Most homebuyers and sellers in Los Gatos and Silicon Valley generally are familiar with the terms “condo” or “condominium”, “townhouse” or “townhome” and “single family home”. But what about “patio home”? What type of residence is that? It’s an unknown to many consumers – and many real estate professionals too!
A patio home is sometimes referred to as a zero lot line home. It is a house (not attached to any other home) in which the structure is built against one of the property lines.
In a regular single family home, the building has a few feet on each side between the structure and the property line – that is known as a setback. In other words, you can walk around all four sides of the home without going on anyone else’s property.
That isn’t the case with a patio home. There’s no setback on one side.
A patio home is build up against the property line such that the owner cannot walk all the way around the house without going on someone else’s property.
There are advantages and disadvantages of patio homes. Advantages include more privacy than a townhome or condo would offer, and better use of land adjacent to the home since there aren’t small 5-8 foot side yards, but instead something more sizeable and useable.
Disadvantages include the lack of windows on the side of the home which is built on the property line and the inability to protect the side of the home that functions as a fence or boundary for the neighbors.
By way of example, if the side of your patio home that lines the boundary gets excessive moisture because the neighbors vigorously water their plants and don’t worry about hitting your house, that’s a problem. Additionally, since you cannot see what’s happening without asking the neighbors if you can go on their land to keep an eye on your exterior wall, there’s a risk that the structure could be getting damaged and you’d never know it. So there’s a loss of control and a loss of information that’s intrinsic to this type of home.
Additionally, many patio home communities have an association fee and that also needs to be factored in.
Patio homes tend to be less expensive than standard single family homes. The difference is often in the 5 – 10% range, but it varies with the individual home and the real estate market conditions at the time of sale.
Should you buy a patio home? It’s on a continuum between townhomes and single family homes. It may be the best compromise for you, or it could be a big headache. My thinking, generally, is that if you can buy a single family home for the same amount and same quality, your money is better spent there. But if you’re in the market for a townhome or a duet home (or duplex), this is definitely a step up and worth a little stretch.