A patio home is a term for a type of housing also called a cluster home. The term tends to imply a suburban setting, a cluster of similar homes with small yard, and some or all exterior maintenance and landscaping provided through an association fee. Typical buyers are primarily those who want to have a small yard, but do not want to be bothered by the external maintenance typically associated with home ownership - sometimes because they only live in the patio home for part of the year.
There is often confusion about how an patio home differs from a townhome. A townhome generally consists of three or more units with shared walls in a single building, and the townhome lot is limited to the ground on which the unit stands and perhaps a small rear patio area, with no additional private land.
A true patio home is either a free-standing home or paired with one other attached unit, each located on a small lot that has at least some private land. The land is generally in the back and/or side yards, but also possibly a small front yard. Patio homes with no shared wall are often built with on a small lot with a zero lot line. This is a technique for maximizing yard space on a small lot. Each home is positioned against one of its side lot lines, creating a larger side yard than if the home was centered on the lot. If the patio homes are two attached units, they are sometimes called paired patio homes. Some patio homes may be grouped or clustered together, perhaps sharing a common central courtyard with several other patio homes. In that case they may be called cluster homes, but they otherwise share the same basic characteristics of a patio home.
Patio and cluster homes have become very popular with the “Boomer” generation of retirees because they offer most of the usual advantages of single family home ownership, including more privacy than condos or townhomes, while delegating most external building and lot maintenance chores to a home owner association (HOA). HOA fees for patio and cluster homes are generally comparable to those of townhomes and condos, depending on the services and other amenities provided by the HOA.