How Do I Make My House A Duplex?

dual occupancy melbourne houses

If you’ve considered turning your single-family home into a two-family home in order to stretch your monthly dollar, you wouldn’t be the first. How can you turn a single-family home into a two-family home? Or if you’re buying a home in order to split it into multiple units, how do you go about it? And is it even feasible?

Most of the time, it is feasible to do this to your own home, and it is often a good idea to buy a home and convert it. There’s no way to know for sure; however, until you’ve asked yourself the right questions about the property you want to convert.

We’ve put this together with this list of questions to help you decide if converting a current single-family into a two-family home is worth what you put into it for any particular house.

Do you find duplex apartments extremely appealing? Do you stay in a house and wish to turn it into a duplex? Well, if this is the case, then it is undoubtedly a good decision. Duplex apartments are great housing solutions for families with older kids, who need private space of their own or simply for those who wish to add an extra source of income by way of rental charges. You will be delighted to know that transforming a house into a duplex is not a cumbersome task and can be easily tackled if the relevant factors are efficiently taken care of. Here is a list of useful tips to assist you in the task .

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What Is A Duplex Apartment?

A duplex is a multi-family home that has two units in one building — regardless of how those homes are arranged. Units can be side-by-side or stacked on top of each other.

Duplex buildings also have two separate entrances for each unit. This means each tenant has their entrance. An example of a duplex is a house with two doors side-by-side that enter into different living spaces in one home, one upstairs and one downstairs. These two separate units are typically similar in size.

There are other types of housing that have multiple homes within one building, like a triplex and fourplex. But the term duplex is reserved exclusively for multi-family housing with two homes.

Duplexes can also sometimes be confused with a twin home. Twin homes are half-homes on their respective lot. A duplex is a property on one lot. You can have duplexes that have different owners, but they have a condo ownership interest, meaning there is shared lot ownership. Finding the right duplex build  is an important decision. Check out our range of the best home design constructions at MJS Construction Group.

What Is The Difference Between A Duplex And An Apartment?

The biggest difference between a duplex and a townhouse, apartment or condo is ownership. A single person owns duplexes, and both units are typically rented out.

Sometimes, the owner lives in one and rents out the other. This situation can be appealing to new landlords who may find the extra income from the other unit helpful in paying the monthly mortgage.

The landlord may live elsewhere and rent both units.

Should You Live In A Duplex?

Living in a duplex is popular for a few reasons.

One, duplexes offer many of the benefits of a standard residential home like a yard, garage and privacy. Duplexes are typically more affordable than a single-family home (but this depends on the area).

The affordability of duplex rentals might allow you to rent in a higher-value location than you would normally be able to if you were planning to rent a single-family home.

Of course, you’d have a neighbour living right next to you, but if you’re looking for things like outdoor space and an in-unit washer and dryer, it could be worth it.

What You Need to Know When Turning Your Home Into a Duplex? 

Turning a single-family home into a duplex isn’t a new idea. Investors have been doing this for years to help maximize their returns. But the trend is now making considerable waves among homeowners who are looking for creative ways to help cut their mortgage payments.

With half of their homes serving as rental properties, homeowners can charge their tenants half of what their regular mortgage payments are, so all they have to cover is the remaining half. Or, a homeowner can continue paying their regular mortgage and apply the rent toward the loan’s principal, thus paying the home off sooner.

Of course, as interesting as this idea might be, there are some things you need to know before you start putting up walls and making major renovations. Here are four important things you need to consider when turning your home into a duplex.

Zoning Issues

Your home is more than likely zoned as a single-family dwelling. So, before you can turn it into a two-family structure, you need to check with your local zoning commission to see if you can have your zoning changed. Depending on where you live, this can be easy or difficult, and free or expensive. Regardless of these considerations, you’ll still be required to purchase the appropriate permits to do the work legally.

