Two-for-One: Duplexes back in Vogue

With rental demand higher than ever and a lack of affordable housing for both rental and purchase, duplexes are finding themselves in vogue once more among those looking to maximise their rental return or find a low maintenance home outside of a unit block.   

A concept that has been around for decades and typified locally by the old 1980s, 12 block high, 2 x 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom, 1 carport design, a duplex provides two homes (or 3 in the case of a triplex) on a single residential block. Designed predominantly for investment and the ability to earn two rents from the same parcel of land, this was a product that could originally be built fairly cheaply, essentially for a comparable cost to a single 4 bedroom home, with a dividing wall between the two when attached, or sometimes as totally separate structures.

Whether attached or detached, duplexes will generally come under two categories – those on a single title or separate title. A single title does allow for dual occupancy (provided it is Council approved) but means any sale is for the whole package. Individual titles allow an owner to sell the properties separately, though will require a community management statement (such as for a unit complex) to deal with any common areas, and apportioning costs for insurance, maintenance etc. Often this can be a simple agreement with no body corporate fees applicable, which tends to be popular with investors keen to have greater control over their assets (and costs).

Beyond the old-school basics, a lack of land and dearth of new unit developments has seen a more upmarket version of the duplex come into being, with larger floorplans (2,3 or even 4 bedrooms), a much higher level of finish and a price tag to match. Low on maintenance (and mowing!), high on lifestyle. These have been particularly popular in in-fill sites – those blocks in tightly held suburbs which either have never been built on or where homes are in poor condition and essentially land value – think Edge Hill, Manoora, Cairns North.

While this style of development has historically been limited to larger blocks, changing times and high demand has changed the requirements and there are now opportunities for a wider range of lot sizes and locations. A potentially high yielding investment type, expect to see more of this old concept to come, though as with all new builds now, don’t be surprised to see a premium attached.

Tom Quaid is the REIQ Zone Chair for Cairns