What Is a Zero-Lot-Line House?

A zero-lot-line house is a piece of residential real estate in which the structure comes up to, or very near to, the edge of the property line. Rowhouses, garden homes, patio homes, and townhomes are all types of properties that may be zero-lot-line homes. They may be attached (as in a townhouse) or a detached single story or multistory residence.

key takeaways

  • A zero-lot-line house is a piece of residential real estate in which the structure comes up to, or very near to, the edge of the property line.
  • Zero-lot-line houses can be attached or detached, and are especially popular in urban areas.
  • Noise and proximity to neighbors can be disadvantages to zero-lot-line homes.
  • Low maintenance and lower prices are advantages of zero-lot-line homes.

Understanding a Zero-Lot-Line House

Zero-lot-line houses are built very close to their boundary lines to create more usable space for the residence. Because there is virtually no space left over they are called "zero lot." With a zero-lot-line house, the buyer only has to pay for a lot large
enough to hold the house. Such a home confers savings to purchasers who
cannot afford a larger lot or do not feel they need one enough to
justify the expense.

These homes are especially popular in urban renewal settings. In places with high population density, such as the urban core of a large metropolitan area, zero-lot-line houses impart buyers with options beyond the typical lofts and condos while maintaining the ability to provide housing for large numbers of people in a tightly circumscribed area.

Zero-Lot-Line House Advantages

Though they cost less than homes with lots of extra acreage, zero-lot-line homes are not just for low-income homebuyers; they are an attractive option for anyone who doesn't have the time or inclination to maintain landscaping. Not leaving room in the property plot for a yard allows for maximum square footage in the home. Zero-lot homes offer many of the advantages of actual
houses—without the time-consuming demands of upkeep and the expense of
large backyards or front lawns.

These homes are also an appealing alternative to condos because they offer greater privacy and independence while still being low-maintenance. A common complaint in condominium settings is that a homeowner shares walls with as many as five neighbors, increasing the chances of noise disturbances from neighbors and eroding any sense of privacy. While certain zero-lot-line homes, such as townhouses and rowhouses, still include shared walls, there are fewer of them. Other zero-lot-line options, such as garden homes, offer homeowners the freedom of a standalone structure.

Because zero lot developments often incorporate shared spaces into their design—features such as shared back alleys and front porches right at the street—many of these home encourage a real sense of community among neighbors.

Zero-Lot-Line House Disadvantages

Window placement, noise, and a lack of privacy can be issues with these types of homes since there is little to no buffer zone surrounding them. Moreover, because zero-lot-line homes typically feature less setback from the road compared to homes on larger lots, noise from passing cars may be of constant concern, particularly if the home is situated on a busy thoroughfare.

Zero-lot-line houses can create challenges among neighbors, especially in areas where people are used to having larger buffer zones. In traditionally dense neighborhoods where residents are used to living in close quarters, smaller buffer zones are less of a challenge.

Finally, zero-lot-line homes might fetch less on the real estate market, especially in boom times. Lots of land around a home still connote luxury and value, and provide homeowners with flexibility to expand. To some, a zero-lot-line home could represent the worst of all worlds: all the noise and lack of privacy of an apartment, with the upkeep of a free-standing structure, but without compensatory acreage and space.