Requirements for a Two-Family Dwelling

Each state and municipality has its requirements for a home to be considered livable. So, you will need to ensure that the second-half of your home is equipped with everything a home needs in order to satisfy the requirements. While you should check with your local building office to verify the requirements, the basics tend to include the following:

  • Each residence needs to have its entry door (in some cases, two doors leading outside)
  • Each residence needs a bedroom, bathroom, and a kitchen (or kitchen area)
  • Separate electric, gas, and water meters for each residence
  • A two-family dwelling may also have different fire code requirements, so you should check with your local building department to make sure your duplex meets the fire codes in your area.

duplex dual occupancy melbourne

Lender and Home Value Issues

You are not legally bound to notify your lender of your plans to change your home into a duplex, but they will find out if you ever apply for another loan from them, like one for making home improvements or a home equity loan. Depending on your lender, they may see this change in a negative light because two residents are riskier than just one. This can cause your loan approval odds to be lower.

Depending on your location, the change can either improve your home’s value or cause it to decline. If it rises, then your lender may be more willing to work with you.

Tax Changes

Making this change in your home will cause inevitable changes in your taxes. For starters, you can expect your property taxes to go up. But, since the other half of your home is an investment property, you will be able to make a wide variety of deductions that you aren’t eligible for with your primary residence.

You’ll be able to deduct utilities, property taxes, maintenance costs, mortgage interest, HOA fees, and insurance costs on your duplex unit. You may even qualify for a homestead exemption on your primary residence.

Do I Want to Buy a New Home or Convert an Existing One?

This is an important question to ask yourself. In many places, the amount of time and money it takes to turn a single-family home into a two-family one may not be worth it. If you’re going this route, please read this article to the end. You’ll need to consider everything talked about here.

Converting your current home into a two-family residence may seem more economical to you. Often, it is. You’ve already gone through the closing process and have put your time and money into making sure your home is livable and up to par. That’s time and money you won’t have to spend up-front like you would with a new home.

Regardless of which route you pursue, you’ll need to know more about things like zoning, building department and other municipal requirements, and financing.

Am I Zoned for a Two-Family Structure?

First, check your zoning. Some places won’t differentiate; many will. If you are not zoned for a two-family dwelling, you will need to see if you can change your zoning.

In most cases, you’ll visit the municipal building dept to find out more about rezoning. If the town the property is located in doesn’t specifically have a building department, check with city hall to see who you will need to talk to.

Once you talk to the right people, tell them what you want to do with the home. They will let you know if the property is properly zoned for that. If it isn’t, you can ask what it would take to get it rezoned.

What will it take to get your property (or a property you’re looking at) rezoned? That all depends on the municipality in which you live. If you live in Possum Grape, AR, it may not take more than filling out a couple of forms. If you live on Long Island, the process could be prohibitively expensive, or just too much trouble.

Some municipalities will require you to make the house suitable before they rezone it; others might rezone on a temporary basis, then make that zoning permanent if you make the required changes in time. In either case, however, you’ll need to apply for the proper permits. And you’ll need to make changes to the house. At MJS Construction Group, we have the best dual occupancy selection to make your house a dream come true.

Pros Of Living In A Duplex

  • Only one other unit to deal with: You likely won’t have access to amenities that are common in apartment complexes like a pool or tennis courts. But living in a duplex means you only have to share common spaces with one other unit as opposed to a whole complex of people.
  • Being close to your neighbour: A duplex means you’ll be in close proximity to your neighbour, but fully private and completely separate units. While this may seem like a negative to some, it could be a benefit depending on one’s situation. For example, if you want to be close to relatives, you could rent out one unit and have your relatives in the other.

The Cons Of Living In A Duplex

  • Sharing may not always be caring: You will likely share the yard and driveway with your neighbour, which could be an issue if your neighbour abuses these areas or doesn’t respect your space. Also, your neighbour could be your landlord.
  • You might have a nightmare neighbour: While this applies for any rental, whether it’s a duplex or apartment, having an uncool next-door neighbour (with whom you share a wall) may make it difficult. Understanding this will help set the expectation and hopefully help you avoid any negative situations from occurring.
  • Potentially increased responsibilities: Because duplexes are often privately owned, you may be left to do your yard work, snow shovelling, gardening or tidying up around the outside areas.

