homes grouped by rough price range and size — that offers a well-planned overall vision for the community and typically one or more community amenities that can include community club houses, pools, sports fields, hiking trails, green spaces and even schools and shopping.

Traditional Neighborhood Design, or TND: An approach to designing new-home communities with smaller lots and front yards, sidewalks, walkable spaces and nearby schools and retail. TND’s are a popular form of community design that celebrate small-town feel, neighbor interaction, and allow for higher density housing and the preservation of green space and open areas for all residents.

About the author 

Jay McKenzie

Jay McKenzie heads up content and social media for and its parent company, Builders Digital Experience (BDX) based in Austin, Texas.
In that role, he serves as Publisher and Editorial Director for the New Home Source Resource Center. More than 40 staff and freelance writers, designers and video experts provide helpful and inspiring articles, videos, and slideshows to millions of consumers at the world's largest new home resource. The New Home Source team has received 14 awards in the Annual Journalism Competition of The National Association of Real Estate Editors (NAREE).
McKenzie also leads an award-winning social media team that supports social media accounts for BDX and leading builders across the nation on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, Instagram and LinkedIn. He is a frequent speaker at events that include The International Builders Show, the 21st Century Building Expo, many local home builder associations, and other industry events.
Previously, McKenzie built and managed a national network of consumer new home and active adult media brands in online and print in 40 markets nationally as divisional VP for Network Communications, Inc. His prior experience includes media and brand management, as well as extensive sales and content management. Throughout his career, McKenzie has had a strong focus on builder marketing and consumer shelter media. His prior roles include Group Publisher of Garden Design, HOME Miami, and Florida Travel and Life; Publisher, Professional Builder; and managerial roles with Country Living Magazine and Autoweek.

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