Standard Build-to-Rent Nomenclature: A Path to Greater Acceptance

Standard Build-to-Rent Nomenclature: A Path to Greater Acceptance


20 members of our New Home Trends Institute’s Build-to-Rent council recently gathered to give the industry some missing clarity and consistency in terminology. The goal was to align on the terms that will: 

  • gain favor among consumers,  
  • win over municipalities, and  
  • optimize search engine visibility. 

To reach the broadest audience:

  • Use build-TO-rent (BTR), instead of build-FOR-rent (BFR), since build-to-rent receives more traction on multiple fronts: Google traffic, #hashtag followers, and citations in the press.

To appeal to municipalities, use these keywords: 

  • Home is a better word than multifamily, product type, unit, or apartment. Use individual addresses rather than unit numbers when possible.  
  • Professionally managed rental home community is the most accurate and accepted verbiage for the innovation that is sweeping the country right now. 
  • Lease better conveys the long-term nature of the agreement than rent, possibly due to the terminology related to leasing a car (long term) vs. renting a car (at the airport).  
  • Note that consumers typically google “home for rent,” so both terms have their advantages 

To attract consumers, emphasize: 

  • private yards,  
  • low maintenance,  
  • pet-friendly,  
  • no one living above or below, and a  
  • private/secure community

To win over municipalities, emphasize: 

  • newly built rental homes, to distinguish from a preconceived, unfavorable perception of renters,
  • onsite management, which gives municipalities the confidence that the community will be maintained well and managed professionally.  

To create alignment in expectations around future developments, specify: 

  • Quality and service: Classify homes as 5-star, 4-star or 3-star experiences (similar to hospitality, for consumers). The multifamily sector of the industry uses Class A, Class B or Class C, which primarily correlates with the age of the community. Build-to-rent communities are primarily new. 
  • Density: Classify your home as either: 
    • Cottage-style: Often called horizontal apartments, cottages, upscale cottages, single-story apartments, apartment homes, patio homes. These tend to diverge the most from for-sale with no attached garages and/or some apartment-style parking lot configurations. These communities also tend not to have traditional lot lines.
    • Attached homes: Often called 2- or 3-story townhomes/rowhomes, luxury townhomes, luxury apartment townhomes, primarily with an attached garage. 
    • Detached homes: Traditional single-family detached, luxury detached, single-family leased homes, houses for rent, unique single-family homes, and resort-style rental homes. 

Consistent definitions will reduce complexity within our industry. Rather than defining communities differently, consider using the terms above and refining your home designs under each category. 

The Build-to-Rent Trends Council is part of the New Home Trends Institute and is made up of thought-leaders from around the country. Each council session addresses different trends influencing this sector of housing. If you are interested in applying to be a part of the council for 2023 or would like to discuss the above terms, contact Deana Vidal. Applications close October 31, 2022. 


Deana Vidal Deana Vidal, Senior Manager, Trend Consulting