Why buying a Duplex is not for Everyone

Everyone in the U.S. knows what a duplex is. But many don’t know if a duplex investment is right for them, and the truth is that it’s not the perfect purchase for everyone. So what would make you think twice about buying a duplex?


In one word: “tenants”. Webster’s defines a “tenant” as “a person that pays to use another person’s property”. That being the case there are two problems with “tenants”: 1) that they do, in fact, pay you and 2) that they take good care of your property. Having to police these two areas is more management than some owners want to contend with. If you don’t like having to work with renters, then this is a major turn off. In addition, you will have to certainly deal in some unpleasant activities from time to time such as evictions or having a stern discussion over property maintenance and responsibility.

24/7 accessibility to your tenants

If you live beside your tenant, there’s very little barrier to them bugging you frequently. Every time you’re out in the yard or just have your doorbell handy, it’s an opportunity to discuss one more repair concept. This can drive some people nuts as it might ruin your feeling of privacy while at home. To many people, your home is where you are King or Queen and not the servant.

Fair housing means you can’t cherry-pick who you want as a neighbor

Many duplexes owners think they can “curate” their neighbor – select someone that matches their personality and interests. However, that’s not legal under Fair Housing laws in the U.S. Every applicant that meets your criminal and credit screening requirements must be admitted. So if you are a 60 year-old accountant and a 25 year-old rock musician wants to rent your available duplex, you can’t turn them away if they meet your standards. And if you refuse to follow Fair Housing, the penalties are severe. If you can’t handle dealing with government rules, then screening and selecting tenants is not for you.


While a duplex can be a great investment, that’s certainly not the case for every investor. Before you jump in, give careful reflection on all of the real issues and decide for yourself.

By Frank Rolfe

Frank Rolfe has been a commercial real estate investor for almost three decades, and currently holds nearly $1 billion of properties in 25 states. His books and courses on commercial property acquisitions and management are among the top-selling in the industry.