If you are in the process of buying a home, you may have heard the term, “zero lot line”, come up.
Zero lot line homes are residential real estate that are built up to the home’s boundary line with another property.
These are especially prevalent in cities and are growing ever more prominent in the suburbs.
They’re designed to maximize the indoor living space and minimize the outdoor living space.
If you’re wondering if this kind of home is the right option for you, read on.
We’ll tell you everything you need to know about zero lot line properties.
1. What is a zero lot line house?
A zero lot line house is a residential property that comes up to or lies on the home’s property line.
One side of the home’s structure is near the edge of the property, and the property has no room between the house and the boundary line.
As a result, it’s possible for the properties to be completely adjacent.
Because the space may be so tight between houses, it’s up to the owners of the properties to know where the property lines exist.
Otherwise, you may accidentally build on the other person’s lot.
It’s important to know that not all zoning laws permit the construction of zero lot line houses or buildings.
These laws dictate the rights of a property owner to construct or modify buildings on their property, especially as it relates to a neighbor’s boundary lines.
Be sure to check the zoning laws in your area to find out more about zero lot line properties.
2. Why do zero lot lines exist?
Zero lot lines exist to create more interior space for homeowners.
In some cases, homeowners only want to pay for a lot large enough to hold the house itself.
They don’t care about having a yard outside.
That said, it can impact the property value of the house.
You’ll most often see zero lot line homes in urban areas with high population density.
These properties are an alternative to townhouses and condos.
They provide housing options for a large number of people in a tightly packed region.
3. What are the most common types of zero lot line homes?
The most common types of zero lot line homes are…
4. What are the advantages of a zero lot line house?
There are a few core reasons that homeowners gravitate toward zero lot line houses.
Here’s why you might consider it.
You have a standalone structure
Zero lot line properties are an in-between option.
They aren’t quite as communal as an apartment, and they aren’t quite as private as a traditional house.
That said, they still give you the freedom to have a standalone structure, garden, etc.
You maximize your living space
The primary reason that zero lot line homes exist is that they maximize your living space, and this is also one of their biggest advantages.
Zero lot lines turn the square footage that would have been your side yards into usable living space.
If you’re less interested in having outdoor living space and would rather have it transformed into a bedroom, kitchen, or interior living room space, then this can absolutely happen!
This is an especially attractive option if you have a larger family or if you live in an urban setting.
You have a low cost and low maintenance yard
If you’re not interested in having to take care of a yard, living in a zero lot line property is a great solution.
You’ll have less outdoor property to take care of, and this means fewer maintenance efforts and costs.
5. What are the disadvantages?
Although there are numerous advantages of living in a zero lot line house, there are definite downsides.
Here are some that you may want to consider before going all-in on this option.
You have little development potential
With zero lot line houses, there’s nowhere to expand if you one day decide you need more room.
There will likely be no additional property to work with, and this means you won’t have the option to make an addition if you decide you need more space.
You have limited outdoor space
Zero lot line homes may have patios, but that’s about all you’ll get in terms of outdoor space.
If you love the idea of having a yard to run around in, then you shouldn’t select this style of housing.
Most zero lot line homes have you walking right out onto a busy city sidewalk because all the square footage is taken up by the home.
If you have small children or pets who would love and use outdoor space, then this isn’t the best option for you.
You may have some design restrictions
While there are a variety of layouts available, that doesn’t mean there are no design restrictions.
In zero lot line homes, you can’t install windows, water taps, and air vents on the wall next to the edge of your lot.
You may hear a lot of noise
Although zero lot line homes tend to provide more privacy than apartments or condos, they still have less space than you would with a traditional home.
They often share walls with adjacent homes and have little yard space.
This means that you may hear a lot of noise from your neighbors or the street due to close proximity.
If you’re looking to eliminate noise from neighbors, traffic, or loud pedestrians, then it may be best to select a different option.
6. How do zoning laws work for zero lot line homes?
Regulations decide whether a lot will be zoned for a zero lot line house or not.
This is predetermined by the city.
