What is a Duplex? Differences Between Duplexes and Apartments

By: ROS Team June 13, 2021

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If you are looking for a place to live, you will likely consider multiple living options of varying sizes.  While most of the homes’ features will be the same, there are some key differences that you should keep in mind, especially when considering whether to move into a duplex or an apartment.

What is a Duplex?

Duplexes are multi-family homes that comprise two separate units with separate entrances in one building. The layout varies–the two units can be side-by-side or one on top of the other.

Duplex apartments are often confused with twin homes, but twin homes are two halves of a building on their respective lots.  Duplexes are on one lot and can have one or more owners.

Duplexes vs. Apartment Units

Duplexes vs. Apartment Units

  • Square Footage

One key difference between a duplex and an apartment unit is square footage. Generally, the square footage of a duplex is larger than that of an apartment. The average U.S. apartment is slightly above 900 square feet.

  • Floor Plans

A duplex consists of two units in one building that may spread over two floors if constructed side by side. In two-story duplexes, the kitchen and living area are usually located on the ground floor, while bedrooms are on the second.

On the other hand, apartments are available in various floor plans, but all units sit under one roof. Some apartments have an open setting where the kitchen and living area are combined while others are divided into separate spaces.

  • Rent

The critical factor in determining the living cost is location. Since duplexes offer more space, and space almost always comes with a price, duplexes tend to be more expensive than apartments. But an apartment can be more expensive than a duplex if it’s in a highly popular location.

  • Neighbors

Apartment buildings vary in size, which means more people live in them. On the contrary, in a duplex, you will only have one neighbor. If you appreciate quiet, then renting a duplex may be a better option for you.

  • Location

The best part about apartments is that they are often located in city centers, while duplexes are usually located on the city’s outskirts or in more suburban areas.

  • Amenities

In a duplex, you’re likely to find more amenities like private garages, driveways, and in-unit laundry. At the same time, you aren’t guaranteed these amenities in apartment units.

  • Shared Space

Apartments require that you share common spaces with the building’s other residents. But in a duplex, you will only have to share common spaces with one set of neighbors.

Shared Space

  • Property Management

Landlords usually oversee duplexes while property managers oversee apartment operations.

Pros of Renting a Duplex

  • Duplexes offer spacious layouts, which means residents can maintain a reasonable amount of privacy. You will also have access to private outdoor space like a backyard or garden.
  • Landlords typically allow residents to customize their duplex more than property managers permit customization in apartment units.
  • You only have to share space with one neighbor when living in a duplex.
  • Duplexes offer more privacy.
  • You’re likely to have more traditional house amenities like a laundry closet or nook.

Pros of Renting a Duplex

Cons of Renting a Duplex

  • Landlords often rent out one side of the duplex and live in the other, which can be a gamble depending on what type of landlord he or she is.
  • Since duplexes are privately owned, you are likely going to be responsible for your own outdoor maintenance like lawn maintenance and snow shoveling.


Living in a duplex has its perks: you get a private garage and yard. It’s often more economical to rent a duplex than to buy a house. Similarly, apartments have their own positive traits.  The choice is yours as to which you will rent.