What is a Patio Home and Should You Buy One?

Ginny Bartolone
Written by Ginny Bartolone
Updated April 29, 2022
New neighborhood with patio homes
Photo: Linda J Photography / Adobe Stock


  • Patio homes are a style of attached residence with one or one-and-a-half floors.

  • You will often find patio homes in planned communities hosted by HOAs.

  • Patio homes share one or more walls with their neighbors and have minimal yard space.

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Try not to get tripped up on the patio home's somewhat deceiving name—which, surprisingly, has nothing to do with an outdoor seating area. Similar to a condo or townhouse, patio homes are a form of attached residences that are typically part of a larger organized housing community. 

The size, price, and relatively easy maintenance of patio homes makes them an alluring option for many homebuyers. Curious if a patio home is right for you? Let's take a look at the features of this home design.

What is a Patio Home?

Popular in planned communities since the 1970s, patio homes have earned a few common names, including garden homes, cluster homes, or carriage homes. Real estate lingo likes to call them "zero-lot-line" homes since they sit right on the edge of the property.

Patio homes refer to attached residences that only stand one or one-and-a-half stories high. While each home may include a small seating area in the front and back for morning coffee, front and backyards tend to blend into your neighbors without room for, well, a patio.

A homeowner's association (or HOA) typically manages sets of patio homes. They will charge HOA fees and manage a set of residence standards as well as provide managed common spaces and community events.

Exterior Features of a Patio Home

An adjoined set of patio homes will typically look similar, if not the same. The HOA may allow minor changes to the exterior, but uniformity is often a selling point to the look of the community. Each home may feature:

  • Adjoined walls on one or both sides

  • One to one-and-a-half stories

  • A front driveway and indoor garage

  • A small front and backyard seating area

  • Architecture style to match the region

  • Lack of clear delineation between properties

Interior Features of a Patio Home

House interior with lofted second floor
Photo: Ursula Page / Adobe Stock

A patio home community will also offer several home layouts to please different tastes. They will, however, follow similar patterns:

  • Main living area and bedrooms on the first floor

  • Lofted second floor

  • Guest room or small extra living space on the second floor

  • Open floor plan

  • Direct garage access

What’s the Difference Between Patio Homes, Condos, and Townhouses?

If you're mixing up a patio home with a condo or a townhouse, you're not alone. These housing options are incredibly similar, and all of these terms can get confusing. 

When you purchase a patio home, you often own the interior and exterior of your property, including features like the driveway and lawn. The HOA fees cover community services and upkeep of the neighborhood.

Condo owners are only responsible for the interior of the building, as they do not own the actual land. In this case, the HOA fees cover any exterior and common area spaces and retain ownership of the land.

However, townhomes are attached homes that have two or more floors. They may or may not fall within an HOA, and homeowners typically own both the exterior and interior of the property.

Pros and Cons of a Patio Home

The small setup and comparatively low price make an ideal starter home for small families and single professionals. Retirees enjoy the opportunity to downsize and live in an accessible, one-story home. For both groups, the appeal of an organized community is a huge draw for more engaged living.

Before you consider touring a patio home, take a look at the pros and cons to these unique homes.

Pros of Patio Homes

  • Lower upfront costs: If you're looking to spend a bit less on the initial down payment, patio homes tend to cost less than traditional single-family homes with larger lots. Keep in mind that these costs could be offset by HOA fees that will add to your monthly payments.

  • Community events: Being a member of an HOA within a patio home community is a great perk for those looking to connect with their neighbors. You'll often find patio homes connected to golf and country clubs, so you may enjoy access to amenities like sports centers, pools, recreation halls, and even dining perks.

  • Accessibility: The layout of a patio home often offers a more accessible option for those who need to avoid steps or make their home wheelchair-accessible. The smaller front and backyard also means that homeowners spend less time mowing the lawn or removing snow.

Con of Patio Homes

  • HOA regulations: Your homeowners association sets clear rules that vary from community to community. Keep in mind that an HOA may also regulate factors like pets, running a home business, or making major changes to any part of your home seen from the street, even landscaping.

  • Lack of privacy: The flip side of living in a patio home—particularly within an organized community—is less privacy and space compared to a freestanding home in a traditional neighborhood. 

Should You Buy a Patio Home?

An experienced local real estate agent can help you determine if a patio home is the best move in your home-buying journey. For example, they can help you avoid first-time homebuyer mistakes such as getting drawn in by the low cost without considering HOA fees.

Most importantly, patio homes vary by location. You'll find patio homes everywhere from Miami to Pittsburgh, each with its own price tag, amenities, and architectural features. Always follow the same home buying checklist that you would with any other style of home, even if it's within a trusted planned community.

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