Are Duplexes Cheaper Than Houses in 2023?

by | Jul 1, 2023 | Buying Home | 0 comments

A single family home with a white picket fence

Have you ever wondered, “Are duplexes cheaper than houses?” especially when comparing them to single-family homes in 2023? With the ever-changing real estate market trends, staying informed and making the best investment decisions is essential. We will compare duplexes and single-family homes, exploring their unique characteristics, costs, rental income potential, and financing options. By the end, you’ll understand the pros and cons of investing in both property types. This will help you choose your investment goals and financial situation. Let’s delve into the exciting world of real estate!

Short Summary

  • Duplexes offer an attractive and accessible option for buyers, with the potential to earn rental income and tax benefits.

  • Single-family homes provide increased privacy, greater appreciation & stability but may be more expensive than duplexes in certain areas.

  • Evaluate your financial situation & investment goals when choosing between a duplex or single-family home in 2023.

Understanding Duplexes and Single-Family Homes

Understanding duplexes vs. single-family homes.  Are duplexes cheaper than houses?

Before we compare duplexes vs. houses, let’s familiarize ourselves with duplexes and single-family homes. A duplex is a residential property consisting of two separate living units, each with its own entrance, kitchen, and bathroom. In contrast, a single-family home is designed for one family, typically with one entrance, kitchen, and bathroom.

The legal and tax implications of owning a duplex differ from those of single-family homes. There are various single-family homes, including detached, semi-detached, and townhouses, while duplexes are considered multi-family units.

Defining Duplexes

A duplex is a two-unit residential property offering dual occupancy and the potential for rental income. Duplexes come in various formats, such as traditional duplexes, grandmother flats, and triplexes.

A duplex is two separate dwellings with separate titles with an adjoining wall. According to G.J. Garner, a duplex can exist on one land title (owned and sold together) or separate titles (individually owned and sold). The land that the duplexes are built on can be subdivided.

A Granny Flat (also known as a “grandmother flat”) is a self-contained dwelling, attached or detached from the main dwelling and a part of the same title. It’s often an extension built on the same lot and is a smaller version of the main home. Granny flats usually contain one bedroom, a kitchenette, a living area, and a bathroom. A granny flat is considered a second dwelling.

Triplexes are residential buildings that have three floors. Each floor usually includes one unit. When choosing a duplex, it’s crucial to consider your housing needs and investment goals to make the right decision.

Owning a duplex comes with unique legal and tax implications. For instance, zoning regulations may affect how you use the property. There are also potential tax benefits making duplexes an attractive investment option. Investors can take advantage of deductions for utility bills, property taxes, maintenance costs, mortgage interest, and HOA fees.

Additionally, landlords have responsibilities regarding repairs and maintenance under the Landlord/Tenant Law. An investor can receive a homestead exemption if they live in a multi-family home as their primary residence. This allows them additional tax savings.

Defining Single-Family Homes

A single-family home is a detached dwelling designed for one family, providing a cozy and comfortable living space. Most popular for families seeking privacy and the ability to personalize their living environment, making a vacant single-family home an attractive option for potential buyers.

Different types of single-family homes (e.g., detached, semi-detached)

There are various types of single-family homes to suit different preferences and needs. Detached homes stand alone without any shared walls, offering maximum privacy.

On the other hand, semi-detached homes are attached to another single-family home on one side. Townhouses are connected to other single-family homes on both sides, balancing privacy and community living.

Comparing Costs: Duplexes vs. Single-Family Homes

Duplexes vs. Single-Family Homes Cost comparison

So when considering whether or not duplexes are cheaper than houses, it’s important to consider their costs. We’ll examine both property types’ purchase prices, maintenance and repair costs, and insurance rates. This comparison will help you determine which investment is more suitable for your financial situation and investment goals.

Purchase Price

The cost of a duplex and a single-family home can be quite similar, depending on the specifics, such as the size and location of the property. wrote a single-family home, and a duplex was listed at a purchase price of $160,000, with the single-family home requiring an additional $15,000-$20,000 in repairs. Brookfield Residential showed a duplex and a single-family home of similar square footage priced around the same at approximately $350,000-$360,000.

