There are a number of terms used by builders and realtors to describe a home. For example,  spec home vs model home. What’s the difference? Is a model home the same as a spec home? Are there advantages or disadvantages between spec homes and model homes? Let’s start by defining what each type of home is:

What Are Spec Homes?

Spec here means “speculative,” another word for an educated guess. Builders buy specific tracts of land where they think communities will develop or where someone might one day want a home. This might then proceed in a few different directions. Someone who wants a home on the land might contact the builder to custom design the home, in which case the spec home shifts toward being a custom home. More often, builders will start building quickly off of their own design – before they have a buyer.

If a buyer comes in midway through the process, they can often customize many of the features and finishes the home has. Or the builder might complete the home before there’s a buyer and put it on the market.

Essentially, if the builder buys the land and begins to build on it with the intent to sell, they’re building a spec home.

What Are Model Homes?

You might be more familiar with model homes. When a builder plans to develop homes across a wide tract of land, such as in a subdivision, they won’t make every home completely unique. This would be inefficient and expensive for them. They’ll rely on several different floor plans, each tailored to a specific family size.

This way, if they have 200 homes to build, they won’t have to rely on 200 different floor plans. They’ll be able to build 200 homes based off of, say, six different floor plans. This increases their productivity, their speed, and reduces the material cost of building these homes.

What Is the Difference Between a Spec Home vs Model Home?

Synergy Homes Model ComparisonWhich is better? It’s all in the eye of the beholder. There are specific advantages to each, and elements you should look for in determining if a home is right for you.

Spec Home Advantages:

Spec homes are very common, so there’s a good chance you can find one that’s in the early phases of being built. This allows you to work with the builder on customizing many elements of the home, and especially material choices.

This is faster than custom building in many ways. You can usually find a spec home that’s already under way. The builder has already done a lot of the hard work in terms of design, as well as going through much of the bureaucracy involved with getting the house built in the first place. You don’t have to manage their schedule because they already had one long before you got there.

When it comes to builders, spec home vs model home builders will often include nice materials that custom home builders sometimes consider upgrades and that model homes don’t typically offer.

The number of spec homes usually being built means that you’ll often have your choice of location.

Model Home Advantages:

The chief advantage of a spec home vs model home is the price point. If you build a ton of homes differently, then each of those floor plans has to be approved, and the builder is doing something new every single time. If you build off of a handful of different models, the floor plans are approved and the builders have already built the home several times before – they know how to do it sensibly.

Model homes are also extremely vetted. Their layout is optimized. Builders don’t take any extreme chances with experimenting. They want to produce homes that will appeal to the widest variety of people. Where everything is placed will generally make a lot of sense and living there will be comfortable.

Spec Home Disadvantages:

There aren’t many. These are homes that are quickly built, and you’ll usually find a few in a specific areas where you want to move.

In comparing a spec home vs model home, a spec home may require you to make selections between different sorts of fixtures, flooring, and materials, but if you don’t want to do this you can always tell the builder to take care of it.

That said, if you want to customize everything, as you would in a custom home, you won’t be able to do that in a spec home. Unless you catch them right between buying the land and starting the home, the builders will usually have started on their own design and floor plan.

Spec homes fall in the middle in terms of price between more expensive custom homes and less expensive model homes.

Model Home Disadvantages:

These can sometimes reflect their price point in the quality of materials or fixtures chosen. That has more to do with builder than with model homes as a whole. Some model home builders will give you a range of options to choose from when it comes to customizing some materials or fixtures. This range may be somewhat limited – buying a limited range in larger amounts helps model home builders keep the price down, and that savings will get passed on to you in the home’s price point.

Model home builders usually do an extremely good job of giving each house unique visual and landscaping touches so that the same models won’t look exactly alike. That said, if you look closely in a neighborhood built on model home designs, you’ll eventually recognize the same designs repeated. Some people mind that; others don’t.

Resale values on model homes will not initially climb as quickly as they will for spec homes and custom homes. They catch up over the long run, but in the short-term not enough to make selling a model home for a quick turnaround very sensible. That said, model homes with ultra-modern features such as energy efficient designs and green building materials will see their resale climb more like other homes.


Ultimately, the choice is up to you. You’ve learned some of the advantages and disadvantages to each type of home. When it comes to spec home vs model home, each will provide you a very comfortable, well built place to live. It comes down to other features, such as location, price, ability to customize, speed of the build, quality of materials, and resale value.

Everyone has a different plan and different priorities. Look at which advantages appeal to you and which potential disadvantages don’t bother you. It also comes down to the actual homes you find available. You may prefer spec homes, but find a model home where the layout and choices made really fit your taste, and where the price point allows you to save more. You may prefer model homes, but find a spec home that’s closer to your job and has good schools for your kids.

There are advantages to each, and in the right circumstances, you may find additional advantages based on additional preferences. Don’t close yourself completely off to either, but do know what you like and prefer. Bring those likes and preferences into the conversations you have with real estate agents and home builders. For more information, contact Synergy Homes now.

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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

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