What does zero lot line mean is something I get asked periodically, and unless you’re from a geographical area that has them you’d have no idea what this kind of real estate is all about.
A zero lot line house is a style of real estate where the property is built on, or almost directly on the property line. Hence zero-clearance on that side of the dwelling.
I think the most common misconception is that a zero lot line house is a dwelling with no lot, lol….or zero lot. Well, I can understand how someone would think that. After all the term zero-lot certainly sounds like there would be no land with the property. However, thank goodness that’s not the case.
As a matter of fact, the house shown above (this home belongs to one of my best friends, Steve, and he gave me permission to shoot a couple pics and use it as an example on this website) has a very nice lot, that is mostly weighted to the backyard. This is the ideal scenario for most people. Also, this house backs onto a lovely park, and has a driveway for four cars. A great package for Steve! I sold it to him around twenty years ago, and he’s been really happy with it ever since. 🙂 Thought I should throw that in there, lol…little shameless plug for myself!
If you look closely at the pic/diagram on the right, you’ll see how cleverly the subdivision was designed. Normally, 4 properties to an acre was the acceptable number. With this zero-lot line house configuration, the subdivision had a compact 12 properties per acre.
Home Ownership Made Easy – H.O.M.E.
The H.O.M.E. (Home Ownership Made Easy) Plan was a government plan that enabled buyers to get into a house much easier than the normal route. The way it worked, the house and the land were divided into separate scenarios. One would purchase the house, and lease the land. Leases were typically up to a maximum of 50 years, and monthly lease amounts ranged from approximately $40 up to about $80.
The H.O.M.E. Plan Benefit
The benefit to this H.O.M.E. Plan was that the buyer was able to get in with a drastically lower down payment, and no land transfer tax. The dream of home ownership became a reality for a few thousand buyers due to this scheme. Also, when the buyer chose to buy the land at a later date, the purchase price was pre-determined, and was a very low number. Upon purchasing the land, the land transfer tax was due, but because the value of the land was set years earlier the land transfer tax due, was a tiny number.
Frozen Land Leases vs. Escalating Land Leases
There was an option to buy the land for a set amount. These were the Frozen Land Leases. Unfortunately, there was another scenario, where the land lease would jump up in price (usually, each time the property changed hands). These were called Escalating Land Leases, and were a nightmare for some of the homeowners.
A homeowner would try and sell the property, but once the property had changed hands the amount of the monthly lease payment would be grossly higher for the new owner. Of course the Seller would have to disclose this, and it would instantly become an undesirable property, and subject to a much lower sale price. Pure erosion of equity. A very bitter pill to swallow for a homeowner.
Zero Lot Line Areas of Brampton
There are 3 areas in Brampton (previously called Bramalea, and still is for us die-hards…lol) that have zero lot line homes. That would be the G-Section, H-Section and J-Section. Yes, Bramalea was divided into sections, and each street started with the letter that the section was named. So, every street in the H-Section starts with the letter H. Of course, every so often, I come across a street that didn’t follow the naming protocol. Who knows why….
Now, in each of these mentioned Sections, not every single home is a zero lot line home. I would say that the H-Section probably has the most of them, and the fewest traditional style houses.
Styles of Zero Lot Houses
Within these areas are a great number of variations on the home styles. While the most common is the detached 2-storey, with 3 bedrooms, there are many different versions of the zero lot house. Some are townhouses, semi-detached and of course the detached. There are 2, 3 and 4 bedroom models. Designs are bungalows, split levels and 2-storeys. There are a few with garages, because some folks added them on later. Originally, there were none with garages.
Facts About The Zero Lots
- Built With Affordability In Mind – This was an entry level home, designed to be affordable. It gave thousands of families an opportunity to own their very own house. As a matter of fact my very own Mother and Father in law were part of that group to buy a zero lot house. They purchased in the J-Section. The H.O.M.E plan made their home-ownership dream a reality.
- Cost-Effective Materials – Materials to build these affordable homes were low cost, to keep the prices down. Aluminum siding was the exterior of choice, and aluminum electrical wiring was used. Insulation values were not what they are today, but sufficient for winters. No furnaces were installed, in favor of electric baseboard heaters. This also means no duct-work, therefore no central air-conditioning can be installed.
- Easements On Each Property – As you know each dwelling is built on or close to the property line, so there is an easement that runs with each property, that requires it to be in place. The easement gives each owner the ability and right to go onto the abutting neighbour’s land to access that side of their own property, for the purpose of maintenance and repairs. It’s not a problem, and it’s not something that is really talked about, but is absolutely necessary, and therefore exists.
- Narrower Roads – The streets in these areas are narrower than the streets in the traditional neighbourhoods. The approval department lowered the standards for the zero-lot neighbourhoods to enable the builders to build more properties per acre of land. This meant the builders could sell more properties on less land, which meant a lower purchase price for the consumer, but still good profit for the builders, due to a much higher volume of sales.
- Original Pricing – The prices for these homes originally ranged from $15,295 for a 2-bedroom model, all the way to $17,995 for the 4-bedroom house. Of course, there was the land leased portion of the scheme as well. Today, at the time of writing, the values of these homes are up by 30 to almost 40 times their original sales price. No one ever fathomed that a zero lot in Brampton, would ever be worth more than a half million dollars!
- The Original Lottery – After the first batches of buyers had been satisfied, the builders learned what mistakes they had made, and endeavored to rectify the buying process via a lottery. People were invited to fill out an application for review. When it was time, names were “drawn out of a hat” and the lucky person would be interviewed, then shown the details of purchasing a house.
- No Sidewalks – Again, in an effort to economize, and still provide a reasonable piece of land to go with each house, no sidewalks were built. The good news is that these are small dead-end streets, with only purposeful traffic moving at a low speed. So, pedestrians are relatively safe walking on the roads.
Villages of Central Park
The development was given the name, “The Villages of Central Park”. I like it. The whole scheme originated in the United States, and Bramalea, Ontario was the first town to have a zero-lot-line development, in Canada. The project was headed up by Consolidated Building Corporation Limited, and included 4 other builders, DelZotto Enterprises Limited, Victoria Wood Development Corporation Inc., Bramalea Consolidated Developments Limited, and Cadillac Development Corporation Limited.
Here we are now, roughly 45 years later. The Zero Lot Line Homes are still standing, and worth up to $575,000, give or take, depending on condition, and many other factors. Who would’ve ever dreamed this would happen to the real estate market in this area…
The government have yet to come up with other schemes/plans that can rival this one. As a matter of fact, there has never been a time in our economy when a plans for affordable home ownership has ever been more warranted.
Thanks to the mortgage stress test, and other brutally stringent qualifying guidelines, I personally believe that some folks will never have the pleasure of owning a home in the GTA. Having said that, The Villages of Central Park is probably the most affordable style of home in the Brampton/Bramalea area, and therefore is a very desirable area to focus on. Which is exactly what I will be doing!