homes provide privacy and low fees
I am a single, professional 29-year-old and interested
in buying my first home. Condos appeal to me because property maintenance
is included in the monthly fee. But I value my privacy and would really
like a separate living unit. What are your thoughts? -- Evelyn
In many communities, there's a "tweener"
option available to you called a zero-lot-line home. Also known
as a patio home, garden home or narrow-lot home, the zero-lot-liner
is especially popular with time-strapped, first-time home buyers
such as yourself and empty nesters who want to forsake yard work,
but don't want to live in a multifamily complex.
Most zero-lot line homes are built on or toward the
edge of a lot's outer boundary (hence the "zero-lot" moniker),
have either small front yards or small back yards (big enough for
gardening), and just a thin strip of turf for side yards, thus minimizing
The minimal yard upkeep is usually handled by a neighborhood
association fee or simply a loose affiliation with a yard contractor
who services the area. Or you can just hire your own contractor
in many instances. In either case, it will probably cost you less
than condo maintenance fees, which can range from about $150 to
well over $400.
Of course, any exterior wear and tear on the house
itself will be your responsibility, unlike with most condo associations.
Some cities restrict zero-lot-line developments by
imposing mandatory home set-back rules that make such construction
unfeasible. But more municipalities are taking to them because they
allow for more efficient subdivision of property in areas where
land is at a premium. They also create more residential density,
which translates to more taxable living space per acre.
There are dozens of different floor plans. Many units
are two or three stories high, and some have basements.
The jury is still out whether they appreciate as quickly
as their full-lot cousins, but most Realtors believe they do, because
they provide a lot more living space per square foot of land for
less money -- which is especially relevant in high-demand areas
along the Florida and California coasts, for example.
Most agents can direct you to listings for zero-lot-line
or other small-lot houses.
Good luck with your decision.