THE DUPLEX BUYERS GUIDE
Buying a Duplex? Some helpful tips before you sign on the dotted line…
A guide to helping homebuyers know the ins and outs of purchasing a duplex in Edmonton.
Hi there and thanks for downloading our guide with tips on buying a duplex in Edmonton. Whether this is your first home or you’ve been through the home buying process before, there are a few things to know when purchasing a duplex and we’re here to help you through the process.
We hope you enjoy the guide and find the information valuable. If you have any questions or need any assistance with your home buying process, we’d love to help. Please reach out to us at any time.
Part 1: The benefits of a duplex
More and more people are exploring infill duplexes and semi-detached home options in Edmonton. Let’s dive into a few reasons why this is becoming a popular option:
Get a brand new home, in an established neighbourhood
Many home buyers would like to live in central established neighbourhoods that have existing amenities: established school systems, restaurants, parks, and more. Often, to get into these neighbourhoods, a buyer has to choose between a 1950’s home, on a larger yard, or a duplex/skinny home, on half the yard.
Many people are looking for a home that does not require immediate renovations when they first move in, so many are choosing a new home, even if it means a smaller yard.
A more affordable option than a new detached single family home
In most mature neighborhoods, building or buying a single family detached infill home can be very expensive. At the time of writing this ebook, the average home price in the Edmonton area is about 443k, and often the price of a new detached infill home is more than 800k.
Duplexes in established neighbourhoods can be found for less than 600k and sometimes even less than 500k, making it a more affordable option for young families to move into established neighbourhoods.
A more customized layout
If you are going the route of building a new duplex, either with a builder or self building, you can usually customize the home to your own tastes. Design your own chef’s kitchen, have a finished basement/nanny suite, add a rooftop patio… the options are endless! These customizations cannot always be accomplished with the renovation of an older home.
Part 2: Things to consider when shopping for your duplex
So you know that you’re interested in purchasing a duplex. You like the idea of a newer (or even brand new) home in Edmonton. As you start to shop around, there are a few things you’ll want to always keep in mind.
Know the neighbourhoods your interested in
If neighbourhood is important to you, then you’ll want to identify the neighbourhoods and areas you want to focus on. If you don’t narrow down your search, you may end up spending a lot of time looking at duplexes all over the city only to find out you’re not interested in many of them. Make your search more efficient and identify your top neighbourhoods.
There are some things to think about to see if a neighbourhood is right for you. Are schools part of the picture? Are you looking to utilize public transit? Would you like to live in close proximity to shopping, cafes, and restaurants? Are you looking to reduce your commute?
When you hire a realtor, a realtor can help you identify your dream house and set up alerts based on a number of different criteria: neighbourhood, price point, year built, lot size, and more. Once the alerts are set, you will ONLY be sent the most specific new listing and price drop emails, that accurately match your needs.
Know your budget
Before you start you search you should have a good idea of what your budget is. We highly recommend working with a mortgage broker to get pre approval. A mortgage broker can also help you understand the differences between financing a purchase compared to a builder’s mortgage. If you need assistance finding a mortgage broker, we work with some great mortgage broker’s we’d be happy to recommend.
Once you know how much you can afford, you focus your property search so that you and your realtor are focusing on the budgets that work best for you.
Know your must haves and your deal breakers
Let your Realtor know what is a “no-go” for you and your family. Is it a problem to back onto an arterial road? Is a 1-car garage not enough space for you? Is a basement side entrance something you are interested in, or is it a negative? How many bedrooms do you require? How many bathrooms do you need? Do you need a main floor office? These are all questions that need be asked, and can be added to your search.
Which Side of the Duplex do you want?
This doesn’t matter to all people, but for some, it’s a very important consideration.
In neighbourhoods where the main avenues run East to West, you’ll have to decide if you value morning sun or evening sun.
In neighbourhoods where the main streets run North to South, the South side will get more natural light but can also get hotter during summer months.
Know the different lot sizes available
All Duplexes are not created equal. Most Edmonton duplexes are situated on a 50 foot wide lot. In these scenarios, each half duplex is 20 feet wide.
