The homebuyer glossary

To help you better understand the homebuying process, we’ve compiled a list of key terms around home construction, financing and energy efficiency.

Energy efficiency terms 

Get familiar with energy-efficient home features and other systems built into new Meritage Homes.


  • Advanced framing

    A system of framing techniques based on optimizing building materials to help make walls more energy-efficient and provides more space for high-performance materials like spray foam insulation. By following U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency standards for advanced framing, homes are better insulated and have reduced thermal bridging, which provides more comfort and less operating costs.*

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  • Advanced thermostat

    A programmable thermostat that can help improve comfort by automatically maintaining a cozy temperature and reduce energy usage by up to 10%.*

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  • C

  • Conditioned attics

    An unvented attic that has been insulated along the roof line, enabling the conditioning of the air in the attic space along with the rest of the home. Conditioned attics help reduce sources of deterioration from moisture, dust and extreme temperatures, help hold comfortable temperatures in your home and stop temperature-regulated air from escaping.*

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  • Dual-actuated toilets

    A dual-flush toilet uses two buttons or handles to flush different levels of water, letting you decide how much to flush, which saves water while maintaining high performance.*

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  • ENERGY STAR® certified appliances

    Home appliances with superior energy efficiency according to EPA established standards. ENERGY STAR® is a certification established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to provide standards for smart and energy-efficient design. ENERGY STAR® appliances have gone through rigorous design requirements, testing, and certifications.*

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  • ENERGY STAR® Partner of the Year for Sustained Excellence

    The EPA's highest level of recognition. An award granted to Meritage Homes (and other organizations) in 2016 for its commitment to educating others about the value and benefits of energy efficiency and for building thousands of ENERGY STAR® certified homes.*

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  • Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Triple Certified Home

    A home that has received certification for energy efficiency, indoor air health and water resource conservation (ENERGY STAR® + Indoor airPlus + Watersense).* These certifications are available options in any Meritage Home.

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  • Flow-smart showerheads

    Showerheads that use less water than a standard model. These showerheads can reduce water usage by up to 50%, providing you with savings on water costs and energy costs.*

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  • Fresh air management system

    Mechanical ventilation systems that circulate fresh air using ducts and fans, rather than relying on airflow through small holes or cracks in a home’s walls, roof, or windows. A fresh air management system helps to keep clean, filtered, fresh air circulating throughout your home.*

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  • Home Energy Rating System (HERS)

    The Home Energy Rating System (HERS) is the industry standard by which a home's energy efficiency is measured and the nationally recognized system for inspecting and calculating a home's energy performance, according to the Residential Energy Services Network (RESNET®).

    When you’re buying a home it can help you anticipate the costs of energy bills. The lower the HERS score, the more energy efficient the home.*

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  • Indoor airPLUS certification

    Indoor airPLUS is a voluntary partnership and labeling program established by the EPA that helps new home builders improve the quality of indoor air by requiring construction practices and product specifications that minimize exposure to airborne pollutants and contaminants. This certification ensures your home's indoor air quality meets or exceeds EPA's standards for excellence.* Meritage offers Indoor airPLUS certification as an option.

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  • Low-E windows

    High-performance windows that deflect up to 70% of the sun’s heat and reduce the chance of indoor condensation. Low-E windows also reduce temperature transference so you can read by the window year-round.*

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  • Low to zero VOC materials, paints, stains and adhesives

    Low-emitting paints, glues, varnishes, and other materials that meet the U.S. EPA standards for low Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) materials.*

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  • MERV 13 HVAC filtration

    A higher-efficiency Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) filter measured by Minimum Efficiency Rating Values (MERV). The HVAC system helps improve a home’s air quality and reduces the quantity of allergens.*

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  • Multispeed HVAC

    A multispeed HVAC system uses heat pump and/or air handler motors that can operate at more than one speed.  In contrast, a single-speed HVAC system’s operation is either completely off or at full speed until the designated temperature is met.   Since a multispeed HVAC system can adjust its operating performance to meet the needs established by the thermostat, it can operate at the same high speed as a single-speed system when needed, but can also operate at lower speeds for a longer heating or cooling cycle than single-speed systems.  Some of the benefits of multispeed HVAC systems are: (1) energy savings from lower energy use at lower speeds; (2) more consistent comfort from longer heating or cooling cycles; (3) better dehumidification due to longer cooling cycles; and (4) enhanced air quality resulting from air being cycled through the system’s filters more often.      

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  • NET ZERO Home

    NET ZERO Homes are designed to produce as much energy as they use annually. Meritage Homes is the first “major-size builder” to offer net-zero homes in an effort to build homes that cost less to operate.*

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  • R

  • Remote home management

    Allows you to use your mobile device to access and control your home systems remotely.

