Definition of "Zero lot line"

Susana Moor real estate agent
Susana Moor, Real Estate Agent La Rosa Realty

A zero lot line is a term in residential real estate that refers to houses that are either very close to or at the edge of the property line. These houses are also called zero lot line houses. Most often, zero lot line houses are rowhouses where the structure itself is limited to the two walls on each side of the house. Other zero lot line houses can be garden homes if the structure of the home comes up to the property line or very close to it, but patio homes or townhouses can also be zero lot line homes. Zero lot line houses aren’t only attached single-family homes but also detached single or multistory family residences. The one element they all have in common is that at least one side of the home’s structure is on to or near to the edge of the property.

What does a Zero Lot Line mean?

In real estate, homebuyers often look for traditional single-family dwellings. These single-family homes often come with a vast yard that offers plenty of space all around the house itself. However, not all homes have a surrounding yard. Zero lot line means that the property purchased or owned by an individual has at least one side of the structure of the building on the property line. Because of that, the side where the building’s structure is on the property line does not have a surrounding yard or might not have a yard at all if we’re looking at rowhouses or townhomes.

Zero lot line houses are most commonly encountered in urban areas, especially in a renewal setting. The reason for this is that the population density limits the space available for single-family homes. These zero lot line houses can very well be single-family homes; the difference is that they aren’t completely detached. Large metropolitan areas, the downtown areas of cities, can not afford to have large lots with single-detached houses on the market simply because of their required space. It is almost impossible or incomprehensible for developers to clear space in a downtown area to build single detached homes as that would limit the number of people that would reside in the area. The high population density created the problem, and real estate developers came up with the solution. There are even zero lot line houses that come with a backyard. These are called garden homes, and they often have a backyard that can increase the price of the property.

Pros of Zero Lot Line Houses

Firstly we’ll cover the pros of zero lot line houses as we don’t want people to think that zero lot line houses aren’t appealing. For those that want or need to live in large metropolitan cities, zero lot line houses are a much more attractive option than condos. Living in a row house or a townhome will be less expensive than living in a suburban setting in one of those single-family detached homes. They also give a family more privacy and independence than living in a condominium. Condominiums seem to take over many central areas in large cities, and the most common complaint from those who live there is the lack of privacy, noise disturbances, and the knowledge that you share walls with as much as five neighbors. In zero lot line houses, while you may still share walls with neighbors, the number is limited to two. Besides that, row houses or townhomes tend to have separate walls or much stronger exterior or connecting walls, limiting noise disturbance. Privacy and independence are a bonus in zero lot line houses, especially for single-family homes. In the case of multifamily zero lot line houses, the homes usually have individual entrances. If they share an entrance, however, you still share an entrance with 1-4 other families and not dozens of other people.

Regarding the extra acreage of single-family detached houses, a zero lot line house is ideal for those that don’t want to be bothered with landscaping, mowing the lawn, or trimming bushes. The lack of yard also allows for more square footage in the house itself. We already mentioned the lower price tag for zero lot line houses, but there’s a bonus to it. Many zero lot line houses do not have HOA’s, which take the HOA’s fees out of the equation most of the time but do check with the seller or real estate agents to make sure.

Cons of Zero Lot Line Houses

The cons of zero lot line houses exist, and we may cover topics covered above, but they’ll be from a different perspective. Because of the placement of zero lot line houses in the middle of metropolitan areas, noise can be a problem because of the proximity to a road. These row houses don’t have front yards to act as a buffer from the road, and the road itself isn’t a suburban road with limited traffic. Depending on the hours in the day and the traffic in the city, noise pollution can constitute a problem.

If you are used to the hustle and bustle of the big city, you might also be used to traditionally dense neighborhoods. In downtown areas of towns, neighbors live in close quarters, and there are fewer buffer zones and less distance between them. While this might not be a significant impact on noise, depending on the structure of the home, getting along well with thy neighbor would be ideal.

As a last note, we mentioned above that the pricing of zero lot line houses is more affordable than single-family detached homes. That is a fact, and while it might be a bonus when you buy a property like this, it might be a drawback when you intend to sell. 

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