Some duplexes are situated on lots that are less than 50 feet. This can decrease the width of the living space by up to 4 feet. This has an effect on the layout, the garage size, and the overall max site coverage allowed on the lot itself. This isn’t necessarily a negative, but it is something that you should be aware of during your duplex search.
Part 3: What you need to know before you buy
You’ve narrowed down your search for a duplex and have found one you love. Before you put in an offer, these are the things you need to look at.
Look at the condition of the sewer/water system
When you subdivide a property and demolish the home, there is an existing sanitary service that remains. It is usually on one side of the property or the other. A new service is to be added for the newly subdivided half. In some cases, a builder will add a new service to the new lot, and re-use the existing service on the other. That existing service can be problematic, and can collapse or grow roots over time. Don’t just assume, that because the home is new, that the sewer is as well. Have your realtor consult a sewer scoping service to determine the condition of the sewer line.
Check into the builders warranty
With any new build, you’ll need to check into the warranty program that was purchased by the builder.
Typically, the builder offers a comprehensive warranty for any deficiencies that arise during the first year. After the first year, the warranty is often reduced to purely structural warranty for a term outlined in the policy—usually 10 years.
Are the electrical/cable utilities underground?
When a duplex is built, the builder has a choice to either run the electrical service from the alley underground, or above ground. The correct way to do this is to run the wires below the surface of the ground, in a conduit, to hide them from sight.
In some cases, for various reasons, these can be run above ground. In this case the wires runs overhead from the powerline in the alley, straight to the back wall of the house. This can be unsightly, and sometimes a neighbors wire will run across your yard overhead. You should always check where these have been run.
Know the era the duplex was built
Duplexes have been around for a long time and they’ve evolved along with building best practices.
Duplex built in different years and eras are subject to different building codes, energy codes, and build quality. Your party wall, which is the wall between the two units, can be constructed various ways. A newer duplex might have a concrete wall dividing the homes, where an older duplex may have a smaller wood frame wall.
Always understand the era that your duplex was built, what the building best practice was at the time, and how things like the party walls were constructed.
Negotiate the extras:
You found your dream duplex but it’s missing just one thing—don’t worry. If you find a duplex for sale, that is missing something you need, ask for it!
If the duplex is missing something you’d like—a basement development, a garage, a fence, or landscaping, for example—these can be added to the deal. This way it can be built into your mortgage, rather than fronting the cash yourself after possession.
Know your neighbours
Last but certainly not least, is the Neighbors! Since you may share a wall with a stranger, sometimes a builder will tell you a little bit about the neighbor. In the 500-600k price range you are going to get a respectable neighbor, but there may be shared expenses in the future such as roof, gutters, fencing, so it is best to get as much info as possible.
Part 4: From research to possession day
From the benefits of a duplex, to things you should know, and questions you should be asking when you shop for a duplex, we’ve covered a lot in this guide.
Remember that a realtor can help you with all of the questions we’ve covered and the home buying process so you can be comfortable with your purchase decision. To summarize, let’s take a quick look at what the purchase process looks like from beginning to possession:
- Know your budget: contact a mortgage professional and get a pre-qualification for a mortgage.
- Contact a realtor (if you don’t already have a realtor, contact Beech Woolger Real Estate!) We have access to comparable home values, and can make sure you do not overpay for your home.
- See a few places with your realtor and find your dream duplex.
- When it comes time to write an offer, have your realtor find you the comparables to justify your offer, and proceed accordingly.
- Hire an Inspector/Sewer scope expert, or have your Realtor recommend one.
- Once you have a home inspection, and are approved for financing, we can remove conditions and wait for possession day.
- Finally its possession day. The day you get the keys to a beautiful new duplex!
Thanks for taking the time to read this guide. We hope the information has been helpful and wish you the best with your new home search.
If you have any questions or are looking for a realtor to help your home buying process, reach out to Beech Woolger Real Estate—we’d love to hear from you!
Best of luck in the search for your new home.
Dustin Beech and Dave Woolger
780-660-8449 / 780-964-8994