What Is a Duplex? Everything You Need To Know

Owning a single-dwelling house with spacious front and backyard spaces may be the dream of many people. This is possible if you live in the countryside and can afford it. However, you might have to look for affordable options in densely-populated areas where real estate prices are high.

The good news is that you can check out other housing options, like duplex housing. A duplex is somewhere between a single-dwelling house and an apartment. If you want to live closer to your family or friends, you can check out a duplex and stay next to each other while maintaining privacy. Let’s look at what a duplex is and what you need to know about it.

What is a duplex?

A duplex is a type of housing that consists of two units, typically on the same lot, connected by a common wall. It is a popular choice, with over  2.1 million duplexes across the United States.

A duplex could be listed as a “multi-family dwelling” as it offers two units in the same building. The duplex units can be arranged side by side or stacked on top of each other. Each duplex housing unit has its separate entrance, and there is no interior connection between each.

If outdoor space is available, renters of the two units can agree to share it or partition it for privacy.  A duplex building may be owned by one individual who may or may not live in one of the two units. Duplexes can be rented or bought, and they come in a variety of shapes and sizes.

Housing options compared

What is a duplex apartment? Here is a quick comparison between a duplex, apartment, townhouse, and a condo

Duplex: Two units divided by a common wall and has a single owner for the entire building who either lives or is not in one of the units.

Townhouse: Similar to a duplex but can have multiple owners. Each unit can be owned by a different owner, although they all share a common wall. The occupants of townhouses can also share common amenities a swimming pool. Townhouses are not stacked like duplexes.

Apartment: Multi-family buildings with several units rented out to tenants. There are different types of apartments. Apartments can either be owned by one person, a corporation, or a group of investors.

Condo: Like duplexes and townhomes, the units share walls. Condo owners own the unit’s interior. However, the homeowners association owns everything, like the garage, pool, and outdoor areas. Condo owners have to pay monthly fees for maintenance of the shared spaces.

You must also note that a duplex does not mean the same for some locations. For example, in Chicago or New York, a duplex apartment could also be a single unit in a multi-family building.

Advantages and disadvantages of living in a duplex

Like all other housing units, living in duplex housing comes with advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at some of them.


  • Duplex units are more affordable to rent compared to single-dwelling homes.
  • Duplex units offer some space and privacy compared to apartment units. You only share the wall with one neighbor. This means you don’t have to run into somebody in the hallways and stairs of apartment buildings.
  • If you’re a homeowner, a duplex is a good investment because you could live in one unit and rent the other unit out.


  • You may be sharing common places like a backyard, patio, and garage area with your neighbor. This is favorable if the occupants next door are your friends or family. Still, it could be challenging if neighbors live a different lifestyle from yours.
  • You may have to do yard work and others. Unlike apartments and condos, duplexes are privately owned. Since there are no monthly maintenance fees for the upkeep of the common areas, you have to do maintenance work.

Is a duplex suitable for you?

The answer to this to this will depend entirely on what you want. If you choose to rent a duplex unit, keep in mind that you will need to be friendly and adjust with your neighbor because you will be sharing a wall and common areas.

Bottom Line

Duplexes offer many benefits for both investors and homeowners. The arrangement allows each occupant to have an individualized space. Some challenges come with owning a duplex, like sharing common amenities like the backyard or front porch, but you can overcome these challenges with careful planning.

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