Buying a Duplex in Los Angeles – A Good Option

Photo of a Mediterranean Duplex - Buying a duplex in Los Angeles is a viable option

Los Angeles has a wide variety of housing options, and one of my favorites is the duplex. Buying a duplex offers an economically advantageous option for many homeowners (and would-be homeowners) who desire to live in the heart of the city but need to avoid skyrocketing the property values. I live in a duplex myself, and this type of housing, although not unique to Los Angeles, takes an unusual form here that I have not seen in any other part of the country — especially for a big city.

Los Angeles has always been a city dominated by the single-family detached dwelling. During the 1920’s and 1930’s economic boom in L.A., with a rapidly increasing population, a variety of multi-family housing options were devised, ranging from the duplex house, to the larger fourplex, small courtyard style apartment complexes (all mostly limited to two stories, thereby avoiding the need for costly elevators), and a number of fantastic taller apartment buildings. All of these buildings followed the stylistic cues of the single-family homes of the era, built in the revival styles most popular at the time, Mediterranean, Tudor, and Norman-French.

Photo of a Norman French Duplex - Buying a duplex in Los Angeles is a viable option

Not just built in the same historically derived styles, Los Angeles duplex and fourplex houses were built to fool the passer-by into thinking that they were actually looking at a single-family house. Even the city cooperated in the ruse, allowing a single structure to have two or four street numbers, so the occupants mailing address would not identify them as an apartment dweller. In those days, there was still a bias that “good” people lived in a private house.


Buying a Duplex – By the Numbers

Although the single-family house still reigns supreme in L.A., the costs of these houses in central locations is out of reach for many, even relatively affluent families. A great option for home ownership is the duplex. There are many options ranging from 1,500 to 3,000 square feet, from 2 to 4 bedrooms. The compromise is the yard space. With land coming at a premium, doubling the density really can bring down the cost of the interior living space. If a big yard is not a must, a duplex can cost 30%, to as much as 50% less than a single-family home of comparable size, if one factors in the rental income derived from the second unit. Buying a duplex in Los Angeles really does represent a great alternative to a single-family home.

David Lubell is a Licensed California Real Estate Agent (BRE# 01928231) with Coldwell Banker. Learn more about David by reading his bio. Reach out to him via email or call him directly at 323-272-3222.