You’re on the hunt for a new place, and you’ve searched for just about every single-family home, townhouse, and condo on the market. Clicking through the endless pages of irrelevant listings becomes tiring and overwhelming. The good news is you probably haven’t explored all of your options because most house hunters often overlook a fourth type of home: the duplex. And some homeowners are opting to build their own duplexes to their exact specifications.
The duplex home plan typically has two complete apartments on separate levels or side-by-side units that share a wall. Each unit has its own entrance. This setup may not be the first image that sneaks into your daydreams about your future home, but some two-family homes are indistinguishable from single-family houses at first glance. And from an investment standpoint, this is a property that comes with some perks so good that it’s no surprise it is the hot new home type. Here are six reasons why a two-family home will have you changing the search filters for your house hunt faster than you can say “duplex.”
Top: Not immediately apparent as a two-family house from the outside, this Contemporary style duplex home plan has separate entrances on opposite sides of the house and 3 bedrooms in each unit. Middle: The main floor has an open floor plan in each unit, with the master suites toward the street side. Bottom: The other bedrooms and a family room for each unit are on the lower level (House Plan #158-1283).
1. Dollar-wise Affordability
The biggest advantage of duplex house plans is the price tag. Many two-family homes are located in very affordable neighborhoods to begin with and are often still cheaper than single-family detached homes. This is great news for first-time buyers, anyone on a moderate budget, or someone looking to generate some cash flow. Duplex home plans offer a lot of flexibility, and there are a number of things you can do with the second unit. The most popular, and most profitable, seems to be using it as a residential rental space.
Here’s the catch: these gems can be hard to come by because they aren’t located in all neighborhoods within the city limits. With a few exceptions, most duplex homes are placed out in the suburbs. If that’s your target area – great! Keep in mind that there are many unique advantages to owning a two-family home that you might want to consider if you’re willing to budge on location. And there is always the easier option of finding the perfect piece of property to build your dream duplex.
At just 3,086 total sq. ft., this Colonial style duplex home plan has an efficient floor plan containing 8 bedrooms, 4 full bathrooms, and 2 half baths – 4 bedrooms, 2 full bathrooms, and 1 half bath in each uint. The strictly rectangular shape and simple roof structure make this country home efficient and affordable to build (House Plan #132-1625).
2. Minimizing Mortgage Rates
Let’s do some math. Say you purchase a duplex with a monthly mortgage of $1,400. You might live in one unit and rent the second unit of the duplex for $900 per month, leaving you responsible for a small monthly balance of $500. You could pay the remaining balance, or you could opt to pay a bit more and – with the help of the rental income – pay off the mortgage much sooner. Mortgage companies consider the two units of a duplex plan home to be a single property and tend to give more modest interest rates to buyers who plan to occupy one of the units. This is one of the financial advantages of owning a property with two units.
3. Tempting Tax Breaks
The next big bonus has to do with taxes. When you buy a home, you get tax write-offs for the interest you pay on the mortgage. If you buy a two-family home and live in one unit while renting out the other, then you only get to write-off half of the duplex. But when you rent out the second unit, there are different write-offs for things such as fees accrued to rent or manage the property, any type of repairs made, and utility expenses for the unit. Shared expenses between you and the tenant, such as an internet bill, can be included in the write-off as well. These are sweet little deals that will add up over the years if you choose to continue with the business of renting.
Looking to all the world like a 2-story Southern/Colonial single-family home with its apparent single entry, this house plan is actually a duplex with two 2-bedroom units. You can choose to live in it with an independent child or in-laws, with each family maintaining its privacy (and no one from the outside being the wiser), or you can rent out one unit. Either way, you stand to reap tax benefits and make the most of your money, and you'll avoid the stigma some communities may place on multi-family housing (House Plan #153-1385).
4. Live In and Rent Out
Owning a rental is a great side hustle. An easy introduction to the real estate biz is to start by renting out unit number two of the duplex. But simply buying and building a duplex house plan is not the secret to success. There is a bit of a learning curve for first-time landlords, but what better way to wade into the world of “landlordship” than with a two-family home, living alongside your tenant?