Building a Duplex for Beginners: Tips for Success

Get Professionals Involved Early On

Even if you’ve had previous experience in property investment, duplex development is very different. Involving professionals early on will help you save time and avoid simple mistakes. Consider getting in touch with these professionals to make sure your build goes smoothly:

  • Town planner
  • Professional architect
  • Professional builder
  • Financial expert
  • Lawyer/solicitor

Do Your Research

Before you buy a block of land for your duplex investment, make sure you’ve done your research on it. Talk to experts to ensure that council zoning will allow you to build there. Remember that only certain areas support duplexes, so choose wisely.

Your block of land needs to meet zoning criteria, but it also should be in an area that will make your investment worthwhile. Areas of strong growth and high rental yields will give you the best return on your purchase. If you want a duplex with a high rental return, it’s also important to do some research before construction. Visit some open houses, talk to a real estate agent, and find out what buyers and renters alike.  At MJS Construction Group, we offer a wide range of duplex build.

Budget Responsibly

There are plenty of fees associated with building a duplex, especially for beginners. From council fees to holding costs, if you don’t budget from the start, you might find yourself in some hot water. Duplexes are great because they create equity quickly…but only if you don’t overspend while building.

Duplexes are two different units but, depending on whether they have separate titles, they may have to be sold as one. Consider what you will be using the duplex for. Will you be:

  • Renting both units
  • Selling both units
  • Selling one unit, renting the other
  • Sell/renting one unit, retaining the other

It’s a good idea to talk to a financial expert who can help you understand your financial capacity. These professionals can walk you through what building a duplex might mean for you.

Perform A Feasibility Study

To ensure that your project will be worth the money and time you’re spending, take some time to perform a feasibility study early on. This is a must if you want to ensure that your project has a good chance of success. At the end of the study, you can determine whether it’s worthwhile to build your duplex.

Invest In Quality

If you want a good rental return, then you need to invest in a nice rental property. Buyers and renters are more discerning today when it comes to their properties, so it’s important to follow popular trends. Duplex architecture is becoming more sophisticated and modern. It will benefit you to take some time to research current duplexes before designing yours.

And when it comes to design, don’t scrimp on the right home builders. You don’t have to hire the biggest names out there to get great results. However, make sure your professionals have several satisfactorily completed projects they’re willing to show you.

First of all, you need to find out whether your neighbourhood is covered under the zoning permits where houses can be transformed into duplex apartments. Whether you are aware of the fact or not, but policies are known to differ in every state as well as every neighbourhood.A good way to find out about the policy applicable in your area is to either talk to the local counsellor or visit the planning website of your state

Once you have checked about the policies, you need to determine the type of duplex you would want. There are two types of duplex apartments. The first type is two separate units sharing a common wall, whereas the second type is an apartment featuring living spaces in the form of two levels, basement and first level.

If you wish to create two separate units in the same level sharing a common wall, you need first to divide the space into two halves. Besides, you need to ensure that the two units are equipped with basic utility facilities. For instance, both the units should include facilities such as a kitchen and bathroom.

On the other hand, if you choose to create two living units at two levels, you need to create a fresh first level with complete utility facilities, which shall be made accessible by stairs leading from the basement floor. This is unquestionably a lot of construction work, and you will have to hire a professional interior decorator for this task.

It must be mentioned that many states require duplex apartments to feature separate two addresses instead of one, and you will require contacting the sewage, water and electric companies for the same. Most of the time, it is feasible to do this to your own home, and it is often a good idea to buy a home and convert it. Turning a single-family home into a two-family home can help your monthly mortgage payments significantly.

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