A duplex is a multifamily home with two separate units. It shares a wall, ceiling, or floor with an adjoining unit — sometimes a basement or yard as well.
In Chicago and New York, a duplex can mean a two-story apartment.
✍ Key takeaways
- A duplex is a single property with two separate units.
- Buyers can earn extra income by renting a second unit, but they’ll have to deal with tenants and share a wall with their neighbors.
- Renters get some benefits of a single-family home, but they may need to share amenities and spaces.
Duplex vs. townhouse vs. condo vs. apartment
If you’re a renter, there’s generally no significant difference between a duplex and other types of rental properties.
Many rental types — duplexes, triplexes, townhouses, condos, and apartments — share walls or spaces with other units, whereas single-family homes can have private yards or exterior spaces.
|🏠 Property type||Description|
|Duplex||One property, usually with one owner, that contains two separate units|
|Triplex||One property, usually with one owner, that contains three separate units|
|Quadplex||One property, usually with one owner, that contains four separate units|
|Townhouse||Separately owned unit that shares a wall with a neighboring unit|
|Condo||Separately owned unit that shares walls with neighboring units, but the owners only own the interior and a homeowner’s association (HOA) owns the exterior|
|Apartment||A building of at least five rental units, typically owned by one owner or corporation|
Buying a duplex
Duplexes are good options for buyers trying to save money, gain experience as a landlord, or have a separate unit for friends or loved ones. And because some lenders will factor rentals into your income, you might qualify for a larger loan to buy a duplex.
Buying a duplex may not be right for you, however, if you want the largest possible space to live in or you cherish your privacy. You may also want to avoid them if you don’t like the idea of dealing with tenants.
|Benefits of buying a duplex||Drawbacks of buying a duplex|
|✅ Earn extra income||❌ Fewer options in available properties|
|✅ Get experience in owning and managing rentals||❌ Financial responsibility for others (e.g., replacing tenant's appliances)|
|✅ Have a separate unit for friends or loved ones||❌ Less personal space and close proximity to tenants|
Living in a duplex — also known as owner-occupying — offers many of the benefits of homeownership, plus additional income when you rent out the other side. This approach is sometimes referred to as “house hacking.”
Let’s say you buy a duplex for $150,000, and your mortgage payment is $900 per month. You could live on one side and rent the other for $750 per month — that covers almost your whole mortgage!
Owner-occupiers are effectively real estate investors, though not necessarily in a professional capacity.
Investing in duplexes
Duplexes are good investments for balancing the affordability of single-family homes with the diversity and efficiency of multi-unit properties. They are, however, less ideal for institutional investors who want to work on a larger scale.
Renting a duplex
Duplexes can be good options for renters who want more privacy or to avoid crowded apartment buildings.
Compared with condos or apartment buildings, duplexes tend to offer more private space. You’ll still need to share a wall (or ceiling or floor) with your neighbors — and possibly a basement or yard as well.
Because duplexes are often owned independently, not by large corporations, your landlord could be the building owner or their family member.
Having a small-time owner instead of a large management company could mean more flexibility in your lease terms — such as the length, allowing pets, lawn care arrangements, or simply a discount on the rent.
Although a duplex may offer a more personalized experience with your landlord, it could also mean a less professional experience. You might even end up being neighbors with them.
FAQs about duplexes
What's considered a duplex house?
A duplex is a single property with two separate units. Typically, a single owner either lives in one unit and rents the other (i.e., house hacking), or they can rent out both.
What's the benefit of a duplex?
Owner-occupiers can use a duplex to gain additional income by renting out half of their property, while investors can double their rentable units for a single property.
What's the difference between a townhouse and a duplex?
A townhouse is a single unit that's owned individually and shares a wall (or walls) with neighboring units. A duplex is a single property with two units and usually has one owner.
How to Start Investing in Real Estate: If you’re considering buying a duplex, you should consider what aspects of this investment appeal to you and formulate a plan to get the right property for your situation.
Understanding Realtor Fees: When buying any kind of property, it’s important to understand realtor fees and what to expect when working with a realtor.