Maybe that doesn’t sound like a total dream to everyone, but being on-site sure will make it a lot easier while you’re learning the ropes. Important things to research are how landlord-tenant laws work in your state, customizing a lease, procedures for collecting rent, and screening potential tenants. You can get to know your tenant and tend to the property without actually having to leave your property – talk about working from home! Something else to consider is the cost of rent in the area. You want to be making sufficient profit to reduce or cover the mortgage and interest payment on the property. It’s also good experience if you plan to invest in more rental properties in the future.
This charming Craftsman style duplex home plan makes it easy to live it one unit and rent the other – and it's visually appealing! The living areas are completely divided for exceptional privacy, separated from each other by the garage unit (House Plan 108-1852).
5. Short-Term Rentals
Most people assume that having long-term tenants is the only way to gain substantial profit. While they provide the security of sending consistent rent checks to the bank, there are some big-buck benefits of listing unit number two on short-term rental websites. The bottom line is that – especially in desirable vacation areas – short-term rentals cost more and vacationers will pay more for an entire private apartment than for a single room. While there is no monthly guarantee with a short-term rental, there is the potential to make more cash with a fraction of the occupancy in any given month. Most people find the preparations and cleaning between guests to be tiresome. Living on the property will make it much easier to maintain the unit without losing much time, money, or effort.
It’s definitely risky to invest in a property solely for the profits of short-term rentals. However, if you’re living in one of the units and not depending on a solid, steady income from the second unit, you can benefit from cash flow tied to owning this type of rental. But you need to get familiar with the local law: some cities, such as San Francisco, have strict rules about using particular properties for the purposes of short-term rentals, while other cities are more relaxed.
Can't you just see this adorable Cottage style duplex in a beachfront or coastal community – drawing in seasonal vacationers – or in a quiet country suburb giving young families the affordable start they need? One unit has 3 bedrooms and 1.5 bathrooms, and the other has 2 bedrooms and 1 bath (House Plan #158-1273).
6. Multigenerational Family Options– There’s Room For More
A two-family home offers more than just the potential for passive income and tax breaks. Duplex home plans balance proximity and privacy and are the perfect solution for many multigenerational families.
• Have young adult children moving back after college? Or maybe starting a family, and you would like them nearby – and to give them a helping hand as they begin their life journey?
• Your aging parents may be still independent, but you would feel more secure if they lived closer … like on the other side of your living room wall. Someone could check on them daily, but they would still have the freedom of living on their own. Maybe your family hasn’t crossed that bridge yet. The extra unit can be designed to suit your needs now and adapt to life changes later.
• Have a business like a law firm, a design-build construction company, accounting firm, or the like? The second unit of a duplex would make great office space!
• Do you have lots of family and/or in-laws visiting often and for extended periods of time? A duplex may be a winner for you, especially around holiday and vacation times.
• Maybe you want to retire with close friends to make retirement more affordable but don't want to be THAT close and living with each other in the same house. A duplex could be your answer!
Ideally built into a sloped lot and perfect for a multigenerational family with elderly parents or in-laws or an independent child, this Contemporary style duplex looks like a single-family home (top image) yet has two separate units. Enter the home just to the right of the garage, and you're in the sitting/family room of the main unit (middle image). A separate entrance on the left of the builiding brings you into the 1-bedroom secondary unit, as does a door by the laundry room, which allows you to pass between the two units. Being on the ground floor, this unit would be great for elderly tenents, and the open-concept living-kitchen area provides independence. Go upstairs from the front entrance to the main open-floor-plan kitchen/great room and two bedrooms (bottom image) – and get a view of the pool from the many windows looking out from this level. Though designed with entirely separate living quarters, this duplex is also intimate, filling the bill for the large or multigenerational family (House Plan #126-1834).
Even if your heart and mind were set on a single-family home, now you must have some newfound interest in what a duplex can offer. With careful calculations, investing in a duplex home can be profitable. Even if making extra cash isn’t the driving factor in your house hunting, a two-family house plan might just be the right type of home for your family.
From a rental property to a visitor’s suite for your in-laws, there isn’t a buyer who wouldn’t be able to find a way to creatively transform the second unit of a duplex house plan into a suitable space.