What Are Zero-Lot-Line Homes?

Article Summary:

Zero-lot-line properties are homes that use all the space in a lot, typically bringing the home very close to the boundary line. If you live in a crowded area, zero-lot line homes can be a good way to maximize the amount of space you can use.

Investing in real estate is a significant moment for everyone, especially if the home you want to buy is your first. The first thing a first-time homebuyer should know is the different types of housing they have the option to buy. If you’re looking to buy a house in an urban area, a zero-lot line house might be your best bet. But what do “zero lot lines” mean?

Zero lot line homes are houses that have virtually no yard space between the house and the property line. In other words, they are built to maximize lot use. In areas with high population density, zero lot line homes are the easiest way to ensure residents have as much living space as possible.

If you want to live in a major city or near the outskirts of town, it might be in your best interest to look into these types of homes.

What are zero lot line homes?

A zero lot line home is a house that has its structures set entirely on the property line. These houses go by a lot of different names. Each nickname has its own connotation, and some are even their own genre of housing:

  • Patio/Garden homes. You can use the terms “patio homes” or “garden homes” interchangeably. These are homes that share walls with nearby homes but have their own backyard. They typically are only one story high.
  • Townhomes. Townhomes are a larger form of garden home. If you are looking for a split-level or multi-level home, you will want to get a townhome. Townhomes and garden homes both have minimal HOA interference.
  • Condominiums. A condo can be a zero lot line home, assuming its design puts its boundaries up against the property lines of the lot. These tend to have more aggressive HOAs.
  • Row homes. Rowhouses, shotgun homes, or row homes are nicknames for townhomes with a more historical connotation. Once a part of the iconic working-class community in middle America, these can now be well over 100 years old.

Pro Tip

Before you consider getting a zero lot line home, do your research on its HOA fees and policies. Since you will be sharing space with neighbors, learning ahead of time what homeowners are responsible for as a community will inform your decision and make your life easier.

What are the pros and cons of zero lot line homes?


Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • They are generally low maintenance.
  • Zero lot line homes are also more affordable.
  • They maximize your space usage.
  • Depending on the way the home is set up, you may have a hard time getting a mortgage or getting approval to move in.
  • A zero-lot line property leaves virtually no space for privacy.
  • Zero lot line homes can also have security issues.
  • Your home may have HOA fees associated with it.
  • Some buyers will be put off by a zero-lot line house.

Like all housing developments, zero-lot line houses have a lot to offer. They aren’t for everyone, though. Let’s take a closer look at the perks and pitfalls.

Perks of zero-lot line homes

Zero lot line houses are popular, perhaps more than ever before. Here are just a few of the perks:

  • They are generally low maintenance. Since they are typically part of developments, any maintenance fees you pay will usually go toward yard upkeep and exterior maintenance. In some cases, they can also go toward interior repairs.
  • Zero lot line homes are also more affordable. A large-lot single-family home may look nice, but they are quite expensive. While this is not always the case, there is a general trend of zero-lot line homes being more affordable.
  • They maximize your space usage. In some areas, owning property doesn’t mean you’re going to have a large lot. In areas like San Francisco and Brooklyn, every little square foot counts. Opting for zero-lot lines can sometimes be the best way to get the highest square footage out of a home.

Pitfalls of zero-lot line homes

While many parts of homeownership can be alluring, a zero-lot line home is not always a potential homebuyer’s dream home. Here are some potential pitfalls to consider:

  • Depending on the way the home is set up, you may have a hard time getting a mortgage or getting approval to move in. Co-op townhomes are increasingly common, and financing them can be difficult.
  • A zero-lot line property leaves virtually no space for privacy. You are probably going to share at least one wall with your neighbors. This may sound trivial, but there’s always the risk of babies crying next door or loud house parties driving you up the wall.
  • Properties near busy streets can have noise issues. If you have a zero lot line home on a crowded street, you will probably hear horns honking late into the night. This can be a problem if you are noise-sensitive.
  • Zero lot line homes can also have security issues. If your home is pressed directly up to your street’s boundary lines, one bad accident could lead to a car driving into your house. While this is not common, it’s still something to consider.
  • Your home may have HOA fees associated with it. Condos and townhouses both have some mutually shared expenses. In order to handle the expenses of landscaping and taxes, communities will often impose HOA fees on their homeowners. This means you may have to deal with hidden fees and similar hurdles on top of your home’s loan.
  • Some buyers will be put off by a zero-lot line house. If a potential buyer is moving from a large-lot home with a yard surrounding the entire house, a zero-lot line house isn’t going to have the same appeal. Consider this if you plan to eventually sell your home.

What is a lot line?

A lot line is another word for a boundary line or property line. When people say that a place has “zero lot lines,” that’s a shorthand term for a property that literally sits on the boundary lines of adjacent homes and streets.

What do you call houses that are close together?

It depends. Houses that touch each other are often called zero-lot line houses. If the homes in question are not touching each other, they may be tract homes. These are homes that are all built on a large plot of land but have their lots divided into subdivisions.

The homes in a tract home lot all share a similar design. They are particularly popular in “commercial developments” and in areas famous for a hot real estate market, such as San Francisco.

What is a Z-lot?

“Z-lot” is a shorthand term for a zero-lot line home. If you hear people mentioning Z-lots in casual conversation, chances are they are developers or architects discussing a new development on a busy street near you.

Key Takeaways

  • A zero lot line house is a home that takes up the entire lot (i.e., its borders are right up against the property line).
  • Zero lot line homes come in a variety of styles, including townhomes, garden/patio homes, and row houses.
  • A zero lot line home can offer plenty of advantages for homebuyers in urban areas, but they also come with their own set of potential pitfalls. Make sure to weigh the pros and cons when deciding if a zero-lot line house is right for you!
  • If you can’t afford a house on a larger lot, then a zero-lot line house may be the best option on your journey to homeownership.
View Article Sources
    1. Lot Line definition – Law Insider
    2. Zero Lot Line Regulations – Miami Dade County
    3. Lot Dimensions and Definitions – Durham County