Exploring Patio Homes: What They Are and Why They’re Popular

As a woodworker and DIY enthusiast living in the Chicago suburbs, I’m always interested in learning about different home styles and architectural designs. Patio homes are a type of housing that has become quite popular in recent decades, offering a unique blend of benefits. In this post, I’ll use my woodworking know-how to break down exactly what patio homes are all about. Grab your tool belt, and let’s get to work!

Defining the Patio Home

When you hear “patio home,” you probably imagine a house with a lovely little patio. But these homes have a distinct architectural style, not just places that happen to have terraces!

Patio homes, also known as cluster homes or courtyard homes, are single-family detached houses that sit close together, often sharing walls or footprints. Despite the name, they don’t necessarily have to include an actual patio.

The critical characteristics of patio homes include:

  • Attached to at least one neighboring unit, often sharing one or two walls.
  • Usually, at most one-and-a-half stories high. Some have a half-upper level with an extra bedroom or loft.
  • Built on small lots, taking up most or all of the property space (known as zero lot line).
  • There is no backyard or much space separating homes.

In a nutshell, patio homes offer single-family detached living on a compact footprint. As a woodworker who likes maximizing function in small spaces, I can appreciate the efficient use of square footage!

What is a Patio Home

How Patio Homes Differ from Other Housing Styles

To fully understand patio homes, it helps to compare them against other common housing types:

Patio Home vs. Townhouse: While both sit on their lots, townhouses are at least two full stories and often have a backyard. These homes max out at one-and-a-half levels and lack yards.

Patio Home vs. Condo: Condos involve owning just the unit, while patio homes include land ownership. Condos also need the standalone detached nature of patio homes.

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Patio Home vs. Single-Family Home: Single-family homes offer the most privacy and customization. But, they require more maintenance and are less affordable than patio homes.

As a woodworker, I’m drawn to the blend of ownership and community in patio homes. You get more independence than a condo but more shared upkeep than a single-family house.

The Appeal: Why Choose a Patio Home?

Now that we’ve defined patio homes, what makes them an appealing choice for homeowners? A few key factors are driving their popularity:

Lower Maintenance

Between their compact size and community maintenance of shared spaces, patio homes require less upkeep than larger detached homes. As a busy woodworker with many projects, I appreciate a lower-maintenance lifestyle!

Shared Amenities

Most patio home developments offer pools, fitness centers, community gardens, and more. For residents, these create built-in opportunities for recreation and social connection.

Single-Level Living

With no stairs, patio homes offer what’s known as “aging in place” friendly design. This makes them very popular among retirees and empty-nesters looking to downsize.

For those craving community but not yardwork, patio living can be an attractive middle ground between condos and houses. Their versatile design appeals to everyone, from seniors to first-time homeowners.

Architectural Style and Design Elements

As a woodworking designer, I’m constantly analyzing architectural details. So, what design features typify most patio homes?

Style Variety

Patio homes come in an array of styles, from Mediterranean to modern. But certain elements cross over, like low-maintenance exteriors and single-level entries. Vaulted ceilings and open layouts maximize the feeling of space.

Cluster Homes

Indoor-Outdoor Flow

Large windows, sliding doors, and transitional materials blur the line between indoor and outdoor areas. As a gardening enthusiast, I love this seamless integration with nature.

Efficient Footprints

Compact building footprints with space-saving floorplans are typical. But clever design, like half-lofts, adds flexibility. Multi-purpose furniture and built-ins make the most of every inch!

Outdoor Spaces

From cozy courtyards to sprawling patios, outdoor areas are tailored to each home. Strategic greenery and screens maintain privacy despite close quarters. Careful furniture placement keeps compact decks feeling comfortable and not cramped.

With some creative design, patio homes blend community connection and privacy in one efficient package!

Location and Neighborhood Features

In my Chicago real estate search, patio homes kept popping up in certain areas. What drives their locations? And what community assets will I find there?

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Hotspot Neighborhoods

In northern cities like Chicago, patio homes cluster around metro outskirts and suburbs. But in southern and western states, they permeate urban centers too. Retirement areas like Florida or Arizona have huge patio home concentrations.

