Difference between a Townhouse and a Duplex

Updated on July 24, 2017

Nowadays, when you’re looking for a new home, you have several options to choose from. Apart from the usual home structures and high-rise condominiums, some prefer to live in townhouses and duplexes. So how is a townhouse different from a duplex? We’ll discuss their differences below.

Definitions

Townhouse
A row of modern-style townhouses

A townhouse, or terraced house, originated in 16th century Europe. It is a row of mirror-image homes which share a common wall on one side. Townhouses are separate residences constructed side-by-side. They are often built on small lot areas and designed with multiple floors. Each townhouse is occupied by one family. The family has ownership of the land where their townhouse is built on. In the past, aristocrats used townhouses as their city dwelling place where balls and charities would take place. Currently, townhouses are sprouting like mushrooms in the city due to the scarcity of space. An advantage of townhouse living is that they are often built in convenient locations. The property is also easy to maintain. Moreover, it is less challenging to get to know your neighbors.

duplex
A duplex in a small town

A duplex at first glance would seem to be the usual single-detached house. But it is basically a building or house which has 2 separate units. The units share a common overall structure but have separate entrances as well as separate living areas, kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms. A duplex is commonly 2 stories high like the average home. It is usually occupied by two families. Typically, one family owns the property and the other unit is rented out to another family. In some countries, a duplex is also called a “two-flat” or “two-family dwelling.”

Townhouse vs Duplex

What is the difference between a townhouse and a duplex? A townhouse is a single-unit home connected to a row of other houses, each sharing a common wall. A duplex, on the other hand, is a building with 2 separate units, each having their own entrances and rooms. A multi-level structure is common in townhouses while duplexes usually stand 1 to 2 stories high. Each townhouse is occupied by one family whereas a duplex is occupied by two families living in separate units. Townhouse ownership involves land ownership. In a duplex, the lot space is shared by the families but only one owns the land.

Comparison Chart

Townhouse Duplex
Single unit connected to a row of houses2 separate units sharing a common overall structure but with separate rooms and entrances
Usually multi-level (2 to 3 stories)Usually 1 to 2 stories
Occupied by one familyOccupied by 2 families, each living in separate units
Each family owns separate pieces of land

Two families share lot space but only one owns the land