Zero Lot Line: 9 Things (2022) You Need To Know

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 on 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…

bulletRowhouses

bulletTownhouses

bulletPatio homes

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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou 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.

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.

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou’re elderly

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.

bulletYou 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).

bulletYou 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.

bulletYou’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.

Final thoughts

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!

Additional Resources

If you are looking to buy affordable land, you can check out our Listings page. one-dollar-buy-landAnd before you buy land, make sure you check out Gokce Land Due Diligence Program. gokce-land-due-diligence-program-banner If you are looking to sell land, visit our page on how to Sell Your Land.

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Erika Gokce Capital
I hope you enjoy reading this post. Don't forget to check out my new book: Land Investing Mistakes -Erika

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.

14 thoughts on “Zero Lot Line: 9 Things (2022) You Need To Know”

  1. I cannot find where the actual wall that faces the side of my home and my front.. who is responsible for maintaining the wall that I have to look at everyday. The stucco is chipping and peeling. Can I go to my homeowners insurance. And they can go to my neighbors insurance.

    Reply
    • Hello Renee, I would start by getting a survey done to determine whose property the wall is actually on. You may also want to talk to your neighbor about maintaining the wall to see if you can reach an agreement on who should be responsible. You can always reach out to a local real estate attorney for advice as well.

      Reply
  2. Hi Erika, I enjoyed reading your you tube/articles, it’s very useful. I have a question about the zero lot property. I lived on an zero lot property in California, and my neighbor built an above ground fish pond, like 1000 gallons within 1-2 feet of our boundary line, right next to my zero side yard, I’d like to know if there is a setback rules of 5 feet that my neighbor can’t build fish pond and pergola above it, thank you.

    Reply
    • Hello Carrie, thank you for your comment. This depends on the local zoning ordinance as well as any HOA regulations that may be in place. I would speak with the county/city planning office as well as the HOA to see whether there is a 5′ setback requirement.

      Reply
  3. We live in a zero lot line area of Channel Island Harbor. Our neighbor has trees that are against our house, and we want to tent the house for termites that have been discovered. She will not trim the trees or give us access to the side of our house. Can you offer any advise?

    Reply
    • Hello Robert, I would recommend speaking with a local real estate attorney. I would imagine that there are some local regulations that allow you to access her property in order to maintain your property.

      Reply
  4. We live in a zero lot line HOA in Florida. The landscaping company that mows the lawns keep taking chunks out of out stucco wall facing our neighbor’s property on the zero lot. I tastefully placed a line of 4″ pavers that match the wall color against the wall to protect it from the trimming. The pavers are situated as such that they are practically invisible to my neighbor. They are located well within our roof over-hang. He is giving me a hard time about doing this. Do I have the right to protect my property from damage on the zero lot line side?

    Reply
    • Hello William, I would discuss with the HOA and perhaps a local attorney. It depends on the local regulations and the laws of your HOA, but you could very well have a right to protect and maintain your property (most zero lot line properties have some stipulation for this).

      Reply
  5. Help me please!!!!

    Neighbor is defaming me and making threats on social media. My wife and I just bought the house last year next-door to this neighbor and she happens to think that the entire side yard is hers. The house we bought has a gate that Kings access to the utilities on that side. I don’t know what to do your help would be greatly appreciated thank you

    Reply
    • Hello Edward, I’m very sorry to hear about your situation. I would recommend getting a survey done (to prove you own the side yard) and also speaking with a local real estate attorney to see what can be done about the neighbors. Best of luck!

      Reply
  6. I have a friend who lives in what I believe is a zero lot line house. Her neighbor insists that the entire easement to the left of her house belongs to her– none of it belongs to my friend. The neighbor has planted azalea bushes and other plants right up against the right wall of my friend’s house. She has also placed her trashcans there–up against my friend’s house. From the neighbor’s explanation, the entire easement belongs to her… that her property line goes right up to my friend’s house. And of course, by her explanation, my friend’s property to the left of her home goes right up to the easement at the street. (My friend lives on a corner lot.) Is this explanation typical for some zero lot line homes?

    Reply
    • Hello Debra, there is really no one-size-fits-all answer to zero lot line homes. It is true that living in a zero lot line home can mean that your neighbor owns the land right up to one side of your house (although you often have the legal right to access the side yard for maintenance on your house), but your friend should have a survey done to verify who owns that section of land.

      Reply
  7. Hello, my understanding about Zero Lot Homes is that it typically falls on the garage wall side of a single
    family home to maximize the garden/living side of the
    home. I live in one of these in California. There is a 3 ft access easement to maintain the zero line wall. The neighbor has use of that yard but cannot build anything within 3 ft of the zero line wall or fence. How many exceptions are you suggesting there are?

    Reply
    • Hello Ed, unfortunately, since every jurisdiction is different, I can’t answer this question in detail. It really depends on the locality and subdivision.

      Reply

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