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  • Sealed insulated ducts

    Sealed ducts use better sealing techniques that allow the HVAC system to keep more dust out, maintain internal temperatures, and better control internal humidity. Sealed ducts cost less to operate and keep a home cleaner. They also reduce air leaks, which increases efficiency and helps lower utility bills.*

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  • SEER 14 HVAC

    A Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) system that runs more efficiently to reduce humidity and maximize comfort at less cost.* Meritage offers SEER 14 HVAC as an option.

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  • SEER 16 HVAC

    Seasonal Energy Efficient Rated HVAC system includes variable drive that allows your home to adjust to unseasonably mild or warm days, lowering energy & upping comfort.* Meritage offers SEER 16 HVAC as an option.

  • Spray foam insulation

    Polyurethane Open Cell Spray Foam Insulation is a spray-applied plastic that can form a continuous insulation and air sealing barrier on walls, roofs, around corners, and on all contoured surfaces. It reduces air infiltration, which can cause up to 40% of a home's energy loss, creates an air barrier which reduces loss of conditioned air and helps keep your home consistently cozy, while minimizing the amount of noise that travels through exterior walls. Spray foam insulation’s barrier also reduces space for external pests, mold, airborne pollutants and allergens.*

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  • Solar energy system

    A solar energy system uses solar panels to convert sun rays into usable energy to reduce the cost to operate your home. In some cases, the system can be sized to offset as much monthly energy as the roof can accommodate to achieve Zero Net Energy.* Meritage offers solar energy systems as an option.

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  • Thermal breaks

    Insulating barriers between the inside and outside of your home (your home’s thermal envelope) that help create a more consistent temperature and lower HVAC costs. Part of the advanced construction techniques used in Meritage homes, thermal breaks help increase the overall performance of a home by reducing thermal bridging (areas of high heat transfer) between conditioned areas and outdoors.*

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  • Water-efficient faucets

    Water-efficient fixtures that will help you reduce water use in your home and save money on water bills. Water-efficient fixtures provide high pressure for full function without the energy and water waste found in conventional designs.*

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  • WaterSense certification

    The U.S. EPA’s WaterSense certification ensures your home's indoor and landscape water usage meets or exceeds the EPA's standards for efficiency.* Meritage offers WaterSense certification as an option.

  • Whole-home water filtration

    Water treatment system that helps filter out harmful contaminants that can impact your food, your body and your laundry.* Meritage offers whole-home water filtration as an option.

Home construction terms

Want to keep up with the construction of your new home? Here are terms to keep you in-the-know.


  • AFCI

    An Arc Fault Circuit Interrupter (AFCI) receptacle is designed to help prevent electrical fires that can be caused by potentially dangerous arc-faults in an electrical circuit. Arcing can create high-intensity heat which can lead to fires. An AFCI will detect any arcing and shut down the outlet before any damage can be done.

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  • Caulking

    Caulking, also known as sealant, is applied to areas that need sealing to keep moisture or air out. Expect to see caulking in areas like bathtubs, showers, sinks, paint joints, windows, doors, siding and roofing. Caulk varies depending on exposure, location and material to which it’s applied.

  • Culvert

    A small round plastic or metal pipe that channels water underneath a part of the home site. For example, a culvert can be used to allow water to pass underneath the driveway during a rainstorm.

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  • Downspout

    A vertical pipe installed to take rainwater from the roof gutter, down to the landscaping. Downspouts are typically made of the same material as the gutter but may be a different shape or color.

  • Drywall

    Drywall, also known as sheetrock or plasterboard, is a wallboard that’s attached to wall framing to make up the walls and ceilings in your home. Different types of drywall will be installed in your house depending on the area. There are two types:

    • Home and garage plasterboards that meet fire code
    • “Green” board used in areas subject to moisture, like bathrooms.
    Panels are nailed and/or screwed to the wall framing, then a variety of texture or smooth wall is applied to create a final finish before paint.
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  • Electrical trim

    During this portion of the build, the final work is performed by a licensed electrician to make everything “hot.” That’s code for activating electrical fixtures and installing items like plugs, switches, smoke detectors, light fixtures, light bulbs and the doorbell chime. At this point, your electrical panel is also hooked up and breakers are labeled.

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  • Framing

    Framing is when your home begins to take shape through structural components that make up the floor, roof and walls. This includes studs, wooden or steel beams, headers and joists. The roof framing is made up of manufactured wood roof trusses, and floor systems are created with manufactured wood joists or floor trusses.

  • Foundation

    Foundation is the word used to describe the system on which your home sits. There are three types of conventional concrete foundations: poured concrete, concrete block and post-and-pier. Concrete foundations are typically reinforced with steel cables, bars, and/or mesh to add strength. Framing is secured to the home’s foundation with structural steel hold-downs.

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  • GFCI or GFI

    A Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) electrical “plug” you’ll find in areas that might come in contact with moisture, like kitchens, baths, garages and outdoor areas. If the plug or a plugged-in appliance comes in contact with water, a GFCI “cuts” current to the plug to protect against electrical shock. The GFCI reset also allows homeowners to reset the circuit if it’s interrupted.

