What is a Patio Home? Ironically, a House Without a Patio

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When you hear the term “patio home” the picture of a home with a large front patio may instantly come to mind. But that’s not what a patio home is. On the surface, patio homes look more like a condo, row home, or townhouse, but they’re not quite any of those home styles either.

In reality, patio homes are small single family homes that are typically more affordable and lower maintenance. So whether you’re moving out of your apartment in Seattle, WA and looking to buy your first home or downsizing in the suburbs, there are plenty of reasons why you may want to consider a patio home. We’ll outline the pros and cons and what to consider when looking for these homes, so you can decide if a patio home is right for you.

What is a patio home?

Patio homes, sometimes called “garden homes,” “courtyard homes,” or “cluster homes,” are attached single-story or one-and-a-half-story houses. They often have at least one shared wall with neighboring homes, much like a row house. You may also hear this home style called a “zero lot line,” meaning that it has little to no yard, and is situated right next to other homes. Zero lot line houses use less land and optimize the number of single family homes built in an area.

They’re often found near golf courses or in dedicated patio home communities rather than as standalone houses. Typically, these communities have a homeowners association (HOA) where you pay monthly HOA dues. These dues cover neighborhood or community maintenance of common spaces like pools, shared spaces, landscaping, etc.

Popularity of patio homes

Patio homes became popular during the 1970s due to their zero-lot line and relatively easy maintenance. While often found in the Northeast, you can find patio homes across the country if you’ve got your sights set on one of these properties. This house style is often popular for those looking for a smaller one-story home without stairs or those downsizing from a larger house. If you were looking for these home features, you may just find that patio homes are at the top of your list now.

What are the differences between patio homes, condos, and townhouses?

Patio homes may look somewhat similar to condos and townhouses, but the three differ slightly. If you’re debating between these options it’s important to know their key differences.

Condos vs patio homes

Unlike a condo, townhomes and patio homes own the ground underneath their property. That means you own the front yard, walkways, etc. Owning a condo means that you only own part of the building itself, not the land underneath and around your home. The condo complex usually owns the lot, while a condo owner owns the unit which includes the home’s exterior and interior.

Condo owners aren’t typically responsible for the maintenance surrounding their home, such as landscaping or fence repairs, as they don’t own that land. In a patio home, you’ll likely be in charge of your landscaping and exterior maintenance unless specified in the HOA terms and conditions. Additionally, you may have to meet maintenance standards like driveway regulations or rules regarding exterior decorations outlined in those HOA terms.

Townhouses vs patio homes

The main difference between townhomes and patio homes is their layout. Townhomes are typically two or more stories while patio homes are one story, although some have additional half stories. Patio homes typically don’t have stairs and have a more open floor plan. On the other hand, townhomes have multiple stories with rooms spread across each floor.

While townhomes may look bigger in appearance, they are often similar or the same square footage as patio homes – the difference is just how the space is spread out. Many townhomes have shared walls like patio homes, so you can expect to have at least one wall shared with your neighbor.

Patio home layout

Patio homes typically have an open concept living space, which can be a popular layout for certain buyers. You’ll usually find a larger living room and kitchen with a space for a dining room. Like ranch homes, there aren’t any stairs unless your patio home has an additional half-story attic or small basement.

If your home has an attic or basement you can add your own touch to the space whether you’re looking to create a home office, cozy reading room, or even just an extra storage area. Usually, patio homes have two to three bedrooms, all of which are located on the main floor.

Pros and cons of a patio home

If you’re debating between a condo, townhome, single-family home, or patio home, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of a patio home. These points may help you make the right homebuying decision.

Pros of a patio homes

Affordability: Patio homes tend to have a smaller price tag, although that varies depending on your location and current housing market. This can be a huge advantage for potential homeowners looking for a more affordable pathway to homeownership.

Amenities: Patio home communities often have amenities that other neighborhoods may not. These amenities can range from communal swimming pools, clubhouses, private parks, tennis courts, or gyms.

Less maintenance: With a smaller home comes less maintenance. Patio homes are often smaller in square footage and have less yard space, so you may spend less time keeping up with your indoor and outdoor cleaning and maintenance. Sometimes your homeowners association will pay for landscaping and exterior maintenance like snow removal, but this is not always the case.

Cons of a patio homes

Additional expenses: Patio home communities, much like condo communities, have an HOA, meaning you’ll likely have to pay HOA fees on a regular basis. While these homes are often more affordable, you’ll need to factor in these additional expenses. They may cost anywhere from $100-$300 a month.

Close proximity to neighbors: Due to their small lots and shared walls, you’ll be very close to your neighbors. That means you’re more likely to hear noise from your neighbors than if you were living on a larger property.

Smaller home: If you’re looking for a large backyard and spacious home, that’s not the case with a patio home. But this may not be a deal-breaker if you’re looking to downsize or don’t need much space.

Buying a patio home

There’s not that much of a difference between buying a patio home or a single-family home, condo, or townhouse – especially when it comes to getting a mortgage. When you’re pre-approved for a mortgage, your lender will check your credit, income, and other assets, and let you know what loan types and the amount you qualify for. From there you’ll be able to determine your final budget.

One difference to consider is home insurance. Home insurance typically covers your home, but when you share walls with your neighbors, what happens if your neighbor causes damage to your home? In some cases, your HOA fees may include a bit of home insurance coverage. If you have the right policy, this shouldn’t cause too much concern, but it’s best to speak with an insurance agent to understand which policies work best with your needs.

How to find patio homes in your area

Patio homes are a little more difficult to find than condos or townhouses, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t find one in your area. You can search for homes that are a single story, have a lot size under 2000 square feet, and homeowners associations.

If you’re ready to look for a patio home of your own, Redfin can help you find one in your town. 

1. Go to Redfin.com and type into the Search Bar either the city’s name or the zip code (for example, Jacksonville, FL) where you’d like to begin looking for a house. Press enter.

2. Near the top of the next page, on the right side, you will see “All filters.” Click on that. 

3. Narrow your search by selecting the maximum number of floors, square feet, and HOA fees you want and press “See homes.” All homes with your selected criteria within the city name or zip code you entered will populate the page, and you’ll be able to begin your search. 

The post What is a Patio Home? Ironically, a House Without a Patio appeared first on Redfin | Real Estate Tips for Home Buying, Selling & More.

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