Duplexes, townhouses, apartments, and condos what makes one different from another?

Deciding to move can be a bit stressful, especially if you are deciding to get a home that is radically different from the one you are used to. Most of us know single-family units pretty well, but an option that many people overlook are multifamily units. The most common multi-family units would have to be duplex, the townhouse, the apartment complex, and the condominium. Now, to many, these may seem to be the same thing, but there are some subtle differences between them all that can have radical effects on your way of life if you choose to buy one. So, what makes one different from another?

Multi-family unit #1: Duplexes

One of the more popular multi-family units here in the Treasure Valley would have to be the duplex. Duplexes are houses that are more or less split into two pieces— two different living spaces that share a wall.

Duplexes, on first sight, may look like they are just extra-large houses, however, there is more to them than meets the eye. Most duplexes will have two separate entrances to the different parts of the building and, depending on the designer, both halves will be mirror images of each other. No matter what they look like thought, since duplexes come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, the only requirement is that each half needs to have their own living spaces. This includes kitchen, bathroom(s), common areas, and so on.

In some cases, there are also things called triplexes and also quadplexes. These are similar to the duplex in that they have multiple living areas under one roof, but the number of living spaces is different. As you may have already guessed, the triplex has 3 separate living spaces while the quadplex has 4.

What makes a duplex different from other multi-family units?

As you will notice with all of the multi-family units on this list, the difference comes down to ownership. Usually, a duplex is owned by one person and the two sides are rented out to tenants. Owners, however, can choose to live in one of the halves of the duplex if they so choose and just rent out the other half.

If you rent a duplex you don’t own anything but what you brought in with you. This means that to make any changes you will have to run it past the landlord. This includes things like painting the walls.

Pros/ Cons of renting out a duplex

The duplex is the natural step between an apartment and a rental home. It gives the tenant more freedom in some ways than someone who lives in an apartment for a lot less than the cost of renting a full home. The reason they have more freedom is because of the added space and lower number of neighbors to deal with. And, like we said earlier, most of the time they will be cheaper than renting out a home. This is, however, dependent on your area, the size and condition of duplexes and rental homes and so on.

On the downside, aside from not being able to make any major changes to the place, you are also not building equity like you would with mortgage payments.

Multi-family unit #2: Townhouses

From the outside, a townhouse is very similar to a duplex since they both have distinct living spaces that are conjoined by a wall. They will have separate backyards most of the time as well as bathrooms, kitchens, and bedrooms that are separate. With townhouses, just like with duplexes, the building isn’t limited to two. There are plenty that has 3 or more. What makes a townhouse different from other multi-family units?

Unlike duplexes, if we stay on the subject of numbers, townhouses can have an almost unlimited number of units. If a duplex were to do this they would quickly turn into an apartment complex. The reason for this is because the occupants own their half. There are some situations where people do buy and rent out a half of a townhouse, but usually, you will see them as owner-occupied living spaces.

If we compare them again to duplexes you’ll see that the actual building itself isn’t what is different, but the yard as well. With a duplex and many other multi-unit, the yard is owned by the landlord and is usable by everyone unless specified in your lease. However, with a  townhouse, there is a portion of the yard that you buy with the house itself.

Pros/ Cons of living in a townhouse

There are many reasons why people want to live in townhouses. For instance, you have a normal mortgage and ownership rights over the townhouse as you do a single-family home. This means you can paint the inside however you like, hang as many pictures as you like, and replace appliances however you like.

The only restrictions that you need to be aware of will usually be outlined in your neighborhoods HOA agreements and other regulatory instructions that come with living in a conjoined home. An example of this would be the outside of the house. You, in most cases, won’t be able to paint the outside of the house unless you come to an agreement with the neighbor or neighbors you are connected to.

Being that you are connected to another neighbor or neighbors you will have to learn to live with their noises and so forth. However, if you have only one neighbor you have less possible problems than if you were to live in an apartment complex.

Multi-family unit #3: Apartments

While we are talking about apartments, let’s dive a little deeper into the subject. Apartments are probably the easiest to explain item on this list. They are, in essence, a building of 5 or more units that are owned by a single landlord. The units are completely separate from each other with their own kitchen, restrooms, bedrooms, and so on—however they may or may not have a communal laundry facility. They will, most of the time, have 1 to 3 bedrooms and 1 to 2 bathrooms. Units in an apartment are also usually attached to other units the conjoined ceilings, floors, and walls.

What makes an apartment different from other multi-unit facilities?

The biggest thing with apartments is that they are never owned by the occupant. The occupant pays rent every month to the landlord. This means that you have no control, like we said about the duplex, over the painting, installing of new things, and so on. On the other hand, apartments, since they are not owner occupied, have quite a few perks as well.

Pros/ Cons of living in an apartment

When it comes to the pros of living in an apartment is the liability. You see, when you own something and it is destroyed, you have lost the money that you have put into it. However, a renter does not lose an investment if the item they are renting is destroyed (assuming it wasn’t their fault).

Another of the pros of living in an apartment is the fact that you are not stuck there. It is easier to change your living conditions when you live in an apartment than if you live in a house. So, if you decide to move you can do so without much trouble.

Then again there are several other problems with living in an apartment, the first being the ability to change things like we mentioned earlier. However, there is also the close neighbors that you have to factor in. Since you could very easily be surrounded by neighbors on 5 sides there are a lot of people you will have to deal with.

Another con is the fact that you don’t build equity with each payment. You could pay rent every month for 30 years and still not own any part of your abode. Now, this is great for liability purposes, but you also don’t have any assets you can borrow against if you have to.

Multi-family unit #4: Condos

The condo is a special kind of multi-unit living space. You see, they can look and be built like, apartments, duplexes, and townhouses, however, they are owned by their occupant (unless it is rented out by the person who owns it). They are usually larger than the other units we just mentioned and can have quite extensive floor plans with many rooms and so forth. But, to really appreciate it, we had best just dive into the pros and cons.

Pros/ cons of living in a condo

The first pro is that you have the freedom from yard and exterior maintenance. Since there is a community that shares the building together they share the responsibility for grounds and building maintenance. Usually, this will mean that everyone pays a little into a joint fund that pays for an outside team to come in and take care of everything.

Another pro is the fact that you have ownership of everything inside the walls of your unit. This means that if you want to buy a new fridge you are more than welcome to; if you want to put in new granite countertops, paint, or replace the carpets, then you can go right ahead and do that.

The biggest downsides are that a) you don’t own any of the land the complex is built on most of the time — unless it is specified in the deed or other contracts that you sign upon buying it— and b) you have to deal with neighbors the same way that apartment dwellers have to.

If you want to know more real estate or different kinds of real estate then you should call us or shoot us an email today. We here at the Hughes Group are happy to answer any of the questions you may have. We know real estate, especially the real estate of the Boise, Idaho area. So give us a shout if you want to know more about this great industry or this magnificent place to live.

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