To help keep land costs down, builders have long relied on zero-lot-line development that places homes extremely close to one another and to the property line.

Once reserved for low-income home buyers in urban areas, these so-called z-lots are becoming popular with builders who cater to a range of buyers, including baby boomers who are looking to simplify their lives, winter “snowbirds” needing to lock and leave their property each season, and those who simply don’t have the time to maintain a large yard but still prefer space and privacy.

Maracay Homes recently introduced a new z-lot concept at its Center Pointe Vistoso community in Tucson, Ariz. Instead of houses lined up next to each other with limited views as in traditional small-lot communities, Maracay’s z-lots are strategically zig-zagged to provide more space between the homes and allow side windows to capture wider views of the outdoors.

Here, BUILDER talks with Maracay's Tucson division vice president, James Attwood, about the new approach and what buyers are saying about it.

Why are z-lots becoming more popular?
In Arizona, we’re seeing a growing interest in the z-lot concept that corresponds to an expanding population of winter visitors and retirees looking to spend their golden years in a relaxing and warm environment. These folks want a low-maintenance lifestyle while still having a spacious home for entertaining friends and family. Tucson, specifically, is one of the top spots in the country for active adults and empty-nesters, which is one of the reasons why we chose to offer our z-lot homes at Desert Crest, one of five gated neighborhoods at Center Pointe Vistoso, our new community located just outside of Tucson, in Oro Valley.

Professionals who travel frequently for work and pleasure, people who would rather not spend their weekends doing yard work or maintaining a large house, and generally anyone who’s on the go a lot also love our z-lots, as they, too, are looking for a low-maintenance home but prefer more privacy and space than a condo or apartment can offer.

How is Maracay’s approach to z-lot design different?
We’ve taken the z-lot concept – initially used as a land-saving measure in urban areas – expanded it, incorporated Maracay’s luxury amenities and brought it to the master-planned living environment of Center Pointe Vistoso, where homeowners have access to a luxury swim park, diverse hiking and biking trails, an activity lawn, ramadas and so much more.

Essentially, we wanted to provide a home that featured the best of both worlds: the privacy, comfort and space of a detached, single-family home with the low-maintenance upkeep of an urban townhome or similar attached product. How did we do this? First, we put the homes on traditional-sized lots, instead of the smaller sized lots that are usually associated with z-lots. Like all z-lots, we built one side of the home to the lot line, which created more usable space and allowed us to incorporate amenities like spacious great rooms for gathering, walk-in kitchen pantries for additional storage, two- and three-car garages, and front courtyards for connecting with neighbors.

What special design considerations do you need to take into account when creating such high-density housing?
Typically, z-lots are lined up next to each other, reducing side-window views to nothing but your neighbor’s wall. But we created a way to counteract this issue. By “zig-zagging” the homes along their lots, the homes have more space between them and the side-window views capture the surrounding landscape rather than the neighboring house – which is an important feature for homes in Oro Valley, as the Sonoran Desert and Catalina and Tortolita mountain ranges make for spectacular panoramic views.

How have buyers responded?
Since this concept is new to master-planned communities in Tucson, people are just beginning to take notice. However, word is getting out. We first debuted our Desert Crest z-lot model home in Tucson in January when we opened Center Pointe Vistoso, and more than 1,000 locals and visitors came out to the weekend-long grand opening celebration. I think it’s hard for people to imagine the concept of a z-lot with so much space and privacy, but once they see the layout of the home in person, they are fascinated. You really see the conversation start flowing once they walk through the door.

Is Center Pointe your first z-lot project?
No, just our most recent. Our active communities with z-lot designs include Plaza Del Rio in Peoria, Ariz., and Sendera Place in Chandler, Ariz. Both cities are among the fastest-growing cities in the country with budding industries. The influx of professionals and their families needed a place to call home, and we felt the z-lots fit their lifestyle.

Maracay Homes vice president James Attwood
Maracay Homes vice president James Attwood

For example, Sendera Place is within minutes of Chandler’s iconic downtown area and major East Valley employment centers, where many families and professionals want to plant roots. It doesn’t hurt that the area also offers top-rated schools, quality dining and shopping options, and other amenities like an eclectic arts scene. As expected, the neighborhood has done well with folks of all ages who value a low-maintenance lifestyle.