What is a patio home?

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If you’re looking to buy a home, your browsing can turn up a wide range of listings: houses, condos, townhouses and more. In your search for a place that fits your budget, you might come across a type of property known as a patio home.

What is a patio home?

While you might think a “patio home” is simply an obvious description for a home with a patio, that’s not the case.

“Oddly enough, a patio home doesn’t have to have a patio,” explains Christine Dupont-Patz, GRI, Realtor and broker associate at RE/MAX of Cherry Creek in Denver, Colorado, who adds that patio homes are sometimes called garden or cluster homes.

Patio homes are typically part of a community of other patio homes. While they vary in appearance and size, the majority are limited by height, rarely exceeding one-and-a-half stories.

Patio home vs. condo vs. townhouse

A patio home does have one commonality with a condominium and a townhouse: All of these are considered “attached residences,” meaning they share walls with other units.

“Condos often do not own the land directly under the property and can share multiple walls, similar to an apartment,” Dupont-Patz says. “A townhome does own the land under the property and often has multiple levels with units sharing the side walls.”

Like a townhouse, a patio includes the land underneath the property. The difference between these two is what’s above the ground.

“The main difference between a townhome and patio home is that patio homes are on a single level,” Dupont-Patz says, adding that some patio homes extend another half story. “The main living space doesn’t have stairs. A patio home can have a similar layout of a ranch home with smaller square footage.”

How much does a patio home cost?

Like all real estate, the price of a patio home depends on size and location. A three-bedroom patio home on a golf course in Wilmington, North Carolina, has a different price tag than a similar property in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, for instance.

Regardless of where you might be considering buying a patio home, know that the list price might look more appealing than a standalone property that isn’t part of a community. There’s a catch, though: You’ll pay HOA fees.

“While a patio home may cost less than a similar single-family ranch home, buyers need to factor in the association fees,” Dupont-Patz says. “Smaller communities may just cover the grounds maintenance. However, larger communities may have pools, tennis courts, clubhouses and other amenities that require substantial fees.”

If you’re thinking about buying a patio home, Dupont-Patz recommends taking a close look at notes from past association meetings, as “that’s often when neighbors discuss any concerns or grievances.”

Who are patio homes best for?

The patio home style is an ideal fit for homeowners who don’t want to deal with stairs.

“Those who may have mobility issues or very young children may require a home with no steps that could be a tripping hazard,” Dupont-Patz says. “They’re very popular for those who are downsizing, and many 55-plus communities have patio homes.”

In addition to the absence of stairs, there is also an absence of maintenance in many patio home communities. Many patio homeowners associations handle landscaping duties, Dupont-Patz says, which negates the need for a lawn mower or garden tools.

Patio home pros and cons

Pros Cons
Lower purchase price Additional monthly expenses
Extra amenities Too close to your neighbors
Addresses safety concerns Less space

Because a patio home is smaller, you’ll likely pay less to purchase it compared to other types of properties. Some patio homes are in communities with clubhouses and neighborhood facilities, so you can also take advantage of those features. The height restriction can be valuable, too, since you won’t have to worry about climbing any stairs.

Those extras, however, come with a bigger price tag. Depending on what your patio home community offers, you’ll have to pay more each month in dues.

Plus, if you’re looking for space, a patio home isn’t the best option. You’ll be close to your neighbors in general, and when you want to escape them, you’ll have less room inside to do that.

How to finance a patio home

The process of finding a mortgage lender to help you buy a patio home is similar to the process of getting a loan for a condo, townhouse or single-family property — you can expect the lender to verify your creditworthiness and order an appraisal of the property.

Keep in mind that the lender will make sure you can not only afford to repay the mortgage, but also pay the HOA fees. You can use Bankrate’s affordability calculator to get an idea of how much you can afford to spend.

How to find a patio home

Patio homes aren’t as widely available as other types of properties, but they are cropping up in more developments across the country. As you start your home search, consider working with a local real estate agent who can help point you to patio homes in your area.

Find other housing types:

House type Who it’s right for:
Apartment Apartments are suited for anyone looking to stay in a prime location for a cheaper price near shopping, restaurant and entertainment centers, often at a more affordable cost than buying a condo or single-family home.
Condominium Condos appeal to those looking for a lower-maintenance living, home with a sense of security, opportunities to be social with neighbors, among other factors.
Townhouse Townhouses are a particularly good option for first-time homebuyers or other budget-minded home buyers who want more space than typically afforded in a condo.
Modular home Modular homes are enticing to empty-nesters looking to downsize, couples looking for backyard units, like tiny homes or families looking to upgrade their dated properties in nice but expensive neighborhoods.
Single-family home Single-family homes are best for families who prefer a huge yard and plenty of room to spread out. Others still prefer a low-maintenance condo or townhome that includes benefits like landscaping, snow removal and exterior maintenance.
Multi-family home Multi-family homes are best for those who are interested in getting into real estate investing and are comfortable with the added responsibility and time commitment that comes with being a landlord.
Bungalow home At between 1,000 and 2,000 square feet, bungalows are a great option for young families looking for a starter home or retirees hoping to downsize in a home without stairs, or single homeowners who want the single-family home lifestyle without managing a huge property.
Co-op Co-ops are most often found in major cities, and they can be good for those looking for security or neighbors who largely adhere to the building’s rules and policies.
Patio home Typically capped at one-and-a-half stories and part of a larger association, patio homes are best for homeowners who don’t want to deal with stairs or maintenance.
Ranch home Ranch homes are ideal for anyone who prefers single-story living. Singles, couples and families with children can find something to love about a ranch home.
Written by
David McMillin
Contributing writer
David McMillin writes about credit cards, mortgages, banking, taxes and travel. David's goal is to help readers figure out how to save more and stress less.
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