As Australian property prices continue to rise, many homeowners are capitalising on their real estate assets to create a separate dwelling. Whether it’s to house an elderly relative or unhurried teenager, or simply to earn a little extra income on Airbnb, the next step may be to take the plunge and invest in the construction of a duplex and tick all of your housing boxes.
We spoke to Neil Hipwell, CEO of building and renovation company Futureflip - who have built some of Australia’s most stunning homes - to weigh up the pros and cons. Neil gives some excellent advice on the profits to made, how to design a small space and what buyers are looking for in a duplex.
What are the advantages of owning a duplex versus a granny flat?
“A granny flat is a separate dwelling that exists on the same piece of land as the main home and can’t be sold separately. For a duplex, it depends on the zoning but sometimes a pair of homes in the duplex will be owned and sold together if they exist on one land title. Sometimes separate titles exist so a duplex pair can be individually owned and sold. In that case, one dwelling of a duplex pair can sell for the same price as a new home. The main advantage is that the property value of an individual duplex is much greater.”
Why do people typically seek to build duplexes?
"With our clients 90% of them already own an ageing house. They’re faced with a decision of knocking it down and re-building, or creating two new duplexes instead. Many people are attracted to the idea of a duplex because after they sell one side, not only do they have a new place for themselves on the other side, they now have less debt. Or else they can live in one side and rent out the other to create passive income."
How has the perception of duplexes changed over the years?
“In years gone by duplexes were project homes that were cheap and nasty builds. The intention was to get affordable housing out of them but many of them resulted in two tiny, daggy, identical places side by side. Now it’s a much different story. The duplexes we work on are luxury, four-bedroom houses with big open plan living spaces, lap pools and garages."
What type of profit is there to be made?
“It’s hard to say, as that varies across different areas so you have to do your research first. However, I would say to any client that they shouldn’t consider constructing a duplex unless they can make a clear 20% profit after they sell one side.”
Is the aim of building a duplex to make both dwellings look the same?
“The word duplex actually means duplicate so technically you are supposed to at least keep the front façade the same. If you were to make both sides different, then that would devalue the property. You can vary the building shapes of each side a bit, but the whole look should be in keeping with both sides. Some clients want a lot more space for themselves, so they’ll reserve 60-70% of the block of land for their own dwelling with a view to selling the duplex on the smaller side."
So how do you create two different personalities interior-wise?
“Often clients will pick similar finishes for both dwellings. However, if you want them to look somewhat different, you can choose different finishes. A lot of my clients like polished concrete on their side, but are a bit scared to do that on the other side in case it turns buyers off. So, they might choose wooden floorboards for the other side instead.
One thing I caution people about is not spending all their money on their own side and trying to do the other side up on the cheap. If you scrimp on the investment side, you might not get a good sale. For the sale side, too many textures and colours might turn off buyers. So, one safe bet is to go with white interior walls and a nice timber floor. That’s a pretty basic look, but it won’t offend any buyers.”
"You don’t have to go overboard with finishings, but it does have to be good quality."Neil Hipwell
What are the average floor and land space of duplexes you work on?
“Around 220sqm for each duplex on a total block size of about 600-800sqm. So each side sits on 300-400sqm.”
How do you create the feeling of more space in a duplex with a small footprint?
“All of our duplexes are two stories for a start. We’ll have an open plan lounge, kitchen dining area main floor which opens out to a massive alfresco area so there’s that crossover of the indoor/outdoor flow. In all our designs we also put in a lot of skylights, so the amount of natural light coming through makes everything feel bigger. To give an airy feeling we do really high ceilings and gyprock around the ceilings and windows for a seamless look that makes everything appear to be on a more massive scale.
How important is the dividing wall in a duplex building?
“Massively – it’s the most important factor. We use a product where you can’t hear your neighbour at all due to an air gap in the centre.”
"No one wants to hear what their neighbour is doing next door."
Trends to consider
What are current duplex trends in general?
“Texture on walls is big - we’ve done exposed brick walls but have painted them white. We also do a lot of VJ panelling for that Hamptons look. I’m also seeing a lot of terrazzo tiles in herringbone patterns. Although in general, the tiles nowadays either in the bathroom or for splashbacks are really small. Flooring wise it’s all about polished concrete or timber.”
“For most of our builds, clients want a plunge pool and a backyard as level as possible. Recycled brick on retaining walls and wooden decks are popular, either in spotted gum or black butt wide boards. Tiles and pavers aren’t really in fashion at the moment.”
“It’s still about stone top benches whether it’s marble, Caesar or natural stone, however people now want thin stone slabs for a more streamlined look.”
“People are loving the small tile look. Especially the same tiles for the floor and walls as it creates a seamless look which can make the room appear bigger.”
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