Part of a Master Plan

Most patio homes are part of a larger planned community. These master-planned developments incorporate shared amenities to attract residents.

Built-in Community

Speaking of amenities, patio home communities offer loads of shared features like pools, trails, fitness centers, clubhouses, and more. Some even have schools, shops, and restaurants—everything residents need day-to-day!

Between the social environment and built-in convenience, patio home ‘hoods facilitate an engaging lifestyle. As a pleasant fellow, I’m drawn to establishing roots in an active community like this.

Pros and Cons: The Tradeoffs of Patio Home Living

While patio living has loads of appeal, it also comes with tradeoffs. As with any big decision, it’s essential to consider both pros and cons:


  • Affordability compared to larger single-family houses
  • Lower maintenance than traditional detached homes
  • Shared community amenities like pools, parks, etc.
  • Convenient access to services in planned communities
  • Sense of security being part of a community


  • Required homeowner association (HOA) fees
  • Proximity to neighbors limits privacy
  • HOA rules limit the customization of your home/yard
  • Smaller overall living space than traditional houses
  • Risk of unexpected HOA assessments for repairs

For me, the pros of maintenance, cost savings, and community outweigh the cons. But patio living isn’t for everyone. As a homebuyer, think hard about your lifestyle needs before committing.

Buying a Patio Home: Tips and Tricks

Ready to make the move to patio living? As a savvy woodworker, I’ve learned the ins and outs of real estate. Here are my top tips for patio home buyers:


  • Thoroughly review the HOA terms before making an offer
  • Drive through the community at varied days/times to observe noise, traffic, etc.
  • Ask about HOA fee amounts and what they cover
  • Clarify your maintenance responsibilities vs. the HOA’s
  • Consider square footage and layout to accommodate your needs
  • Verify outdoor space size and privacy features


  • Assume amenities like a pool are included with HOA fees
  • Skip inspections of shared walls or components
  • Fail to read the HOA’s rules, covenants and restrictions
  • Ignore signs of deferred maintenance by the HOA
  • Forget to factor HOA fees into your monthly housing budget

As with any condo or townhome, ensure you know what you’re getting into with a patio community. But for an affordable, low-maintenance lifestyle, patio living can be an excellent fit for the proper homeowner.

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The Future of Patio Homes

Looking at patio home trends, what does the future hold for this unique housing style?

Design Innovations

With a focus on flexible, multifunction spaces, we’ll see more creativity in patio home floorplans. Hybrid indoor-outdoor layouts will also gain popularity.

Sustainability will be a driving force, too, from solar panels to water conservation. Technology integration will help take outdoor spaces to the next level.

Demographic Changes

The aging Boomer generation will drive demand for single-level, low-maintenance patio living. Millennials entering homeownership may also find patio homes’ affordability and community appealing.

As urban centers grow increasingly expensive, the patio home suburbs will make a comeback with remote workers. Their community-based lifestyle provides the best of both worlds.

With the right approach, patio living can appeal to various demographics and lifestyles. As needs and trends evolve, builders will adapt patio homes to meet demand. The future remains bright for these practical dwellings!

My Take: Ideal for Community-Minded Homebodies

As a DIY-er and woodworker constantly tackling projects, I’m drawn to the low-maintenance lifestyle of patio homes. The shared amenities and community activities also appeal to my social side. While limitations like HOAs and smaller footprints exist, I think the neighborhood connections and free time afforded by patio living outweigh my drawbacks.

If you crave accessible, single-level living and a built-in community, patio life could be for you, too. Just thoroughly research HOA details, maintenance responsibilities, and other fine print before purchasing. But for the right homebody buyer seeking affordable suburban comfort, patio properties deliver on their promises. They offer a cozy, low-stress lifestyle without isolation from neighbors.

In our increasingly fast-paced, digital world, perhaps more people will begin to see the patio home appeal. Their efficient design and community-focused vision represent an appealing compromise between apartments and fully detached houses. Patio properties allow residents to reduce their environmental impact as well collectively. For those seeking sustainable and social living, patio homes check all the boxes!