Should You Buy a Patio Home?

The charming feature of these homes is not the patio—it’s the price.

An older patio home with a porch out front

Perry Mastrovito / Getty Images

Patio homes can be good options for buyers wanting an affordable, low-maintenance property, without the hassles and headaches that come with a traditional single-family home. But they’re not right for everyone. As with any type of real estate, patio homes have their unique pros and cons, and weighing these is crucial before moving forward with a purchase.

Key Takeaways

  • A patio home is a small, single-family home with a small yard. These homes are situated closely together.
  • These homes are typically found in communities and have homeowners associations that can require dues and enforce community rules.
  • They tend to offer social opportunities, but the flip side is that you might also lose some privacy.
  • The process of getting a mortgage is no different from that for buying a traditional house, but the price is often a good bit less.

What Is a Patio Home?

Patio homes should not be confused properties that simply have a patio. The term “patio home” speaks to a specific style of real estate, not any single exterior feature or amenity. What defines a patio home can vary greatly, but generally, a patio home is a smaller, single-family home with a compact yard and lot size. Most of the time, they’re just one story, though in some cases, patio homes may be larger. Usually, they’re attached to other neighboring properties via a shared, fenceless lot or yard.

Builders and planners sometimes describe patio homes as “zero-lot-line” homes, designed to reduce land use and better serve a high volume of homeowners by eliminating traditional backyards and separate lots between properties.

Patio homes are typically part of larger patio home communities. These often have homeowners associations in place, which require monthly or annual dues to cover maintenance of communal areas. They may also offer clubs, events, and other social opportunities for residents. They tend to be popular for empty nesters who want to reduce home maintenance tasks, or first-time buyers working with a limited budget.

Patio Homes vs. Condos and Townhomes

Patio homes are often confused with townhomes and condominiums, though the three differ slightly. Townhomes typically share walls with adjoining properties, either on one side or both sides of the property. They also usually have a front and backyard, and a driveway, that the owner is responsible for maintaining.

Condos also share walls with adjoining units, though they may have these on either side of the property, or above, or below the unit. Condo owners generally do not have yards to maintain, nor are they responsible for any exterior repairs or maintenance.

In both cases, owners usually pay an association or community fee to help maintain the property's shared areas. Condo dues are often higher due to the additional exterior maintenance provided.

Pros and Cons of Patio Homes

Patio homes are designed with minimal maintenance in mind. Unlike traditional single-family homes, their small lots require little upkeep. Still, they offer a similar level of privacy and independence, unlike condos, townhomes, and other similar properties that are more communal. Because of their smaller size, patio homes are typically more affordable than traditional homes.

On the downside, patio home communities almost always have a homeowner’s association, which requires dues on a monthly or annual basis. Depending on the scope of maintenance required at the community, and any amenities offered, these can get costly.

What We Like
  • Low maintenance

  • More affordable than larger single-family homes

  • Typically part of a larger patio home community

What We Don't Like
  • Smaller

  • Potential lack of privacy

  • Often require homeowners association dues

Finding the Right Patio Home

You won’t find patio homes everywhere, and not all builders offer these types of homes. Therefore, to find one, you might need to look for specific patio home communities and builders in your region.

When considering what patio home to purchase, make sure you factor in:

  • Homeowner’s association dues
  • Community amenities
  • Proximity to neighboring properties
  • Maintenance requirements (and costs)
  • Social opportunities
  • Available customizations and upgrades
  • Price and closing costs
  • Size, style, and layout

You may want to ask a real estate agent in your area for recommendations on local patio home communities and builders. You might even find an agent who specializes in patio home purchases.

Financing Your Patio Home Purchase

Unless you’re paying for your patio home with cash, you’ll need to finance the purchase using a mortgage loan. Despite the home’s smaller size and scope, this process should be no different from any other real estate transaction.

Make sure you’re aware of how your homeowner’s association dues are handled before leaving your closing. In some cases, your mortgage escrow account may cover these expenses for you as part of your monthly payment. In others, you may need to pay them out of pocket on a monthly or annual basis. Be sure you’re clear on your HOA obligations, so you don’t fall out of compliance.