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Duplex Vs. Townhouse: What Are The Main Differences?

Hanna Kielar5-minute read

August 08, 2023


As you search for the right house to live in, it’s important to know and understand the various styles of homes available to you. Duplexes and townhouses are two types of homes that provide slightly different ways of living, and their differences – sometimes a source of confusion – are worth exploring.

In this article, we’ll define duplexes and townhouses along with comparing and contrasting the two housing arrangements.

Duplex And Townhouse: Defined

Before we delve into how duplexes and townhomes differ, let’s first consider a brief explanation of a duplex versus a townhouse.

What Is A Duplex?

A duplex home is two homes that are connected together, but each has its own entrance for its respective residents. These houses can be single-story or multistory, and the two sides of the house are often identical or at least similar in style and size. It’s also important to note that even though these houses share a wall or a floor and ceiling, they’re separate in all other features. Residents will have their own utilities and interior rooms, and they might even have their own driveway and side yard depending on the location and size of the duplex.

What Is A Townhouse?

A townhouse is a home that’s usually connected to two other townhomes – one on the other side of each side wall. These homes are typically one or two stories high. Since both of the side walls are shared, the only windows and doors will be located on the front and back of the home. However, it’s possible you could live in a townhouse on the end of a row of townhomes. If that’s the case, you’ll only share a common wall with one home – giving you a couple of extra windows or a door, depending on the style of the home. 

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Townhouse Vs. Duplex: What Are The Key Differences?

Now that you have a better understanding of the subject matter at hand, let’s discuss some of the main differences between a townhouse and a duplex.

Outdoor Space

While the amount of outdoor space around a home can vary with the land it sits on, a duplex home will most likely give you the most outdoor space since only one wall is shared. This means might have a front, back and side yard – depending on the surrounding land the house is built on.

Since a townhome will usually have two shared walls, the homeowners will only have limited outdoor space – in the front and back of the home only. However, some townhouses allow for an outdoor deck, which can be placed off a second floor that allows residents to take advantage of the outdoors without needing a big yard.

Number Of Windows And Doors

One of the main differences between a duplex and a townhouse is that duplexes will usually have more windows and doors since only one of the interior walls will be shared with the neighbor. This leaves three walls to hold various windows and doors for residents.

A standard townhouse will usually only have windows and doors on the front and back of the home – leaving the resident with fewer windows and doors than a standard single-family home offers. As mentioned earlier, a townhouse on the end of a row of townhomes is going to only have one shared wall, which can give the residents more windows on the other side wall.

Exterior Look

The exterior of a duplex is unique in that it looks like a regular home that’s mirrored on one side so it has the appearance of two homes complete with separate entrances for each resident. Since one wall is shared, the house appears to be split in half even though it’s not.

The exterior of a townhouse, on the other hand, isn’t split in any way. Townhouse exteriors are often similar because a homeowners association (HOA) decides the style and design of all the homes. All the townhouses in a row will usually have a similar color and similar building materials.

Number Of Shared Walls

Even though only one of your interior walls is shared with your neighbor in a duplex, you might still be able to hear your neighbor depending on the thickness of that interior wall and what’s on the other side (a child’s bedroom, a room with a TV, a music room, etc.).

With a townhouse, the two side walls will most likely be shared with others, potentially resulting in an even louder living environment. But this, too, depends on the thickness of the walls and how much noise your neighbors make. That said, if you don’t mind hearing neighbor noise from time to time, sharing walls shouldn’t be an issue for you.

Maintenance And Upkeep

With any kind of home, it’s important to understand the maintenance and upkeep necessary to keep the house in good condition. Since a duplex has only one shared wall, you’ll pretty much have the same maintenance responsibilities you’d have with a single-family home – especially if there’s yard space on all three sides of the house.

When living in a townhouse, you can expect significantly less maintenance and upkeep since the only outdoor space you’ll have is a small front yard and backyard. Regular home maintenance will, of course, still be needed, but an HOA will typically handle outdoor maintenance – from cutting the grass and landscaping to various other forms of maintenance that might be necessary. This can be helpful for first-time home buyers, especially those who don’t have a lot of experience with taking care of a home.


Before deciding on a certain type of home, make sure you’re aware of any extra costs and fees associated with the house. Duplex owners may not have HOA fees – but you might have to personally perform all home maintenance and upkeep instead of relying on a property management company or an HOA to handle it.

On the other hand, townhouses usually come with an HOA fee that you’re responsible for paying every month. HOAs could cover everything from trash collection to fixing up the parking areas and landscaping around your home and the townhome community. Keep in mind that all HOAs are different and may not cover the same services.

There are plenty of home types that have HOAs, so it might be a stretch to say “most likely.”

Should You Live In A Duplex Or A Townhouse?

Deciding between a duplex or a townhouse is personal, and it’s worth considering numerous factors before deciding whether either type of home appeals to you. Generally, if you prefer a setting more akin to a single-family home, a duplex is probably a better option. But if you prefer less outdoor maintenance and are OK with having little outdoor space, a townhouse might work best for you.

Of course, cost is also a big consideration when deciding whether to purchase any home. The cost of duplexes and townhouses can vary with the real estate market, location, size, the home’s condition, and other factors.

The Bottom Line

Duplexes and townhouses are popular home options featuring some similarities along with some key differences. The differences typically lie in the number of shared walls, the amount of outdoor space, the number of doors and windows, the fees involved, the maintenance required, and the exterior look.

If you prefer a more private residence, a duplex is probably more suitable, but if you don’t mind being near your neighbors on each side, a townhouse might be the perfect type of home for you.

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Hanna Kielar

Hanna Kielar is a Section Editor for Rocket Auto, RocketHQ, and Rocket Loans® with a focus on personal finance, automotive, and personal loans. She has a B.A. in Professional Writing from Michigan State University.