The Difference Between a Townhouse and Duplex

Pros and Cons of Townhouses Versus Duplexes

25 Sep 2023

The Difference Between a Townhouse and Duplex

When looking to buy a new home, you may come across the term's "townhouse" and "duplex." Though they sound similar, these two property types have some key differences that buyers should understand before deciding. In this blog, we'll break down what defines each home type and compare the pros and cons of townhouses versus duplexes. 

What Is a Duplex?

A duplex is a single building that contains two separate housing units, usually split vertically on separate floors or horizontally side by side. The two units share a wall or floor between them. Duplexes can be converted from larger single family homes or built specifically as a duplex property.

There are a few different types of duplexes:

Side by side duplex: Two units are attached horizontally by a shared wall. Each unit has its own entrance.

Stacked duplex: Two units are stacked vertically, with one unit occupying the first floor and the other unit occupying the second floor. They may share an internal staircase.

Front back duplex: One unit is located in the front of the building while the second unit is located in the back section of the building. The units do not share walls but are attached.

The Pros and Cons of Duplex Living

Duplexes offer some unique benefits over single family homes, but also have some drawbacks to consider:


  More affordable to purchase than a single family home

  Income potential from renting out second unit

  Usually smaller footprint than single family homes

  Shared wall can reduce heating/cooling costs


  Less privacy with shared wall and close neighbor

  Potential for more noise from adjoining unit

  Limited outdoor space, especially in urban areas

  Responsible for full exterior maintenance and repairs

What Is a Townhouse?

A townhouse is a home that shares walls with the homes on either side, similar to a row of attached houses or apartments. Townhouses can have two to three floors and often have amenities like a small front and/or back yard, a garage, and a basement. 

Unlike a duplex, townhouses are part of a larger complex or community that share common areas like green space, parking lots, recreation facilities, etc. The townhouse owner only owns the interior space of their unit while an HOA or management company maintains the external structure and community grounds.

What are some key difference between a townhouse?

Though they have some similarities, there are several key differences between townhouses and duplexes to understand if you're deciding between the two:


In a townhouse, exterior maintenance like roofing, siding, and lawn care is handled by the HOA or property management company. Duplex owners are responsible for all exterior repairs and upkeep.


Townhouses usually have a small fenced in backyard and may have a common green space nearby. Duplexes often have very compact outdoor space in urban areas.

Exterior Customization

Townhouse exteriors cannot be altered since they are part of a uniform complex. Duplex owners can customize the exterior if desired.

Rental Income 

It's common for one unit of a duplex to be rented out to a tenant. Most townhouses are owner occupied and not used for rental income.

Investment Value

Duplexes often appreciate faster and have higher rental demand. Townhouses may have more volatile resale values depending on the housing market.


Duplexes provide more privacy than townhouses when it comes to shared walls. A duplex only shares one wall with a neighboring unit, limiting noise transfer and direct interaction to just one neighbor. 

Townhouses share walls on both sides, meaning more potential for noise issues from multiple neighbors and less privacy entering and exiting your home. If privacy is a priority, duplexes offer more separation from neighbors with just one shared wall versus two. 


HOA/Condo Fees

Townhouse owners must pay HOA or condo association fees that cover exterior maintenance and amenities. No HOA fees come with a duplex.

Shared Walls

One major difference between duplexes and townhouses is the number of walls that are shared with neighboring units. In a duplex, there is only one shared wall - the wall dividing the two units from each other. Townhouses, on the other hand, share walls on both sides with the adjoining townhouse units. 


While duplexes and townhouses fill a similar need for affordable housing, there are some clear differences between the two property types. Consider factors like maintenance responsibilities, rental income potential, privacy, and size when deciding if a townhouse or duplex is the better choice for your needs and lifestyle. Analyze both options thoroughly before committing to buy!


What is the difference between a townhouse and an apartment? 

Townhouses are owned individually while apartments are rented units that are part of a larger complex owned by a single entity. Townhouse owners have more freedom to customize their unit.

What is the difference between a townhouse and a twin house? 

The key difference between a twin home and a townhouse is the number of shared walls. A twin home shares just one wall with the adjoining residence, like a side-by-side duplex. A townhouse shares walls on both sides, attaching it to potentially several homes in a row. 

What is the difference between a townhouse and a single detached house? 

Single detached homes sit on their own property and do not share walls with any other residences. Townhouses have adjoining walls and are part of a larger development.