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Definition of a Patio Home

Rebecca Pressnall
Table of Contents

Some of the terms Realtors, sellers and builders use in describing homes can be confusing, including the phrase "patio home." This refers to a single-family home design in which a home is built on a small lot of land, offering the benefits of homeownership without much maintenance.

Patio homes come in a variety of styles.


Patio homes are so named because they frequently have patios in place of traditional backyards. Because these homes are built on small lots, the backyard areas are comparatively small and well suited to a patio design, according to On Point Custom Homes in Houston, Texas. Several patio homes, which are also referred to as garden homes, may be constructed in a row, and may or may not share side walls. Patio homes are different from townhomes in that only three or four homes are built together rather than a large number of units.


A patio reduces the amount of work needed to maintain the area, which is an attractive feature for many home buyers. Another attractive feature, according to Marc Howell of the Wichita Business Journal, is that homeowners typically belong to a homeowners' association (HOA), which is responsible for much of the yard work and exterior maintenance of the home, as well as for common areas, such as a pool, fitness room or playground


In the 1960s, builders needed to take advantage of land zoned for multifamily dwellings, but consumer demand at the time was for affordable, single-family homes. As a result, builder Donald J. Bahl devised the design for patio homes. These buildings were multifamily dwellings but Bahl was able to sell them as single-family homes, successfully bridging the gap between the zoning requirements and the consumer’s needs.


Patio homes come in a variety of styles, from homes suitable for the first-time home buyer to luxury homes. According to Preston Wood and Associates, LLC, because these homes tend to be less expensive than comparable homes, people in many different demographics find them an attractive option. Professionals who must travel find them especially suitable, as do retirees or those looking for a second home.


These homes typically are profitable for developers and builders. As Braden Lammers of the Evening News and the Tribune in Jeffersonville, Indiana, reports, builders are able to divide a parcel of land into smaller lots, meaning they can build more homes on the same parcel of land. Preston Wood and Associates states that the homes are also less expensive to build because they may share one or more walls with neighboring homes, saving on building materials.