The final amount can vary considerably regarding the expenses of constructing a duplex. There are multiple factors to consider, like the property’s size, style, and location. stated that the cost of building a duplex is typically $142,500 to $1,100,000, with an average of approximately $388,000. The average cost per square foot for constructing a duplex ranges from $95 to $220, depending on the size and type of the duplex. For example, building a duplex spanning 2,000 square feet may cost between $190,000 and $440,000. It could have an average cost of around $315,000. The duplex type influences the per-square-foot cost, which averages between $115 and $175.

Maintenance and Repairs

Maintenance and repair costs for a duplex can be higher than for a single-family home. This is due to the additional space and complexity of the property, as there are two units to maintain. For example, there may be two HVAC systems to service. Two sets of appliances to replace as they age and two sets of plumbing fixtures to maintain. A good guideline is to set aside 1% of yearly property value for maintenance costs.

The cost of repairs and maintenance may be more cost-effective for duplexes, as access to multiple units can make it easier to address issues. The cost per square foot to paint the exterior of the building or replace the roof could be lower because the work can be done all at once, rather than having to mobilize a crew twice for two separate single-family homes.

Yard maintenance costs could be lower for a duplex. It could have a smaller lot than the combined lots of two single-family homes.

It’s also worth noting that some duplexes are part of a homeowners association (HOA). An HOA charges a fee to cover certain maintenance costs. This could reduce the amount of maintenance the individual homeowner is responsible for. It would also add an additional cost.

Property Insurance Rates

Property insurance rates for duplexes can be higher than for single-family homes. This is due to the increased risk associated with multiple units. Many duplexes are often rented out, leading to more wear and tear and a higher likelihood of claims. Duplexes can also have more complex insurance needs because they involve two separate living spaces, which can increase the cost of insurance.

Rental Income Potential in Duplexes vs. Single-Family Homes

rental income potential for duplex vs. single family home

Rental income is a significant factor when comparing duplexes and single-family homes. Both property types offer potential for rental income, but duplexes may have an edge due to their dual occupancy.

Let’s look at the rental income potential for duplexes and single-family homes.

Rent Income for Duplexes

A main advantage of investing in a duplex is generating rental income from one or both units. This additional rental income can significantly offset the mortgage cost or the overall expenses associated with the property. It allows homeowners to generate passive income and potentially build wealth through real estate investments.

Single-family homes typically do not offer the same rental income opportunity unless the homeowner decides to rent out a portion of the property, such as a basement or a separate guesthouse. Owning a duplex and renting out one unit can enhance financial stability, support investment goals, and potentially accelerate wealth accumulation.

Consider investing in rental properties with attractive rental rates to maximize rental income. This encourages tenants to pay rent consistently, incentivizing tenants and maintaining the property in excellent condition.

Rent Income for Single-Family Homes

Due to zoning restrictions, single-family homes may have higher rental income potential, but achieving this can be more challenging.

Renting out a single-family home may require more effort. The potential for increased rental income can make it a worthwhile investment. According to USA Today, by the end of the quarter, the average rent nationwide for a single-family detached rental home was $2,395. A rise of 20% compared to the same timeframe in 2021 and a 6% increase from the corresponding period in 2022.

Financing Options for Duplexes and Single-Family Homes

Can a duplex be cheaper than a single family home. Financing options for duplexes vs single-family homes

Mortgage Options

Financing is a critical aspect of real estate investing. The financing options available for duplexes and single-family homes can immeasurably affect the returns on investment.

Mortgage options can be categorized based on their use (primary residence, investment, or second home) and loan type (Conventional, FHA, VA, and others).

Here’s a general summary of these options:

  1. Primary Residence: You can access most mortgage options when you live in one of the duplex units and rent out the other.

