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5 Reasons Your First Home Should Be A Duplex

 

You can live in one side of a duplex and use the other side as a rental property, an 
office, or a guesthouse.
When most people think about buying their first home, three options typically come to 
mind: single-family home, townhouse, or condo. But there’s a fourth option to consider: 
a duplex home. Owning a duplex in Boston, MA, or Seattle, WA, has certain perks, like 
getting you into homeownership with some mortgage and tax advantages. Plus, if you rent 
out one side, renters can help pay that mortgage. Here’s five reasons why duplexes may 
be the hot new home type.

1. You get tax benefits

You might already know that you get a tax write-off when you buy a home — you can deduct 
the mortgage interest you pay. If you buy a duplex and live in one side, you can write off 
only that side. But if you rent out the other side, there are additional write-offs. “You 
can write off all of the costs that take place on your Schedule E form,” says David Hryck, 
a New York, NY, tax lawyer and personal finance expert. “These could be fees accrued to 
rent the place out or even manage the property. All are completely tax-deductible.” But wait … 
there’s more. “The same would apply to any type of repair made to the rented half of the 
duplex as well as the unit’s utility bill,” Hryck says. “If you share expenses such as 
internet with your tenant, you can also write those off.”

2. There are mortgage advantages

Mortgage lenders typically classify properties into owner occupied and non-owner occupied, 
and they tend to give more favorable interest rates to people buying a property they will 
live in. With a duplex, “A mortgage company considers the two units as one property,” says 
Lucas Hall, head of industry relations for Cozy.co and founder of Landlordology. “And you 
can qualify for a lower interest rate if you occupy one of the units.” If you plan to rent 
out the other side, you might also qualify for a larger mortgage. “Many lenders will allow 
you to include part of the potential rent into your income when qualifying for a mortgage,” 
says Eric Bowlin, a Massachusetts real estate investor. “This may allow you to qualify for 
more than you otherwise may have received.”

3. You learn the landlord business

Being a landlord is a great side business and can provide a way to earn passive income. 
But there’s a lot to learn, such as how landlord-tenant laws work in your state, how to 
customize a lease, how to make sure you actually collect rent, and how to screen potential 
tenants. An excellent way to get started is by buying a duplex, living on one side, and 
renting out the other. Why? You live close to your rental property. “You will see the place 
every day and see any repairs that need to be made,” says Joe Polyak, a Northern California 
agent. “You can keep a close watch on your tenants to make sure they aren’t doing anything 
illegal or destroying your home — without invading their privacy. If anything goes wrong, 
you are just next door.”

Before you wade into the duplex and landlord business, however, there are some numbers 
to consider, such as researching what rents are going for in your area. Jimmy Moncrief, 
a real estate investor and founder of Real Estate Finance, gives this advice: “Make sure 
that when buying a duplex, if only one side is rented, the rent will be able to cover the 
principal and interest payments as well as the insurance and taxes.” And if it seems 
financially doable, there’s the undeniable advantage of OPM — other people’s money.

4. It has great potential as an Airbnb

You can potentially earn more money renting the other side of your duplex through Airbnb or 
other vacation rental sites than you could by renting it on a traditional one-year lease. Why? 
Vacation rentals are for short-term stays, so you can charge more. Vacation renters will also 
pay more for a full apartment than they would when renting a single room in your home. And with 
a duplex, you can offer the best of both worlds for renters: They get a full apartment with you 
available when needed, just as you would be when renting out a room in your home. But you need 
to make sure you can use your prospective duplex. “Airbnb is case by case,” says Scott Trench, 
vice president of operations at BiggerPockets.com. “Some areas, like San Francisco, have a very 
strict set of rules, and some areas are more relaxed. You’ll need to get familiar with your local 
laws.”

5.  Owning a Duplex Gives You Options

If you don’t need to go into the office every day, a duplex could serve as the perfect work
space … and you would beat all your friends when comparing commute times. You also could use
the other side as a guesthouse when family or friends come to visit, which is a dream arrangement
if you aren’t exactly the entertaining type. The other side of a duplex could also make a convenient
place to house elderly parents who need someone checking on them daily — the parents get to remain
independent, and everyone gets some privacy.


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