The duplex house is a type of home that often gets overlooked in favor of single-family dwellings. But duplexes are just as — if not more — efficient than single-family houses, and they can offer a host of other benefits that single-family homes simply cannot.
Those who do consider duplexes typically want to purchase an existing duplex. It’s less common for people to want to build themselves a duplex using prefabricated house plans. The latter option affords you far more variety and creativity in everything from the architectural style to the interior layout, giving you full control so you can ensure you’re getting the home of your dreams.
A duplex is essentially two separate homes situated within the same building, often with a single shared wall that divides the two dwellings. The units of a duplex can be situated next to each other — either side by side or one in front of the other — or one on top of the other. Duplexes can have multiple stories as well, and each unit is equipped with a mirrored layout inside, including a designated entryway for each unit.
The term “duplex” refers specifically to a singular structure that has two — no more and no less — separate units built right in. It differs from a townhouse because though townhouses can be singular buildings with two separate units, each unit is separately owned. In a duplex, everything on the entire property — the duplex house, the back and front yards, the garages — is owned by one homeowner.
Duplex designs are made to fit at least two families, but there are also other multi-family homes built with more than two units.
Duplex houses differ from other conjoined homes because the duplex is situated on the same plot, and the same homeowner possesses both units. Usually, homeowners live in one unit and rent out the other or rent both units while living off-site. Some also like to live in one unit and leave the other one empty for long-term guests or to use as a home office.
Some people also opt to sell one of the units in a unique agreement in which each person own their unit and shares the cost of upkeep for common areas, such as backyards or front lawns.
For most people, owning a duplex is like getting two houses for the price of one. They can be as spacious as the plot allows and are typically identical mirror images of each other, which can make maintenance much easier. For duplex house plans with one unit on top of the other, the interior layout may vary, but in every case, there will be at least one wall, floor or ceiling that each unit shares with the other.
The house plan often includes laundry and storage as well, and some duplex floor plans also have attached garages for each unit.
Living in a duplex comes with several, especially if you build your own home using duplex plans. The biggest benefit is that you essentially get two houses for the price of one, but here are five more benefits to living in a duplex house that you may not know of.
One of the most common ways people use duplex houses is by living in one unit themselves and renting out the other unit. The homeowner can then use the rent collected from the secondary unit to pay off the mortgage. With the additional income of renting out one of both units, you can pay off your mortgage that much quicker without having to do much.
Once your mortgage is paid off, you can continue to collect rent, which will then be pure profit.
You can deduct your mortgage interest payment on your taxes, and you can also write off any units you’re renting out. If you live in one unit and rent out the other, the entire second unit is tax-deductible. That includes all costs associated with the rental unit’s maintenance and upkeep, including any fees you pay to rent or manage the property, any repairs you do to the rental unit, and even the utility bill for the rental unit.
On top of that, if you share your internet or cable with the secondary unit, you can claim those on your taxes as well.
Not everyone wants to rent to total strangers, and not everyone can afford to allow family to live with them. That’s where duplex houses come in handy. They’re the perfect way to keep your family close without fear of stepping on each other’s feet.
You can rent out the second unit to family or even use it as an in-law suite for elderly relatives. It’s also a great way to allow your college-aged kids to practice living independently without needing to fly too far from the nest.
Living in a duplex house gives you the best of apartment and single-family home living. Duplex units are often much more spacious than most apartments and feel more like a single-family dwelling. And with the second unit rented out, you can take advantage of having a neighbor close by, so you’re not isolated.
And, unlike in apartments, you’re less likely to be plagued with noisy neighbors who stomp around or play their music too loud at all hours since you can pick and choose who rents your second unit.
The nearby neighbor is also beneficial if you’re away and need someone to check in on your house or any pets, providing you with added security.
Whether it’s the design you choose for your duplex house or the color you decide to paint the exterior walls, you have ample room to embrace your creativity. Since you’re the homeowner, you can make any additions or aesthetic changes that you want without worrying about running it by the landlord or condo board.
You also have the freedom to use the second unit as you see fit. While renting it out is a popular option, you can also leave it vacant as a guest house for long-term guests. Or, if you work from home, you can use it as an office space. It all depends on how many square feet the unit is and what you and your household needs.
Duplex designs vary in size as well as architectural styles, so you have your pick of floor plans to choose from. Here are some of the duplex house plans available:
Building your own duplex house can seem like an intimidating task, especially if this is the first time you’re building a home using prefabricated house plans. Browsing through example house plans is a great way to get acquainted with the various styles available and figure out which would work best for your needs.
Here are three examples of duplex house plans that you can consider.
Cozy is the best way to describe this duplex house, which features two 448-square-foot units. Each unit is a mirror image of the other, opening into a spacious open-concept dining and sitting area. Farther in, there is a small kitchen and then a full bathroom and the bedroom.
Ideal for couples or singles, these units are also great for empty-nesters and college kids looking to live independently.
A covered porch runs across the front of the house and is shared by both units, making this house an excellent choice for families as well.
Covering 1,402 square feet, this traditional-style duplex house is ideal for those who want to live in one unit and rent the other. The two units are mirror images of each other and feature two bedrooms and one full bathroom each. An open-concept sitting and dining area greets you when you enter through the front door.
One bedroom has access from the sitting and dining area while a larger master is situated at the back of the house. Both bedrooms feature spacious closets, and the bathroom is conveniently between both rooms.
The kitchen is spacious and comes with a pantry and a closet for a washer and dryer. There is also the option to have a rear patio built for either or both units. But both front entrances have their own porches, encouraging privacy without sacrificing friendliness.
If you’re looking for a house with a little more room to spread out, this Colonial-style duplex house offers two units that measure 1,280 square feet each and feature three bedrooms and three bathrooms on two levels.
The exterior is simple and rectangular, true to the Colonial style, and the interior features the staircase immediately past the entrance. The second floor is equipped with two bedrooms, each of which has walk-in closets and ensuite bathrooms.
A spacious living room sits on the main floor at the front of the home and leads to a combined kitchen and dining area. Beyond the kitchen are the third bathroom and the third bedroom.
On each side, there is a second entrance with a stoop, and both front entrances share a cozy covered porch.
Duplex houses can be confusing for some people, especially when compared to similar dwellings, such as townhomes and apartments.
Here are three of the frequently asked questions about duplex houses, as well as the answers.
Yes, duplex houses are multi-family homes as well. However, all multi-family homes aren’t duplexes. A duplex is specifically a building that has two separate units within the same building.
Whether a duplex is better than a townhouse is subjective. It boils down to what you want from your home. If you want a smaller home to live in yourself, then a townhouse might be right for you. But if you’re hoping to build property to rent out, but you also need a place for yourself to live, a duplex house is likely the better option.
In both cases, you’ll have control of the entire property and can make changes to the interiors or exteriors. If your townhouse is controlled by a homeowners association or condo board, you likely won’t have as much freedom as you would if you built your own duplex house.
Ownership is probably the biggest difference between these two types of dwellings, with size being a close second. As we mentioned, in duplex houses, the same owner owns both units. In a townhouse, different people own each house. In an apartment, one company owns the entire building and rents out each apartment.
Duplex houses often have just one unit rented out while the homeowners live in the other, but it’s also common for homeowners to rent out both units. The extra income allows them to pay off their mortgages or simply make an additional profit.