    • Conventional Loans: Conventional loans are offered through banks or mortgage companies and are not guaranteed by the government. They typically require a 20% down payment, although some lenders may accept as little as 3%.

    • A loan program called Freddie Mac Home Possible applies to single-family residences and multi-unit 1-4 unit homes. Homes may be standalone or attached to another home. Using this program, homebuyers living in one of the duplex units can finance up to 97% of the purchase price.

    • Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loans: The federal government insures FHA loans for borrowers who might not and offer lower down payment requirements, often as low as 3.5%. FHA loans for duplex properties require you to live in one of the units for at least a year.

    • Veterans Affairs (VA) Loans: VA loans are available to eligible veterans and active-duty military personnel. They offer 0% down payment options and don’t require mortgage insurance, but a funding fee is charged. Like FHA loans, you’re required to live in one of the units.

  2. Investment Property: If you’re buying the duplex solely as an investment and won’t live in either unit, your mortgage options might differ slightly and can come with higher interest rates. Conventional loans are the most common for this use, but the down payment could be 25%, or provides the following table that outlines the minimum mortgage requirements for standard loan programs for buying a duplex:

    Lending Talbe of mortgage requirements
  3. Second Home: If the duplex is a vacation home, you can use a second home mortgage. The mortgage is similar to a primary residence loan, but you must live in the home for part of the year, and it can’t be part of a rental pool.

  4. Other Loan Types:

    • Jumbo Loans: These are for properties that exceed the conforming loan limits Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac set. They typically require a larger down payment and have more stringent credit requirements.

    • 203k Loans: Renovation loans insured by the FHA allow you to finance both the purchase of the home and the cost of repairs or improvements.

    • HomeReady/Home Possible Loans: Special programs offered by Fannie Mae (HomeReady) and Freddie Mac (Home Possible) are designed for low-to-moderate-income borrowers. They offer reduced mortgage insurance and down payments as low as 3%.

Private mortgage insurance may be required for less than 20% down payments. Duplexes may qualify for easier financing than single-family homes due to their rental income potential.

Pros and Cons of Investing in Duplexes vs. Single-Family Homes

pros and cons of duplexes vs single-family homes

We’ve covered the differences, costs, rental income potential, and financing options for duplexes and single-family homes. Now it’s time to weigh the pros and cons of investing in each property type.

Advantages of Duplexes

Income Generation: The most attractive benefit of buying a duplex is the potential for income generation. You can live in one unit and rent out the other. This rental income can offset your mortgage payments, property taxes, and insurance costs, potentially making home ownership more affordable.

Building Equity: With a tenant paying rent, you have someone else contribute to your mortgage payments. Over time, this helps you build equity in the property without bearing the entire financial burden yourself.

Tax Benefits: Owning a rental property can offer tax advantages. Expenses related to the rental part of the property, such as maintenance, improvements, and even a portion of your mortgage interest, can be deductible.

Easier Management: Managing a rental property right next door is easier than managing a rental property in a separate location. You can closely monitor the property and address any issues quickly.

Disadvantages of Duplexes

Limited Privacy: Living next to your tenants can mean less privacy. You may have more interactions with your tenants than you would if your rental property was separate from your personal residence.

Responsibility of Being a Landlord: As a landlord, you’ll have additional responsibilities, including property maintenance, finding and managing tenants, and dealing with any legal issues that might arise.

Potential for Vacancies: If you rely on the rental income to cover your mortgage and the vacant unit for a period, you’ll have to cover the full cost yourself.

Resale Can Be Challenging: Duplexes can sometimes be harder to sell than single-family homes, especially if one side is tenant-occupied. Potential buyers might not want to take on the role of a landlord, which can limit your market.

The decision to buy a duplex involves careful consideration of the pros and cons. While the potential financial benefits are appealing, they come with increased responsibilities and potential challenges. Assess your readiness to take on the role of a landlord and your tolerance for risk before diving in. Buying a duplex can be rewarding with careful planning and the right mindset.