  • H

  • HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)

    The four letters stand for the mechanical systems inside your home that are designed and installed to provide comfort and control air quality.* Every Meritage Home is certified to the ENERGY STAR® for Homes program, which means HVAC systems are designed to meet specific requirements to optimize performance. It also means HVAC systems are certified by a 3rd party ENERGY STAR® rater that makes sure your home’s systems are installed and performing like they’re supposed to. One very important, commonly overlooked component of the HVAC system is Ventilation. In addition to exhaust ventilation provided in Kitchens and Baths, fresh air ventilation is provided per strict design and testing standards to improve indoor air quality.*

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  • Plumbing trim

    The final work performed by a licensed plumber to make all fixtures active, including sinks, faucets, shower heads, toilets, water heaters, hose bibs and gas furnaces.

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  • Swales

    An open drainage channel in the ground that carries rainwater around your home and away from the foundation to help prevent water damage and flooding.

Home financing terms 

Want to feel confident financing your home? Invest some time in studying these terms.


  • Adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM)

    A mortgage whose interest rate changes periodically based on the changes in a specified index.

  • Amortization

    The repayment of a mortgage loan by installments with regular payments to cover principal and interest.

  • Amortization term

    The amount of time required to amortize the mortgage loan. The amortization term is expressed as a number of months. For example, for a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage, the amortization term is 360 months.

  • B

  • Back-end ratio

    This ratio shows what portion of your income is needed to cover your monthly debt obligations, including credit card bills, car loans, student loans, child support, and any other debt that shows up on your credit report and requires monthly payments.

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  • Closing

    The final step in purchasing your home, the closing day (also known as Settlement) is when ownership of the home is officially transferred to you, the buyer. Your mortgage loan is funded, you’ve signed mortgage documents and paid any closing costs at this point.

  • Consumer reporting agency (or bureau)

    An organization that prepares reports that are used by lenders to determine a potential borrower's credit history. The agency gets the info for these reports from a credit repository and other sources.

  • D

  • Debt-to-income ratio (DTI)

    A comparison of your housing expenses, your monthly debt obligations and how much you earn. Lenders look at two types of debt-to-income ratios when you apply for a mortgage: the front-end ratio and back-end ratio.

  • Discount points

    A form of prepaid interest or fees mortgage borrowers can purchase to lower the amount of interest they have to pay on subsequent payments. Each discount point costs about 1% of the total loan amount and can lower interest from 0.13% to 0.25%.

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  • Earnest money deposit

    A deposit made to the seller by the potential home buyer to show that he or she is serious about buying the house.

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  • Front-end ratio

    Also called the housing ratio, a calculation of your total monthly housing expenses divided by your income. The front-end ratio shows what percentage of your income would go toward your housing expenses, including your monthly mortgage payment, real estate taxes, homeowner's insurance and association dues.

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  • Hazard insurance

    Insurance protecting against loss to real estate caused by fire, some natural causes, vandalism, etc., depending upon the terms of your policy. Lenders typically require homebuyers to purchase at least a minimal level of hazard insurance, part of the standard homeowner’s insurance policy.

  • Housing ratio

    The ratio of the monthly housing payment in total (PITI - Principal, Interest, Taxes, and Insurance) divided by the gross monthly income. This ratio is sometimes referred to as the top ratio or front end ratio.

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  • Impound account

    Also known as an escrow account, an account set up by your mortgage lender to pay certain property-related expenses, like property taxes and homeowner’s insurance. If your loan has an impound account, your lender will collect for the payments being impounded in your impound account, and make the payment when bills are due.

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  • Loan to value ratio (LTV)

    The ratio of the loan amount to the appraised value of the home. For example, if you borrowed $240,000 to purchase a home worth $300,000, your LTV would be $240,000/$300,000, equal to 80%. The LTV will affect programs available to the borrower and generally, the lower the LTV, the more lenient the lender may be in the approval process. A higher LTV indicates a riskier loan.

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  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI)

    Insurance that protects lenders against losses should a homeowner default on the mortgage, a result of not paying on time or paying less than the amount due. Investors generally require private mortgage insurance for loans with loan-to-value (LTV) percentages greater than 80% (that means the buyer put down less than 20% of the home’s value).

  • Q

  • Qualifying ratios

    The ratios used to determine how much you can afford to borrow. It compares your fixed monthly expenses, like student loans, car loans, credit car payments, etc., to your gross monthly income. Lenders look at this percentage to help them decide on loan approval for a mortgage.

  • U

  • Underwriting

    Underwriting refers to a lender's process for evaluating whether or not to approve the borrower for a loan. Most of what they’re assessing falls under the three c’s of underwriting: credit, capacity and collateral.