You’re in the market for a new house and see a listing for a patio home that seems to check all of your boxes: number of bedrooms, bathrooms, size, and location. But what exactly is a patio home?

First things first: Don’t let the name fool you. A patio home may or may not actually have a patio. Rather, a patio home is defined by its architectural style and location to neighboring homes. The key characteristic is that a patio home has at least one shared wall between your home and another home. Also, patio homes typically are not higher than one-and-a-half stories. In many locales, these homes are built near golf courses, but they also may be found in many neighborhoods and residential communities. Let’s take a closer look at patio homes, what makes them so popular, and considerations to keep in mind to determine if it’s the right fit for you.

A patio home featuring four homes in one building.
Source: (Rona Proudfoot / Flickr via Creative Commons Legal Code)

What is a patio home?

Patio homes are known by many names, including cluster homes, courtyard homes, carriage homes, and garden homes. They’re attached to other patio homes similar to a townhouse or condominium. However, unlike a townhouse or some condos, patio homes typically have just one story. Some designs may feature an additional half-story of space that may be used as a loft or extra bedroom, but it’s not a full second floor of living space. And while many patio homes do share a wall with their neighbors, sometimes their attachment comes in the form of a fence, gate, or exterior landscaping. Also, while many patio homes are similar to ranch homes, there are many that include full basements, adding some additional space for homeowners.

Emerging in the 1970s as a popular home choice, patio homes are generally small-lot homes, meaning that they take up the entire plot of the property. Known as “zero-lot lines,” there is no traditional backyard or side yard separating the home from its neighbors. While you can find patio homes nationwide, they are particularly prevalent in the Northeast, especially on or near golf courses.

Due to their smaller size, patio homes are often considered easier to manage and are popular with empty-nesters and retirees looking for a low-maintenance home. But they’re not just attractive to older homebuyers. They also appeal to entry-level buyers who are looking for an affordable way to break into home ownership.

How does a patio home differ from a condo or townhome?

While a patio home shares similarities with a condo and a townhouse, all three have their own characteristics.

Condos typically are found in a building or a complex of buildings composed of several individual units. Depending on the size of the building, there may be other units above, below, or on either side of your home. One considerable difference between a patio home and a condo are land rights. With a condo, the homeowner owns everything within the walls of the unit only. There are no land rights to the grounds surrounding the condo building. With a patio home, the homeowner owns the exterior of the structure ─ and typically ─ the lot.

While floor plans and neighborhoods vary significantly, a townhouse typically has two or more floors (although, in some cases, it may have just one). Depending on the development, townhomes are usually attached in groups of three to six units, resembling row houses. This means your townhome could share walls on one or both sides, depending on where it is located in the complex, but it does not have upstairs or downstairs neighbors like a condo.

An open floor plan common in most patio homes.
Source: (Zac Gudakov / Unsplash)

What are the benefits of a patio home?

Size and design

Because they are generally just one floor, patio homes make a good choice for people who want or need a home without stairs. Patio homes also often are designed with open floor plans, which are popular with a lot of homebuyers. They generally include a large living room that opens up into the kitchen and, possibly, a dining area. This layout can make entertaining more fun because no one is shut in the kitchen, and it also makes it easy to get around the home because there are no narrow hallways or doorways.

If the patio home has a half-story, this space could be used as an office, a rec room, or a reading nook — whatever the homebuyer wants. Of course, if the home includes a basement, that space could be converted into an extra bedroom and bathroom, a home theater, or playroom.

A perk of a patio home’s smaller size is that it means less time spent cleaning the home — something all homeowners can appreciate.

Pricing

Due to their smaller size, patio homes usually have smaller price tags, making them an attractive option for budget-conscious buyers. However, as with all homes, pricing depends on location, age, condition, building materials, and the current housing market. For instance, a 1,501-square-foot patio home near Cincinnati, Ohio, starts at $299,900, while a luxury patio home in Timnath, Colorado, starts at $623,000 for a 1,616-square-foot home.

Maintenance

While less square footage means less cleaning, a patio home also typically requires less exterior maintenance. Many patio home developments have a homeowners association, a governing body that creates and enforces rules for the community. Homeowners pay annual dues for certain services, which typically include landscaping and lawn maintenance. That means you may not have to worry about mowing the grass or weeding the flowerbed. Additionally, your fees may take care of trash pickup, snow removal, and maintenance and upkeep of all roads and common spaces in the community. The homeowners association also may provide some insurance coverage, but you likely will need an individual homeowners insurance policy to cover your personal property as well as the structure of the home.

Community

Like many condo and townhome communities, patio home communities often offer a variety of amenities, such as a swimming pool, fitness center, green spaces, bike paths, social clubs, or special events. Empty-nesters often can find patio homes in active adult communities, which typically offer numerous opportunities to get to know your neighbors and participate in activities together.

A shared wall is common in a patio home.
Source: (Spacejoy / Unsplash)

What are potential drawbacks of a patio home?

Lack of privacy

As with a condo or townhome, the most noticeable drawback of a patio home is the shared wall with the neighbors. If you have a noisy neighbor, this could take a toll on your enjoyment of the home. This close proximity to your neighbors also could lead to a lack of privacy.

Small outdoor spaces

Outside, the small lot size means you may not have much, if any, outdoor green space. Plus, since not all patio homes actually have a patio you may not even have a small paved space — other than your driveway — to enjoy the outdoors in any capacity.

Homeowners insurance concerns

Since your home is attached to another, you may run the risk of incurring damage because of an incident that originates in your neighbor’s dwelling. Your insurance agent can help you understand what this would mean for you, and guide you to the appropriate type and level of insurance coverage.

Homeowners association requirements

If your patio home is part of a homeowners association, it will have a list of covenants and rules you’ll need to follow. These could include anything from no long-term parking of RVs in the driveway to when you are allowed to display your holiday decorations. Homeowners associations also require you to pay monthly or annual fees to cover maintenance of all common areas and amenities, such as landscaping or a community swimming pool. How much those fees are depends on a number of factors such as location, number of homes in the community, and covered services and amenities, but the average fee is between $200 and $300 per month.

Similarly, some patio home communities have requirements that must be met in order to purchase a home. These could be minimum age requirements, a no-kids rule, or a no-pets rule.

A tablet used to shop for patio homes in the area.
Source: (Jude Fan / Unsplash)

Shopping for a patio home

Because this house style isn’t as prevalent as a condo or townhome, finding a patio home you love may require a little extra legwork. That’s why it’s important to work with a top real estate agent. They can tap into their resources to locate properties quickly and get you into a home that checks all of your boxes.

Header Image Source: (Rendy Novantino / Unsplash)