Advantages of Single-Family Homes

pros and cons of duplex living. Advantages and Disadvantages of a duplex vs single family home

Privacy: Single-family homes offer privacy that duplexes often can’t match. You have your own yard and walls, and there’s no need to worry about close proximity to tenants or neighbors.

Freedom and Control: As the sole owner, you can change your property as you see fit without considering the impact on tenants.

Market Appeal: Single-family homes often have a broader market appeal when it comes time to sell, as they attract investors and homebuyers. This can potentially make the selling process easier.

Less Responsibility: Without tenants to manage, you won’t have to deal with the responsibilities and potential headaches of being a landlord.

Disadvantages of Single-Family Homes

No Rental Income: Unlike a duplex, single-family homes don’t provide the opportunity to generate rental income to offset mortgage payments or other expenses.

Higher Costs: All costs associated with a single-family home, including the mortgage, taxes, insurance, and maintenance, are solely your responsibility.

Tips for Choosing Between a Duplex and a Single-Family Home

When choosing between a duplex and a single-family home, assessing your investment goals and financial situation is essential. Consider rental income potential, appreciation, maintenance costs, resale value, and return on investment.

Choosing between a duplex and a single-family home will ultimately depend on your needs and preferences. You might prioritize having more living space and a larger backyard (which might lead you toward a duplex) or prefer more privacy and a stand-alone structure (which might lead you toward a single-family home).

By analyzing your objectives and financial capabilities, you can make an informed decision that best suits your needs and investment goals, considering the initial investment.

Assessing Your Investment Goals

Are duplexes cheaper than houses as an investment?

Take a moment to assess your investment goals and determine which property type better aligns with your objectives. Are you looking for a steady rental income? Are you hoping for long-term appreciation?

Understanding your goals will help you decide whether a duplex or a single-family home is the right choice for you.

Evaluating Your Financial Situation

Next, evaluate your financial situation to determine which property type is more affordable and suitable for your budget. Consider the initial purchase price, financing options, management and maintenance costs, operating costs, and potential rental income.

Understanding your financial capabilities lets you decide which property type fits your investment portfolio.

Staying informed about market trends is essential with the real estate market price increases. Depending on the local market conditions, duplexes may be more affordable than houses in some areas.

Are duplexes cheaper than houses in 2023?

In 2023, while the duplex cost is relatively the same, some areas could be cheaper than single-family homes. It would depend on market demand and individual property factors. Research local market trends and property prices to determine which investment option is more affordable and suitable for your needs.

Other factors to consider would be maintenance costs, financing options, and rental income potential should also be considered when making your decision.


In conclusion, both duplexes and single-family homes offer unique advantages and disadvantages for investors. You can make an informed decision by understanding the differences between these property types and considering costs, rental income potential, financing options, and real estate market trends. One that aligns with your investment goals and financial situation. Whether you invest in a duplex or a single-family home in 2023, staying informed and making well-thought-out decisions will be key to your success.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why buying a duplex is a good idea?

Buying a duplex can be a great way to create an additional income stream while growing your equity. With rent from the second unit helping to pay your mortgage and improve the property’s value, a duplex can be a smart investment for those looking to build wealth.

Plus, you can live in one unit and rent out the other.

What is the difference between a single and a duplex?

The difference between a single and a duplex home is that a duplex contains two homes side by side, joined together by one wall. On the other hand, a single-family home is an individual standalone property without being connected to any other home.

Ultimately, which type of home is right for you depends on your needs and preferences.

What is the disadvantage of living in a duplex?

Living in a duplex can come with some challenges, such as limited availability and the need for more costly maintenance work. You may also have to be comfortable living near your landlord or pay more for the privilege.

Despite these drawbacks, duplexes can still make great homes!

What factors should I consider when choosing between a duplex and a single-family home?

When choosing between a duplex and a single-family home, you should consider the investment objectives, financial resources, rent-earning capacity, upkeep costs, resale value, and the current condition of the real estate market.

Considering all this will help you make an informed decision that best suits your needs.


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