How To Know If A Duplex Is Right For You

As you search for a place to live, it is important to consider all angles to find what will work best for you and your family. While many people begin searching for single-family homes, there are lots of perks to be found in multifamily housing. In a 2019 survey from the American Housing Survey and U.S. Census Bureau, 31.4% of U.S. households are classified as multifamily. It is estimated that multi-dwelling units are more popular among young families and older folks looking to downsize once their children have flown the nest. These 43.9 million residences could be in any different type of multifamily housing, including apartment complexes, townhomes, condominiums, and duplexes. 

Duplexes easily fall under the radar in housing searches, largely because there is a much smaller number of these types of properties on the market than larger ones. However, duplexes can be great investments and offer up many benefits you may not find in apartment or condo living. 

What is a duplex?

A duplex is a multifamily residence with two connected units on a single property, yet with separate entrances. Duplex residences can share a wall and are side-by-side, or they can be stacked on top of each other with a ground level and upper level. These two units have no interior connection and are not usually rented out collectively. Sometimes, the owner will even live in one of the units while renting out the other to a separate family.

Duplexes differ from townhomes and apartment complexes in a few ways. Townhomes are a neighborhood of houses that are connected to one side of another; however, they are legally considered to be entirely separate properties in the way a duplex is not. Moreover, townhouses often feature a yard for each individual unit and can only have neighbors on either side, not above them. 

A duplex must also only consist of two dwellings, while apartment buildings typically have four or more. In an apartment or condo, you can expect to have multiple neighbors above you, besides you, and below you rather than just one neighbor in a duplex. It is also uncommon for apartment buildings to be owned by an individual renting out the way a duplex is and are typically owned by leasing companies.

Pros and cons of duplex living

The reasons living in a duplex is alluring to many starts with the fact that it is a sweet spot between living in an apartment and a single-family home. A duplex is an excellent solution if an apartment complex is too small and public for you, but an entire house is more responsibility than you can currently manage. It offers more privacy than apartments as well as a yard and driveway. You will have fewer neighbors to worry about and can split house duties like lawn care and property maintenance with the other unit. Not to mention, renting a duplex will oftentimes be more affordable. 

If you are looking to buy a duplex, there are a lot of perks, such as good cash flow with two rentable units on one property and being able to offset your mortgage if you choose to live on one side and rent out the other. However, house insurance and property tax are usually higher for multifamily units. If you plan to live next door, it may be harder to find tenets that are okay with having their landlord so present in their everyday living. For those who don't mind, creating a boundary that you are not at their disposal 24/7 can be challenging.