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Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805


Selling homes in
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Saratoga, Campbell,
Almaden Valley,
Cambrian Park and
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Patio Homes or Zero Lot Line Houses in Silicon Valley

Not everyone is familiar with the term “patio home” or “zero lot line” house when searching for Silicon Valley real estate.  Recently a listing agent of such a property called me for feedback and when I told her that my clients did not want a zero lot line home, she didn’t know what I was talking about. She had no idea that this term applied to her listing!

So I thought maybe this topic deserved a little more attention.

What does zero lot line mean?

With most houses, the structure is set into the lot or land such that the property boundaries are at least a few feet away on all sides – often 5 or 8 feet.  One common exception is garages in older parts of Willow Glen, Los Gatos, downtown San Jose, etc., where often these buildings were set directly against the property line on one or two sides.

When a house is right up against the property line, directly on the line, that’s referred to as a zero lot line and is usually referred to as a patio home.  To view that wall, you’d literally have to go onto your neighbor’s lot to have a look.  Although this is not terribly uncommon in dense, urban areas, it’s fairly infrequent in Silicon Valley.

Why are homes designed on zero lot line properties?  The main reason is to increase the density while providing more yard to the home owner.  Rather than having two 8′ side yards, perhaps you’ll have one much larger 16′ yard.

Interestingly, these houses do not seem to sell for less with the zero lot line – at least not that I have been able to discern. (That’s counter-intuitive….)

How can you tell if it’s a zero lot line house?

It should be disclosed in the MLS as such, but often isn’t (sometimes the listing agent doesn’t even know), so you’ll have to look carefully at the neighborhood and the property to see.  Here are some clues:

  • you’re most likely to find patio homes where the houses sit on very small lots
  • most of the time, there are no windows on the side built against the property boundary (though in Silver Creek there are a number of these with glass block windows put into bathrooms – so there is some light, but no opening into the neighbor’s yard)
  • try to walk all the way around the property without going into a neighbor’s yard – if you can’t, that’s your red flag
  • most of the time, patio homes are part of a home owner’s association and are located on private roads

Where are these patio homes located?

They are really all over Santa Clara County as a good alternative between having super small lots vs a townhouse.  We are seeing more and more of these in younger construction especially.

  • in Almaden Valley, the Glencrest development (by Shapell, a great builder, with top rated schools there: Williams, Bret Harte and Leland) – very popular!
  • in Silver Creek, there are condos and single family homes, but some of the houses further down into the valley are patio homes
  • in Cambrian, along the Almaden border, there are patio homes in 2 of the 3 subdivisions of the Almaden Winery neighborhood (Tresor and Vineland) the Vintage subdivision is not zero lot line) (See one such home I sold on Le Fevre Drive in 2010 by clicking on the link)
  • and many other places throughout the San Jose area!

One caution: sometimes there are townhome communities where a unit is sold as if it is a “duet home” or “patio home”.  Be sure to read the preliminary title report carefully to note the type of ownership in the common areas as well as the unit itself. You might be surprised!

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2 Responses to “Patio Homes or Zero Lot Line Houses in Silicon Valley”

  1. Gerry Naylor Says:

    Is there any way to obtain the addresses of short sales, bank-owned, or foreclosure homes in the San Jose area. I will be moving out there soon, and all the foreclosure sites just list the street and not the address or require you to “register”iePAY for the addresses.

  2. Mary Pope-Handy Says:

    Hi Gerry,

    Sorry for the slow response – did not see your comment until now. You can go directly to the MLS in the San Jose area: http://www.MLSListings.com to see what LISTED properties are either short sales or bank owned homes. If you’re looking for homes not listed, there’s not much help out there. A lot of the foreclosures sites not only charge, but they list tons of homes where there’s financial distress but where they aren’t for sale. (Many times homeowners hit a rough patch but do pull out of it. They do NOT appreciate people knocking on their door, asking to buy their house for 10 cents on the dollar.) Huge waste of time in the vast majority of cases to pursue those.

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