What are Multifamily Homes?

Kathy R
Kathy R
Duplex homes share a common wall.
Duplex homes share a common wall.

Multifamily homes are structures built specifically to allow more than one family to reside in them, each in separate accommodations. The two most common types of multifamily homes are the duplex and the single or two-story apartment, or condominium, complex. While high-rise buildings certainly house multiple families, they are usually not included in this category.

Condominium buildings are considered multifamily homes.
Condominium buildings are considered multifamily homes.

A duplex often looks like two single-family homes placed next to each other. The difference is that these two homes share a common wall. Most any style of home can be built as a duplex, from a traditional brick ranch home to a three-story stucco bungalow. More often than not, both sides of the duplex have nearly identical interior floor plans, so they appear to be a mirror image of one another, inside and outside.

At times, there are variations on the duplex, such as a tri-plex, which houses three families, or a quadro-plex, which houses four separate families. Such units may still be situated side-by-side or they may have a different configuration, such as two units on the bottom floor and one on the top. Sometimes one of the units is in the basement with the others directly on top of it. This type of design is known as piggy-back.

Condominium or apartment complexes, which are also considered multifamily homes, come in various shapes and sizes. It may be difficult to tell that such a building is a multifamily home by just looking at the exterior. These structures can have one central front door and resemble a very large single-family home. Others may have distinct doorways and garages in front of each unit, these building are often reminiscent of a row of townhouses.

Often, multifamily homes have a separate backyard for each unit. Sometimes the units have no yard at all or include a single yard that must be shared by all of the residents. Often, such matters depend on the property lines and how they are divided.

People who wish to buy multifamily homes may choose to purchase by the unit or to acquire the entire building. It is easier to buy the entire building if it is, or will be, vacant, but it is possible to purchase one with rental tenants living inside. When buying a building with such tenants, the buyer must typically honor any existing leases. Often, a buyer wishing to purchase a multifamily home owned by more than one family will have to negotiate a sale with each individual owner.

You might also Like

Discussion Comments


I saw the numbers for how many multifamily homes have been sold so far this year when compared to last year. It has not even been mid year yet and the numbers are more than half-way of what was sold last year. I think if it continues this way, it will definitely exceed last year's sales.

With the tough economy and mortgage rates going up, I think people are preferring to go with multifamily homes.


Multifamily homes are cheaper so they are really perfect for families who cannot afford big homes but also don't want to live in small apartments with no access to outdoors.

Plus, some multifamily homes also have energy saving improvements like better insulation, equipment for using sun energy and other green living alternatives. So these homes are also sometimes communities of like-minded individuals as well.

This can be very advantageous financially and can do a lot for the quality of life of these families. I think there should be more multifamily homes built and available.


Our close family friends live in a quadro-plex and we go to visit them there often. The only difficulty I see with this living arrangement is that the residences are so close to each other. Yes, each house has its own yard and entrance. But since there is a common wall, there is not as much privacy as there would be with an individual house.

I would actually prefer a multifamily home to live close to other family members and relatives. It would be really nice then because everyone would still have their private home but also be close enough to spend time together and help each other.

So there are both pluses and minuses to this kind of living arrangement. It really depends on what one prefers.


I know that in Northern New Jersey where I grew up and in many of the outer boroughs of New York City there are usually a lot of muti family houses. These homes can house three or even four families.

Usually there is an apartment on each floor and there is a separate entrance for each tenant. It is ideal for a live in owner because the owner could have one of the apartments and can rent out the other units in order to pay the mortgage and since there is a separate entrance for each unit there are no privacy concerns.

In a lot of urban areas you will either see multi family homes or apartment buildings. I liked living in a multi family home when I was a kid because it was more comfortable than an apartment building and I had more space.

A lot of investors look to these types of buildings because the more units that the structure offers the more lucrative it would be from an investment standpoint.

Post your comments
Forgot password?
    • Duplex homes share a common wall.
      By: Andrew Bayda
      Duplex homes share a common wall.
    • Condominium buildings are considered multifamily homes.
      By: dbvirago
      Condominium buildings are considered multifamily homes.