What is a Duplex Apartment? Everything You Need to Know

Updated on June 26th, 2023

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Are you curious about the concept of a duplex apartment and eager to explore its unique features? Look no further! In this comprehensive Redfin guide, we will delve into everything you need to know about duplex apartments. Whether you’re hoping to move out of your cramped Houston apartment or you’re considering buying a property in Baltimore, this article will provide you with a detailed understanding of this distinctive residential arrangement. From its architectural design and layout to the benefits and considerations, join us for a comprehensive overview of duplex apartments so you can make an informed decision about this increasingly popular housing option. 

duplex with plants in the foreground

What is a duplex apartment?

A duplex is a form of multi-family housing characterized by a building that contains two separate units. Duplex apartments can be vertically divided, with each level having its own entrance, or they can be horizontally divided, sharing a common entrance but with distinct living areas on each level. 

 In cases where outdoor space exists on the property, it is typically shared between the residents of both units or partitioned accordingly. A duplex building is owned by a single individual who may choose to reside in one of the units or not. The owner has the option to rent out either one or both of the units to tenants. Similar to duplexes, triplex and fourplex buildings are other types of multi-family housing, accommodating three and four units within the same structure, respectively.

Understanding the difference: duplex vs. apartment

A duplex refers to a building divided into two separate units, typically sharing a common wall, with each unit having its own entrance. This arrangement offers a sense of privacy and independence, as well as the opportunity for rental income. On the other hand, an apartment is a self-contained living space within a larger complex, typically consisting of multiple units in the same building. Apartments often offer amenities such as shared facilities, maintenance services, and a centralized management system.

Pros of living in a duplex


Duplexes often offer more space than traditional apartments, with separate living areas, bedrooms, and sometimes even outdoor areas like patios or yards. This additional space provides residents with a greater sense of freedom and flexibility to personalize their living environment.

Homeownership potential

In some cases, duplexes are owned by individual landlords who rent out one unit while residing in the other. This arrangement can present opportunities for aspiring homeowners to live in one unit and generate rental income from the other, potentially helping with mortgage payments and building equity.

Noise reduction

Duplexes typically have fewer shared walls compared to apartments, which can result in reduced noise transfer between units. This can contribute to a quieter and more peaceful living environment, making it appealing for those seeking a balance between privacy and community.

Cons of living in a duplex

Limited availability

Duplexes may be less common in certain areas compared to apartment complexes, so finding a suitable duplex for rent or purchase can be more challenging. It’s important to thoroughly research the local housing market to determine the availability and pricing of duplex units.

Responsibility for maintenance

Unlike apartments where maintenance and repairs are typically handled by the landlord or management company, duplex residents are often responsible for the upkeep of their unit and the shared areas. This can involve additional time, effort, and expenses, depending on the terms of the rental agreement or ownership arrangement.

Potential lack of privacy

Despite the separation between units, living in close proximity to neighbors can sometimes compromise privacy. Noise, shared spaces, and occasional visual intrusions may diminish the feeling of complete seclusion typically associated with detached single-family homes.

Limited outdoor space

In many cases, duplexes have a smaller lot size compared to single-family homes. This can result in limited outdoor space, making it challenging for residents to have extensive yards or dedicated outdoor areas. Shared outdoor space might be required, which could require coordination and compromise with the other unit’s occupants.

avondale duplex with a gate

What to consider when renting a duplex

Privacy vs. community

Duplexes offer a unique living situation where you share a building with another household. While this can foster a sense of community and potentially lead to friendships with neighbors, it’s essential to assess your personal preferences for privacy. Determine whether you are comfortable with shared walls, common outdoor spaces, and potential noise levels from the neighboring unit. It’s crucial to strike a balance that aligns with your lifestyle and social needs.

Rental agreements

Thoroughly review the lease agreement and ensure you understand the terms and conditions. Pay close attention to provisions related to maintenance responsibilities, utility payments, and potential restrictions on modifications or subleasing. Additionally, clarify the process for resolving any disputes that may arise with your landlord or the other tenant in the duplex. A clear understanding of the rental agreement will help set expectations and avoid any potential conflicts down the line.

Budget and affordability

Evaluate the rental price in relation to your overall budget and financial goals. Take into account not just the monthly rent, but also any additional costs such as utilities, maintenance fees, and potential shared expenses with the other tenant. Assess your current financial situation and ensure that renting a duplex aligns with your long-term financial plans. It’s important to strike a balance between finding a comfortable and suitable living space while ensuring it fits within your budgetary constraints.

Is a duplex the same as a condo?

While both can involve owning a portion of a building, a duplex is typically a single building divided into two units, whereas a condo is a type of ownership in which individuals own individual units within a larger complex. 

Is a duplex apartment right for me?

The suitability of a duplex apartment depends on your lifestyle, preferences, and specific housing needs. Consider factors such as desired living space, privacy requirements, responsibility for maintenance, and availability in your desired location. Assessing these factors will help determine if a duplex apartment aligns with your living preferences and goals.

If you are represented by an agent, this is not a solicitation of your business. This article is for informational purposes only, and is not a substitute for professional advice from a medical provider, licensed attorney, financial advisor, or tax professional. Consumers should independently verify any agency or service mentioned will meet their needs. Learn more about our Editorial Guidelines here.

Chibuzo Ezeokeke

Chibuzo is part of the content marketing team and enjoys writing about local insights and home improvement. His dream home is a Mediterranean-style house with a large kitchen and plenty of windows.

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