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Duplex vs Townhouse: Which one makes more economic sense for Canadians?

duplex vs townhouse

    When it comes to buying a home, Canadians have several options to choose from. Two popular choices are duplexes and townhouses. Both offer different advantages and considerations, making it important to understand which option makes more economic sense for potential buyers. In this article, we will delve into the basics of duplexes and townhouses, explore the economic factors to consider, weigh the pros and cons of owning each type of property, and analyze the current market trends in Canada.

    What is a Duplex?

    A duplex is a residential building divided into two separate living units. Each unit has its own entrance, kitchen, living spaces, and often its own yard. Duplexes can be side-by-side structures or one unit situated above the other, referred to as an “up-and-down” duplex. Homeowners can choose to live in one unit and rent out the other, providing an additional source of income (more on that later). This can be particularly beneficial for first-time homebuyers who are looking for ways to offset their mortgage payments.

    What is a Townhouse?

    A townhouse, on the other hand, is typically a multi-level home that shares one or more walls with neighboring units. Townhouses are generally part of a larger development with a common neighbourhood. Townhouses are often located in desirable neighborhoods and can appreciate in value over time. This makes them an attractive option for individuals looking to build equity and potentially make a profit when selling in the future.

    The Economic Factors to Consider

    When deciding between a duplex and a townhouse, several economic factors should be taken into account. These factors can have a significant impact on your finances and long-term investment goals.

    Purchase Price Comparison

    The purchase price is a significant consideration for any potential homeowner. Duplexes tend to have a higher upfront cost than townhouses due to the added square footage and the potential for rental income from the second unit. The higher upfront cost means that it may be more difficult to find the cash for a downpayment, and if your downpayment is lower than 20%, you also need to consider calculating your CMHC mortgage insurance.

    On the other hand, townhouses are often more affordable but may not have the benefit of being able to rent out part of your home to a tenant, which could result in you missing out on rental income.

    It is important to carefully evaluate your budget and financial goals when comparing the purchase prices of duplexes and townhouses. Consider your long-term plans, such as how long you plan to stay in the property and whether you are comfortable with the potential rental income responsibilities that come with owning a duplex.

    Maintenance Costs

    Maintenance costs can vary between duplexes and townhouses. In a duplex, you are responsible for maintaining both units, which can result in higher overall maintenance expenses. This includes regular upkeep such as repairs, landscaping, and general maintenance for both living spaces, especially when you are renting out one of the units.

    In a townhouse, however, you decide how much you want to spend on maintenance. If you want your townhouse to look good and for your townhouse to retain its value, then spending more on maintenance is a good idea. However, if you’re not going to stay in your townhouse for a long time, maintenance costs might be unnecessary for you.

    When deciding between a duplex and a townhouse, it is essential to consider your willingness and ability to take on maintenance responsibilities. If you prefer a more hands-off approach and are comfortable with the additional monthly fees, a townhouse may be a better fit for you. However, if you are handy and enjoy taking care of your property, a duplex might be a more suitable option.

    Potential Rental Income

    One of the key advantages of owning a duplex is the opportunity for rental income. By renting out one unit, homeowners can offset their mortgage costs, making it a financially appealing option. This additional income can provide a significant boost to your monthly cash flow and potentially help you build passive income.

    On the other hand, townhouses usually do not have this rental income potential unless local regulations permit short-term rentals or roommates. It is important to research and understand the rental restrictions and regulations in your area before making a decision. If you are looking to generate rental income, a duplex may offer more flexibility and financial benefits.

    When considering the potential rental income, it is crucial to evaluate the local rental market and demand for the type of property you are considering. Factors such as location, amenities, and market conditions can all impact the rental income potential of both duplexes and townhouses. You also need to be aware of paying taxes on rental income.

    In the table below, we’ll take a closer look at the numbers using the average housing prices in Mississauga, Ontario we found on Realtor.ca. We also used a mortgage calculator to determine the monthly mortgage with a 5% downpayment and an interest rate of 6% over 25 years.

