Drive around any city or through any neighborhood, and you’ll find the property world’s quiet achiever – duplexes. Most times, you don’t even realize that the house you just drove by is actually two homes on a single lot. And that’s intentional. Duplexes aren’t meant to stand out, but when the design is right, they can do more and be more for families of all sizes and lifestyles.
“Traditionally, duplexes are more reminiscent of a single-family home with a mirror-image layout,” said Rick McAlexander, CEO of Associated Designs. “And yet in modern times, duplexes have gotten a bit of a makeover. You don’t feel like you’re on top of or right by your neighbor. Individuality is key.”
The concept of a duplex often conjures up images of young couples or college-aged adults renting cookie cutter designs that all look alike. But that’s not always the case. In fact, nowadays duplexes are built with a unique style, amenities and living spaces that appeal to everyone. They have great rooms, dens, and sometimes the common wall is between the garages. They don’t look like typical duplexes, and they have their own personality and purpose.
Duplexes, therefore, are at the heart of modern living, allowing families to grow, invest and join the real estate market without breaking the bank.
“If they’re not building it as income property,” said McAlexander, “clients are building it to move in and develop that future income potential. So it’s true that a duplex has that connotation as a rental, but nothing is ever as it seems.”
Take for example the Corydon home plan (60-008) from Associated Designs. Set on a corner lot, you won’t believe it is, in fact, two homes in one. Both units have spacious great rooms (an important facet of any modern home) and full-size garages, but that’s where the similarity ends. One unit has two stories and three bedrooms, while the other is a single-level, two-bedroom unit. The units are well separated, offering plenty of privacy. It’s ideal for families who want to keep aging parents nearby, but still want a somewhat independent life. The Corydon, therefore, is not your standard mirror-image duplex.
“It’s becoming much more common for families to purchase two units for extended family use,” said McAlexander. “Most often that means that there is a larger home alongside a smaller one, and that’s exactly what the Corydon does.”
Of course, the majority of duplexes are built as income properties. With rising home prices and slow income growth, millennials have been slow to enter into the housing market. Duplexes are changing that, and even those properties can be unique and modern. The Kentland (60-015) looks like a fairly classic duplex in a two-level Craftsman style. Each unit has a wide, covered front porch and smaller covered rear patio. And the family living spaces are partially open to the kitchens, with three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. But the occupants won’t feel like they are living in a multifamily home at all.
“The great thing about the Kentland is that while it has the mirror-image look, the living spaces are separated by the garage so privacy is easy to come by,” said McAlexander. “By renting out one unit and living in the other, millennials have the opportunity to be homeowners with the potential for additional income. And yet they won’t feel like they’re living in a duplex.”
Other duplexes hide their multifamily aspect entirely by looking exactly like a charming, two-story, single-family home. The Tupelo design (60-006) has a second floor apartment with its own private entrance. The lower unit has two bathrooms, three bedrooms and a utility room. The upper unit is smaller and has two bedrooms and one bathroom. But the exterior is a Craftsman-style design that looks like any other Craftsman single-family home.
“It’s a classic example of a home that’s more than what it seems,” said McAlexander. “The end result is that families can have their older children get a taste for independence after completing college. Just let them rent the upper unit.”
Duplexes are ubiquitous in most cities, but they aren’t what they once were. They have the potential to be both an income property as well as a way for families to evolve and grow. It’s modern living at its best and brightest.