However, housing developments and subdivisions will sometimes apply for waivers of setback rules (if they exist) so that zero lot line homes can be built.
7. How do you know if this kind of home is for you?
If you’re on the fence about whether this is the right housing option for you, read through the following list.
You live in an urban area
Zero lot line properties are a lot more popular in urban renewal settings.
You’ll often see them in locations with high population density, such as the urban core of a large metropolitan area.
Zero lot line buildings are a way to get more dwelling units on smaller lots.
You have a family
Zero lot line homes can be good for those with families, depending on your needs.
It’s up to you to assess if this is the right move for your family.
Some families really desire that outdoor space while others prioritize indoor living space.
Maybe you have children who each need their own bedroom and don’t have time to use or maintain the outdoor living space.
Likewise, maybe you have some older family members (i.e., grandparents) who live with you and just 1-2 children.
You may need additional bedrooms to accommodate everyone, and not everyone would use the outdoor space.
You desire a lot of house space
Everyone prioritizes the space in their homes differently.
Some people love having a lot of living room space while others like having a lot of bedroom space.
Some people wouldn’t mind the house being small if it was on a lot of land.
A zero lot line house is the opposite.
If you want your house to be big and use up all the lot space, then this option is for you.
You’ll maximize your lot and leave nothing to be desired.
You don’t want to have to maintain your yard
Yard maintenance can be a pain.
If you’re not up for mowing your lawn every weekend, then maybe it’s time for a zero lot line home.
You’ll have access to your porch, but other than that you won’t have to worry about the yard.
A zero lot line house often works really well for those who are elderly.
This type of home is less expensive and doesn’t require a lot of yard maintenance.
Additionally, you’ll have lots of neighbors right nearby if you need any assistance.
You want a sense of community
A zero lot line home offers a lot more opportunities to get to know your neighbors.
If you can’t imagine living in a neighborhood where everyone keeps to themselves, then this will give you a lot more opportunity to say hi to those you run into (and you’re guaranteed a lot more run-ins because of the closer quarters).
You don’t mind a little bit of noise
Zero lot line homes often come with a noise trade-off because of how close they lie to the road.
As a result, you’ll need to be okay with hearing your neighbors or passersby a little bit more.
You’re okay with ceding control over some design features
As noted above, there are certain aspects of the design that you don’t necessarily get to control when it comes to a zero lot line house.
One of these includes having windows on the side of your home.
After all, why would you put in windows, if you’re either going to share a wall or be very close to your neighbors?
However, some people love windows and having natural light streaming in.
This can be a trade-off depending on what you’re looking for in your house.
8. Why is a zero lot line development a good option?
Zero lot line homes are often promoted because they encourage people to use available land more efficiently.
In fact, they are seen as a more environmentally friendly design that encourages people to pool their open space together to create park-like habitats.
By pushing homes up against one of the property lines, you can use the space that would have otherwise been used for a yard into a central common area that all the homes are clustered around.
9. How are zero lot line properties different from condos?
Zero lot line homes are different from condos because you own the land underneath the properties.
When you buy a condominium, you don’t own the land underneath the building.
Rather, you have shared ownership of the land with other condo owners in the community.
Additionally, a condo will often have a homeowner’s association (and dues that go along with that).
You’ll likely also have shared ownership of any common structures depending on how the building is laid out.
When you own a zero lot line home, you own the land below it as well as the building itself.
In most cases, you won’t have an HOA or dues.
Sometimes, however, there will be joint maintenance agreements bound to the title of the property that will require owners to cooperate in the upkeep of shared items.
These items may be shared roofs or driveways.
There may also be painting requirements.
Do you think a zero lot line house is for you?
These homes can be a great option in high population areas where lots are small.
At the same time, they can create challenges logistically and they can fetch less on the real estate market, especially when in boom times.
It’s up to you to decide if it’s worth it!
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Disclaimer: we are not lawyers, accountants or financial advisors and the information in this article is for informational purposes only. This article is based on our own research and experience and we do our best to keep it accurate and up-to-date, but it may contain errors. Please be sure to consult a legal or financial professional before making any investment decisions.