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What Is a Patio Home?

Maybe you’ve seen the term “patio home” used in the real estate market before and wondered what exactly that means. It’s a property with many names and several misconceptions. And what makes it an ever tougher question to answer is that the definition can differ based on where you look.

Realtors loosely define patio homes as small properties joined together either by a structure — such as a wall — or by yard. Because these are usually “zero-lot-line” homes — a term for a home that almost spans the entire space of the lot it sits on — they are often grouped in very close proximity to other similar properties. Patio homes can resemble townhomes in appearance, but on a smaller scale, not usually exceeding one and a half stories.

This relatively new type of home first began appearing around 40 years ago and gained popularity in suburban communities for their size, affordability and community-driven nature. As an added bonus with this type of unit, maintenance and landscaping are generally included with an association fee.

Pros and Cons of Patio Homes

There are several reasons patio homes are appealing to buyers and renters. With their downscaled size, convenience and proximity to neighbors, they make great homes for first-time buyers, small families and retired adults who seek a low-maintenance property. Community is a strong benefit to patio homes and with this type of unit, you can expect a little more privacy than traditional condos or townhomes.

However, there are some drawbacks to consider too. The minimal maintenance comes at a cost as these homes almost always involve a homeowners association with monthly or annual dues to manage the external care of the property. The adjoined nature of patio homes may also leave you wanting a little more privacy, and the small scale of the home may pose limitations down the line.


  • Minimal external maintenance
  • Community
  • Affordable


  • Privacy may be difficult
  • Lack of space over time
  • Homeowners association dues

Patio Homes vs Condos vs Townhomes

The difference between patio homes, condos and townhomes can seem rather subtle without a little research beforehand. All of these properties share some similarities — a homeowners association, for example — but differ in significant ways.

Patio homes

Some patio homes will share a wall between units, like that of a townhome or condo. Patio homeowners own the lot and the structure of their home and can usually make changes and updates depending on the limitations put in place by the homeowners association.


Condo owners typically only own the interior space of their condo and will share walls with neighbors in the complex. The exterior parts of the condo are owned and maintained by a homeowner association with much more emphasis placed on each owner contributing to the overall cost of maintaining the building. Sometimes, this may require an additional fund to be paid by each resident for major updates or maintenance, such as a new roof.


Townhome residents will usually share at least one wall with neighboring units and own the interior and exterior of their home, excluding the common areas of a development. All interior and exterior maintenance would be done by the owner with a homeowners association fee being paid to manage the common areas and any amenities.

Do Patio Homes Need Insurance?

Generally speaking, patio homes would have a master policy in place by their homeowners association. This, of course, may not cover damages to personal property and should be reviewed with caution. A supplemental policy may be needed to ensure the most protection for you and your belongings. Learn more about how homeowners insurance can help protect your patio home.

What to Consider When Shopping for a Patio Home

Patio homes are a fairly novel concept and not widely available everywhere. While popular in the Northeast region, you may have to search for patio home communities and builders in your area.

Before you ink the paper on a patio home sale, be sure you’re aware of some key points:

  • Price
  • Closing costs
  • Amenities
  • Customization options
  • Community
  • Size
  • Layout
  • Your future family plans
  • Maintenance costs
  • Homeowners association fees
  • What kind of insurance the homeowners association provides in their dues

Ready to start your home buyer journey? Visit our first time home buyer’s guide to learn about our expert advice on buying a home. Then, of course, connect with an American Family Insurance agent for more information on insuring the patio home of your dreams.

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