A realtor speaking to a family in front of a duplex.

Condos vs. Duplexes

Updated May 5, 2024 . AmFam Team

Looking to ditch apartment life and finally own your own home? Buying a single-family home isn’t your only option, though. A condo (also known as a condominium) or a duplex can be a great cost-effective option for both first-time home buyers and experienced homeowners. But a condo and a duplex aren’t the same thing. Don’t worry, though — we’ll walk you through the basics so you can learn more about your home-buying options.

A row of new condos.

What is a condo?

A condominium is a home that’s usually physically connected to at least one other unit and looks more like a home than an apartment complex. Condo residents generally share common spaces — most often green spaces, like front and/or back yards. Condos are often part of community associations, to which residents pay fees to have common areas maintained and repaired when necessary.

A condo is different from an apartment, as individual units are usually owned by their residents or are rented out by their owners instead of a landlord who generally owns a majority, if not all, units in a building. At American Family Insurance, you can get a condo insurance policy built specifically to give your unit and possessions the protection they deserve.

Common condo benefits include increased security that’s managed by your homeowners association and the association’s undertaking of regular maintenance, such as lawn mowing, sidewalk clearing and more. However, you will share a wall with another neighbor, and you’ll be subject to homeowner’s association fees to keep your condo community looking good and running smoothly.

A two-home duplex.

What is a duplex?

A duplex is a building with two units separated by a shared wall. Duplexes can be side-by-side or with one above the other — they often look like two of the same home. A duplex is almost always owned entirely by one owner. Oftentimes, the owner will live on one side while renting out the other side to offset their mortgage costs or use it as a source of additional income.

Renting your other duplex unit is just one of the many benefits of duplex ownership. Like condos, duplexes are often more affordable than single-family homes. And if you live in an area popular with tourists, you can still make money on your investment even when you don’t have a tenant by utilizing services like AirBnb.

However, with that income potential come the tasks and duties of a landlord. For example, if you have a bad tenant who disrespects your property or doesn’t pay your rent on time, you could be adding undue stress to your daily life.

A smiling person sitting on her couch while holding a cup of coffee and looking at her laptop.

Differences Between Condos and Duplexes

Now that we’ve defined condos and duplexes and gone over some of each option’s benefits and drawbacks, it’s time to go over some key differences in ownership that might help you figure out which style of home you want to pursue. Check them out:

A landscaper laying new grass.

Responsibilities. As a condominium owner, you might have fewer responsibilities than you would as a duplex owner, thanks to the homeowners association you’re required to join. While duplex owners are sometimes required to be members of similar associations, they’re much less likely to. So, if you don’t mind paying a monthly fee and want to free up some time that would be spent cleaning up your yard, trimming trees and the like, a condo might be your best bet.

A worker fixing the siding on a home.

Insuring the exterior of your home. When you own a condo, the exterior of your home will usually be protected by an insurance policy held by your homeowners association. Because it doesn’t need to be covered by your condo insurance, you might have a more affordable rate than a duplex owner.

A worker cutting a bush.

Ownership. When you buy a condo, you’re technically only buying the inside of the building. The structure and the exterior are owned and maintained by a different person or group, and they are generally responsible for insuring and maintaining them. When you buy a duplex, you are usually purchasing the entire structure and land it’s built on.

A community grass area.

Common areas. When you own a duplex, you’ll have your own portion of the yard in front, along and/or behind your home. However, as a condo owner, you’re more likely to have more shared common spaces, such as grassy areas, swimming pools, decks and more.

A young, happy couple looking at color swatches in their new living room.

Once you’ve made your selection and sealed the deal on your new home, get in touch with your American Family Insurance agent to get your new property insurance, protect your possessions and get the peace of mind you deserve.

This article is for informational purposes only and based on information that is widely available. This is not part of your policy, and is not a promise or guarantee of insurance coverage. This information does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal or financial advice. You should contact a professional for advice specific to your situation.

Tools & Resources

Explore our tools and smart tips.