What Is a Multifamily Home?

What Is a Multifamily Home?

If you are looking to rent new accommodation, you have probably come across many housing options, from apartments and condos to single or multiplex homes. The lingo associated with the rental housing market can be intimidating, but if you do your research you’ll be very well prepared to take on the market and find a great place to live. Here’s everything you need to know about multi-family homes.

What is a multi-family house?

First, the basics: what exactly is a multi-family home?

Simply put, a multi-family home is a residential building that includes more than one dwelling and therefore can accommodate multiple sets of tenants. Each unit of a multi-family property will have its own kitchen and living room as well as one or more bedrooms and bathrooms.

Real estate investors often like to buy multi-family properties in order to generate income. Some owners will live in one unit of a multi-family property and rent out the other units, while others will live completely off the property. Buying a multi-family property is sometimes an attractive option for homeowners, as they can use the projected income from the rental of the units to qualify for a higher mortgage.

If your landlord lives in one of the units in a multi-family property, you may find that you get more responsive service. Who knows, you might even end up making friends with your new neighbor!

What is the difference between a multi-family house and a single-family house?

It is not always immediately clear whether a property is a single or multi-family home since they share certain characteristics. It is possible to rent all or part of a single family home, and individual units can share walls with other units. However, there are a few distinguishing features. Multi-family homes have their own entrances, bathrooms and kitchens. Each unit usually also has its own address.

Typically, a single family home or dwelling is owned and maintained as a single unit. This means that it does not share any major utilities or facilities like bathrooms or heating with other units, and it has direct street access. However, some jurisdictions have slightly different definitions of single-family or multi-family homes. For example, in some places the mother-in-law’s apartments or basement apartments can be integrated into a single family unit. However, this does not include condominiums or short term accommodation like hostels and hotels.

Types of multi-family homes

There are several types of multi-family homes. You can come across a number of these types of homes in rental listings. Some of the more common types of multi-family homes include:


Row houses are multi-story homes, usually two or three stories, where several residential units share an interior wall. Older townhouses tend to be townhouses, while newer units can be found in cities or suburbs and tend to have a distinctive look and share a homeowners association (HOA).


A duplex is like a townhouse, except that the units can be located on different floors rather than side by side. Duplex units often share a front door, but each unit has its own entrance inside the building.

Twin house

A semi-detached house is a single-family house that shares a wall with another house, much like row houses. The term “semi-detached” distinguishes this style from the detached house, which is an ordinary house that is not attached to any other.

Apartment complex

Apartments are commercial units with at least five units per building. Residents of apartment complexes typically share access to amenities such as parking garages, playgrounds, gymnasiums, patios, rooftop terraces, and swimming pools. The apartments generally share a main entrance, which can have a reception, but each unit has its own entrance inside the building.

The pros and cons of living in a multi-family home

If you are looking for rental accommodation, you may be looking for different types of multi-family units as well as single-family homes. Here are the pros and cons of living in this style of housing that you should consider before choosing accommodation:


  • Neighbors: Living in a multi-family home means that you will have at least one or more close neighbors, which can contribute to a family environment.
  • Cost: Some multi-family homes, especially apartments, are smaller than a single-family home, which means you’ll likely save money on your rent.
  • Responsive owner: If your landlord or property manager lives on site, you may find that they are more responsive to your requests and repairs.
  • Shared amenities: Many apartment buildings, condos and other styles of multi-family dwellings have shared amenities such as a swimming pool, reception or patio. While you might have to pay more in rent or pay an amenity fee to access these features, it’s still cheaper than having one for yourself.
  • Space: Unlike roommates, living in a multi-family dwelling allows you to have your own kitchen, bathrooms and living space while saving money on rent.

The inconvenients:

  • Noise: Living in a multi-family dwelling means having more people around, which can also mean more noise, especially if you have common walls or floors and ceilings. Learning to navigate your relationship with other tenants in your building often involves knowing when their noise levels are too high, especially at night. This situation can be even more difficult if you work from home and need some calm to concentrate.
  • Cut: The size of multi-family dwellings can vary widely, of course, but they are generally smaller than a single-family home. Consider how many people will be living in the house and what type of home office or other space you might need.

If you are in the rental housing market, you may be wondering if a multi-family home is right for you. Knowing more about the pros and cons as well as the types of multi-family homes that exist can help you make the right choice when renting.