    Duplex vs. Townhouse in Mississauga, Ontario

    Avg. Purchase cost$1,500,000$950,000
    Monthly Mortgage$9,500$6,000
    Avg. Rental Income$3,5000
    Total Monthly Payments$6,000$6,000

    In conclusion, when deciding between a duplex and a townhouse, it is essential to carefully evaluate the economic factors involved. Consider the purchase price, maintenance costs, and potential rental income to make an informed decision that aligns with your financial goals and lifestyle preferences. If you’re a first-time homebuyer or have a limited down payment, a high-ratio mortgage might be the solution you’ve been looking for.

    Pros and Cons of Owning a Duplex

    Now that we have explored the economic factors, let’s take a closer look at the advantages and drawbacks of owning a duplex.

    Benefits of Duplex Ownership

    • Income Potential: As mentioned earlier, renting out one unit in a duplex provides a steady source of rental income that can help offset mortgage payments or generate additional cash flow.
    • Flexible Living Arrangements: If you require extra space for extended family or want to develop a home-based business, owning a duplex allows you to live in one unit while utilizing the other in various ways.
    • Tax Benefits: Duplex owners may be eligible for tax deductions for expenses related to maintaining and managing the rental unit.

    Aside from these benefits, owning a duplex can provide even more advantages. For example, duplexes often have larger yards compared to other types of housing, providing ample space for outdoor activities and gardening. This can be especially appealing for families with children or individuals who enjoy spending time outdoors.

    In addition, owning a duplex can create a sense of community. Since duplexes are often located in residential neighborhoods, you have the opportunity to build relationships with your neighbors and create a tight-knit community. This can lead to a support system and a sense of belonging that is not always found in other types of housing.

    Furthermore, owning a duplex allows for potential future expansion. If you ever decide to expand your living space or increase your rental income, you have the option to convert the duplex into a larger single-family home or add more units to the property. This flexibility can provide long-term benefits and adaptability to your changing needs.

    Drawbacks of Duplex Ownership

    • Maintenance Responsibility: Being a duplex owner means being responsible for the maintenance and repairs of two separate units, which can be time-consuming and costly.
    • Potential Tenant Challenges: Dealing with tenants can sometimes be challenging, especially if issues arise regarding rental payments, property upkeep, or noise disturbances.
    • Initial Investment: Duplexes typically require a larger upfront investment compared to townhouses, which can be a barrier for some buyers.

    While these drawbacks should be considered, it’s important to note that there are ways to mitigate these challenges. For instance, hiring a property management company can help alleviate the burden of maintenance and tenant-related issues. Additionally, conducting thorough tenant screenings and having clear lease agreements can help minimize potential problems.

    Despite these drawbacks, owning a duplex can still be a rewarding investment. The income potential and flexibility it offers, along with the potential for future expansion, make it an attractive option for many individuals and families.

    Pros and Cons of Owning a Townhouse

    Now, let’s assess the advantages and drawbacks of owning a townhouse.

    Benefits of Townhouse Ownership

    • Community Environment: Living in a townhouse development allows for a sense of community and social interaction with neighbors, which can be appealing for some homeowners.

    Drawbacks of Townhouse Ownership

    • Less Privacy: Townhouses often share walls with neighboring units, limiting the level of privacy compared to owning a standalone property.
    • Restrictions: Some townhouse developments may have specific rules and regulations that owners must abide by, which could restrict certain activities or modifications to the property.

    Duplex vs. Townhouse: The Bottom Line

    In conclusion, deciding between a duplex and a townhouse depends on several economic factors, personal preferences, and specific market conditions. While duplexes offer potential rental income and flexible living arrangements, they come with higher upfront costs and maintenance responsibilities. On the other hand, townhouses provide shared amenities and lower maintenance effort, but may come with less privacy.

    Consider your financial goals, lifestyle, and future needs when making this decision. Research the local market conditions and compare mortgages to ensure that your choice aligns with your long-term financial well-being. With careful consideration, you can determine which option, be it a duplex or a townhouse, makes more economic sense for you as a Canadian homeowner.

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    Arthur Dubois is a personal finance writer at Hardbacon. Since relocating to Canada, he has successfully built his credit score from scratch and begun investing in the stock market. In addition to his work at Hardbacon, Arthur has contributed to Metro newspaper and several other publications