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Duplex vs. Single-Family: How Do They Compare and Which Should You Get?

December 13, 2023
Concept of first-time homebuyer family

Wondering whether a duplex or single-family home is right for you? What are the differences between the two? In this article, we discuss what a duplex is, whether a duplex or a single family home is right for you, and the cost differences between the two. 

What Is a Duplex?

A duplex is one multi-family property divided into two separate units. Duplexes can either be in a two-floor configuration where one unit sits on top of the other or in a side-by-side configuration where the two units are divided by one joined wall. These types of homes are especially popular in densely populated areas where real estate is expensive.Part of the reason why duplex homes are so popular is that it is more efficient to build a duplex. It’s also more cost-effective and gives the buyer more square footage and more land value. 

Here’s a few things to consider when comparing a single-family home and a duplex. 

Single-Family Home vs. Multi-Family Home

A duplex is a multi-family home because it houses two separate families; however, they are essentially two single-family homes joined together. These properties have two separate entrances, backyards, and garages in most cases. Some duplex homes can be converted to single-family homes simply by knocking down the adjoining wall.

Single-family homes will be detached from other homes, adding a layer of privacy. It also sits on its own private parcel of land. There is generally more keep and maintenance involved in a single-family home.

Townhouse vs. Duplex

The main difference between a duplex and a townhouse is that rather than just having one adjoining wall like a duplex, a townhouse usually shares walls on both sides.Townhouses are also usually partof larger developments.

Townhouses also commonly come with membership in a homeowners association, or HOA. The HOA determines building and community property maintenance costs. HOAs also mediate disputes between tenants.

Cost Differences Between Duplexes and Single-Family Homes

The price you pay for a duplex or a single family home may be identical, but what you get for your money is different. More families have chosen duplexes for two simple reasons: With a duplex, you get more square footage, and backyards can be significantly bigger. Single-family homes for the same price will be smaller, have little to no backyard, and may have a garage that will be detached from the home.

Pros and Cons: Should You Invest in a Duplex or a Single Family Home?

The answer to this question really depends on personal preference. Here are some pros and cons of buying half a duplex to help you make an informed decision:

Pros of Owning a Duplex:

  • More property for the money
  • Less yard maintenance
  • Less money spent on upkeep
  • More connected with neighbors and other residents

Cons of Investing in a Duplex:

  • It may not be possible to add on to your home
  • Potential property line issues
  • Less privacy

What To Know About Investing in a Duplex

If you’re considering a duplex as an investment instead of a residence, there are a few things to consider.

If the entire duplex is an investment, you’ll have two units to rent out, and two streams of rental income. You could also rent out one unit and live in the other. The rental income can help with your mortgage payments.

But the downside is that you’re now a landlord. You’re responsible for maintenance, at any time of the day and night. If you’re not occupying either unit, you’ll want to make sure you have active leases. Vacancies are wasted opportunities for income.

Cost of insurance will be a factor, also, since you’ll need to have landlord insurance. This covers damage to the building, liability, and loss of use.


The choice between a duplex and a single family home ultimately comes down to your personal preference and what you are planning to do in the future.

To learn more, check out our blog for more helpful content, like buying a new construction home vs resale, or contact us directly to speak with one of our home buying experts.