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What Is A Duplex?

Rachel Burris4-Minute Read
March 19, 2020

When individuals are in the market for a new home, they often gravitate toward the housing options with which they’re familiar. They may rule out living in an apartment because they want yard space. Or, they may cross a house off their list because they don’t want the responsibility that comes with taking care of an entire property. However, many don’t realize that you can have the best of both worlds by choosing to live in a duplex. Read on to learn what a duplex is and why it could be the perfect option for your new home.

Duplex Definition

A duplex is a multifamily home that is divided into two separate units that both have their own entrance. The two, single-family units are either side by side and share a wall, or are on different floors.

While twin homes also have two distinct units that share a wall, they differ from duplexes in that they are split into two separate lots and thus are considered two independent properties. Like triplexes that possess three different units and fourplexes that have four, duplexes are confined to a single lot and considered to be a single property in spite of being occupied by distinct families.

Characteristics Of A Duplex

Regardless of where they’re located, duplexes generally have two simple characteristics that can be used to identify them within the real estate market.

Two Attached Units

As multifamily housing, duplexes are made up of two separate living spaces within the same building. However, the two units are attached to each other in one of two ways: They are either structured like apartments in which units are separated by a floor, or designed much like townhouses, such that they are next to each other and are separated by a common wall. 

Separate Entrances

Since duplexes contain two complete and distinct living spaces that are occupied by disparate residents, they also have separate entrances. These entrances enable residents to enjoy privacy despite the close proximity of their neighbors.

Renting A Duplex

Since duplexes have two distinct units, they can be rented out to tenants. Landlords who own duplexes may live in one unit and rent out the other. Or, they may live elsewhere and rent out both units.

By living in the unit, landlords benefit from being close to their rental property. This living situation is also advantageous for tenants, as landlords are always readily accessible to make repairs. However, some landlords find this proximity to ultimately lead to needier tenants.

Buying A Duplex

When purchasing a duplex, you have a couple of options. You can buy the property as an owner occupant and live in one unit while renting out the other, which would provide you with an income stream that you could use to pay off your mortgage. You can also buy a duplex as purely an investment property and rent out both units. Either way, purchasing a duplex presents buyers with a unique investment opportunity, which can be an excellent choice for first-time home buyers.

The advantage of purchasing a duplex that you plan to live in is that you have more options when it comes to getting a mortgage. FHA and VA loans provide qualified borrowers with the ability to put less money down on the home; however, these loan options are not available for investment properties. If you purchase the duplex as an investment property, you would have to make a down payment of at least 20% of the purchasing price.

Pros And Cons Of Duplex Living

If you’re thinking of buying a duplex, there are a few pros and cons that you should consider before pulling the trigger.

Pros

The most significant benefit of duplexes is their affordability. The fact that you can gain both a primary residence and investment property (or two investment properties) by purchasing a single home is a considerable advantage for first-time home buyers and investors alike. By renting a unit, a duplex owner can gain a significant revenue stream that will enable them to pay off their mortgage faster.

Cons 

Despite the financial gains, there are some drawbacks to buying a duplex. If you’re looking to own your own property, you may find it frustrating to have a neighbor living so close to you. You’ll most likely have to share a driveway and yard with whoever rents the other unit, so you must make sure you’re comfortable sharing these common areas. Furthermore, there are many responsibilities that come with being a landlord. If you’re not ready to take on these responsibilities, a duplex may not be right for you.

The Bottom Line

Duplexes are a great choice for housing because of their versatility and affordability. The ability to purchase two units for the price of one makes duplexes extremely appealing. However, it’s crucial that you do your research and consider your needs before deciding to move into one. If you’re ready to begin your search for a duplex near you, check out the properties listed on Rocket Homes Real Estate, LLC. With Rocket HomesSMyou can not only find the perfect property but also connect with an experienced real estate agent who can help guide you through the home buying process.

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    Rachel Burris

    Rachel Burris is a writer covering topics of interest to present and future homeowners, as well as industry insiders. Prior to joining Rocket Companies, she worked as an English teacher for the New York City Department of Education and a licensed real estate agent for Brown Harris Stevens. She holds a bachelor's degree in creative writing from Bucknell University, a postbaccalaureate certificate in psychology from Columbia University and a master's degree in English education from Teachers College, Columbia University.