December 11, 2017

by Sean Hess, Owner, Broker, Author


Following is an excerpt from my new book, “How To Buy A House: New Construction Edition. Find the Best House, Make the Best Offer, And Live Happily Ever After.”

Handy Dandy Builder’s Glossary

As you search for the perfect home online, you will be bombarded with more hackneyed marketing phrases than you’ll know what to do with—even more than you will find in the ad for your local furniture store’s Presidents Day sale.

I mean, just how many “gourmet kitchen packages” with “level 2 tile” in “park like settings” are really out there anyway? As such, I thought I’d translate some of the inside, secret meanings of builder jargon with this handy glossary:

3/2 or 3BR, 2BA, MBA, KI, et al. When you see two numbers together like “3/2” it means “3-bedroom, 2-bath.” Thus “4/2.5” means 4 bedrooms, 2 baths, and 1 half bath (a half bath is also called a powder room—typically a room with a toilet but no bath or shower). “BR” and “BA” mean “Bedroom” and “Bath,” respectively. Some marketers might get really tricky and throw in an “MBA,” “KI,” or “DR,” as well. These three do not mean that your “Masters in Business Administration killed a doctor.” It means, “Master Bath,” “Kitchen,” and “Dining Room.”

Commuter Friendly: You are going to be near a highway. A big, fucking, highway.

Conservation Lot: A lot where they didn’t mow all the trees down in the backyard (because they weren’t allowed to mow all the trees down in the backyard). Conservation lots typically back to a treed buffer area between houses or streets. These are also called “Preserve Lots.”

Dream Home: Just a home. That they are building. Maybe you don’t already have a home, so yes, then it would be a dream come true.

Elevation: An elevation is an illustration of what the house will look like from the front. Generally there are a three to five different elevations for every home plan, some with brick or stone accents, or slight changes in the roof design (hip or gable roof), and so on. Builders do this so they can build the same designs right next to each other (by switching the garage from left to right, for example, and changing the roof line). I know, I know, it still looks like they built the same house next door; don’t tell them, it will just break their little hearts.

Gourmet* Kitchen Package: The ageless, deathless stalwart of banal builder marketing phrases. It means—wait for it!—the kitchen appliances. I know, huge letdown, huh? Occasionally it will mean you get a double oven.

Level 2, Level 3, etc.: For reasons known only to the heavens above, builders divide their options into “levels.” There may be five tile “levels,” three kitchen cabinet “levels,” and two bathroom pull handle “levels,” but there will be levels—builders love their levels. The model home agent will bandy these levels about so fastly and furiously that your head will spin. “Oh yes,” he will say, “you can get the level 2 cabinets with the level 3 tile and the level 1 bathroom counter, but only if you get the level 4 flooring and level 2 granite with your gourmet kitchen package.” When they start spewing this gobbledygook just say a silent prayer for them, and for yourself.

Master Suite: The master bedroom. Yep, just the master bedroom. Though “suite” usually connotes a walk-in closet. A true suite would have an extra sitting room, and a bath area as large as your first apartment. But truth and marketing aren’t exactly friends.

Model: The name of the floorplan. Possibly named after an exotic dancer (the Longwood for example—hey, they name ‘em after male exotic dancers, too!)

Owner’s Retreat: Extra space in the master bedroom. It can be its own space (like a small alcove with a bay window), or sometimes just a closet without a door. Not a cottage in the country as the name suggests, sadly (not even a run-down cabin).

Park Like Setting: There are trees—saplings, actually—but hey, what more do you want? Oh, and there may be a lot (or two!) that they won’t build on. Maybe a playground, also, with mulch!

Premium Homesite: The lot they build your house on (sometimes just called a “homesite”). But if they don’t add the word “premium” they generally dance around like they have to pee their pants, they want to add the word so much. Be it trite or hyperbolic, builders feel a need to add adjectives—to even the most minor features—in the same way bees feel the need to make honey.

Preserve Lot: A lot that backs to a tree buffer. The builder would have mowed all the trees down, just so you know, but they weren’t allowed. Now you get to pay more for your lot because you don’t have to look across the backyard and see another home. Builders, by the way, feel like they should be lauded for leaving this greenspace (even though they were forced to do it) as if they just preserved Yellowstone-fucking-National-Park. See also “Conservation Lot.”

Priced From: A big, honking lie. Back when the subdivision was approved and the signs were ordered, yes, those homes really were intended to be “Priced From $______.” Now that they are actually building homes, however, well, you can’t expect the builder to give them away, can you? (Oh, hell no!) I’ll share a little secret with you, Sweetheart, those “Priced From” signs are just to get you in the door. Maybe that certain price was available, for a certain floorplan, on a certain lot, but they just sold the last one yesterday. Shucks.

Quick Move-In Home: A spec home that is done or in its final weeks. When a home is finished it costs the builder money every single day it remains unsold, so these homes are generally priced to move. Also see “Spec Home.”

Spec Home: A spec home, also called a “spec,” is a new-construction home that is already built, or near completion (but doesn’t have a buyer yet). Also see “Quick Move-In Home.”

Now you should feel smart, smart, smart! You’ll need some of that brainpower when you look at your first builder website.

*Gourmet Kitchen Package—ah, that staid, stale staple of builder marketing. It’s such a 1970s-sounding phrase. Can’t we come up with something else? 

Oooh, wait! Bunny from The New Builder Marketing Institute is on the line.

How about “Chef Dream Space?”

Oh, fuck. Just shoot me.

More excerpts coming soon…

Sean Hess
Call/text 904-386-8327