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What Is a Duplex?

by Cristina Oprean
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4 min. read

The search for a new home can be equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking! There seem to be endless real estate terms that you need to learn to find the ideal place. During your search, you may have come across a few duplexes.

With similarities to both a detached house and an apartment, it seems like a great compromise. However, whether you’re looking to rent or buy, it’s essential to know precisely what a duplex is.

The Basics

In a nutshell, a duplex is a single-unit property that has been divided into two living spaces. Known as multi-family homes, they typically look like large detached houses. There are three main ways to tell them apart from a standard apartment:

  • Ownership
  • Shared spaces
  • Number of units

Ownership

A condo or apartment block is typically owned by a group, corporation or investors. Meanwhile, a duplex is owned by one person. The owner may live in one half of the duplex and rent out the second half, occupy both units or rent out both of them.

Shared Spaces

Unlike an apartment block, a duplex has two separate entrances, one for each living space. The two living areas are entirely independent of one another, except for a single shared wall. Duplexes can stand side by side, or they can be stacked. Either way, the living space is generally more or less the same size.

The front and backyards are the only parts of the space that may be shared. However, they’re often partitioned to allow both residents a little privacy.

Number of Units

A duplex will only ever have two units, whereas an apartment building comprises several units housed within a single block. You can also find triplex and quadplex houses, similar to duplexes but including three and four units.

Duplex vs. Twin/Semi-Detached Home

At first glance, a duplex looks very much like a twin/semi-detached home. Both feature a single building that has been split into two residential units.

The difference is that a duplex sits on a single plot of land, and a single entity owns the entire building. Meanwhile, each half of a twin home is owned independently and sits on its own plot of land.

Duplex Pros and Cons

So far, a duplex seems like a pretty good idea. It feels more like living in a detached home than a standard apartment while enjoying some of the benefits of a condo. But there are some potential caveats. So let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons.

Advantages

A duplex can represent a fantastic middle-ground, especially in high-density areas where affordable detached homes are rare.

  • All the benefits of a standard house: With amenities such as a yard, garage, and the privacy of a fully independent living area, a duplex offers almost everything that a single family home does.
  • More affordable: If you’re looking to rent, duplexes are typically more affordable than single family homes, allowing you to get more bang for your buck and find a more affordable option in a desirable neighborhood. And if you’re looking to buy, the income you obtain from renting out one of the units (or both) will help offset your mortgage payments.
  • Just one neighbor: With only one neighbor nearby, the chances of upsetting each other are drastically reduced. Plus, you’re less likely to bother each other with noise with just one shared wall.
  • Suitable for large families: If you’re looking to be close to your relatives, a duplex can be an excellent option that offers both proximity and privacy.

Disadvantages

There are some things to be aware of before you sign on the dotted line, though:

  • Problems with shared spaces: While you’ll only be sharing the front and backyard, this can lead to tension from time to time. Parking issues can arise, and different lifestyles can cause upset when it comes to things like garden parties. However, in many duplexes, even the outdoor areas are partitioned for additional privacy.
  • Common area upkeep: You’re generally not responsible for maintaining common areas in an apartment building. However, in a duplex, you’ll need to do your part.

Is a Duplex Right for Me?

A duplex can be an excellent choice if you’re looking to rent. Just be sure to weigh up the pros and cons and see if it works for you.

As a buyer, a duplex can be seen as an excellent investment. It allows you to live on-site and get to know your tenant or simply rent both units out. Or, if you want a home for a large family, you can occupy both units to give everyone their privacy.

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