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Should you buy a DUPLEX?

The pros and cons of buying a duplex.

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Many first time buyers in Montreal find themselves torn between buying a duplex in the Rosemont/St Henri area or a unit in a condo project downtown. There are pros and cons to each decision that need to be understood and taken into consideration before investing in either option.

Here are the pros and cons of buying a duplex.


1. You can subsidize your mortgage and housing costs.

From a homeowner’s perspective, buying a duplex can be appealing because you can collect rent for a portion of the property whilst living in another. This can be a considerable help while paying off your mortgage. For example, with a mortgage of 2000 a month- renting out half of a well maintained duplex could get you $1200 a month, leaving you with only $800 to pay per month…and a rent-free life. This option could also help you pay off your loan faster, by making double payments or by choosing an accelerated mortgage rate.

2. You gain the potential to pick up two income revenues on what is effectively one property.

3. Duplexes tend to cost less per square meter than brand new condos. For a similar price, you could get a considerably larger unit in Rosemont than you could in the Downtown or Griffintown area.

4. You can rent it out to family members. For those who have elderly family members that require supervision and care, buying a duplex is a great way of keeping them close by whilst also allowing them to maintain their (and your!) privacy.


1. You’ll be living with your tenants

Since you’ll be living in the same building as your tenants, picking the right ones is likely to be more of a concentrated effort. You’ll have to communicate your availabilities very clearly (the last thing you want is your tenants knocking at your door every time they have a question), and perhaps stipulate the rules of the building more thoroughly in the contract, to weed out any potential problem tenants.

2, House maintenance is on you.
Unlike a condo unit in a strata titled complex, where you benefit from the economies of scale, owning a duplex can be expensive when it comes to repairs and damages. Things like roof maintenance can be much more expensive when split between two units than split between 200. As a landlord, you’re also responsible for anything that breaks in the other unit. Unless handled properly, these costs can end up eating away at your rental income. There are a couple of tips you should keep in mind in order to avoid budgeting problems. Firstly, I would disrecommend buying a duplex that is at the upper limit of what you can comfortably afford. Make sure you have enough room in your budget to account for repairs and maintenance. Secondly, be overly careful whilst drafting your contract to lease. Make sure that the property is well documented at the beginning and end of every lease term, so that tenants can be held accountable for any damages they cause during their stay.

3. Rental Income Isn’t Guaranteed

As every house owner knows, finding tenants is not always a fail-proof plan. To avoid being stuck with half a duplex that won’t rent out, make sure you buy something that will be easy to market. My personal criteria for a rent-friendly unit include:

  1. A garage/parking spot or proximity to one that can be rented out separately.
  2. A central/dynamic neighbourhood. One that has a bit of life; with access to cafes, bars, and retail options.
  3. Natural light. This is perhaps he single most important aesthetic point in a unit. Anything else can be quite easily changed- walls can be repainted, furniture replaced, but making a unit look less dingy involves huge structural renovations that are sure to put a dent in your pocket. Natural light can make even a tiny home look spacious, cheerful and inviting.

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