Dual Occupancy Homes On Narrow Blocks: Is It Possible?

Do you know how to unlock the full potential of a narrow block? It’s possible to add value to your land by building dual occupancy homes on a narrow block. If done correctly, dual occupancy designs can provide more living and parking space, as well as maximising return on investment. 

Dual occupancy means that in one block, there are two separate but attached houses. Each home has a different entrance and car garage. This set-up adds value to an existing narrow block compared to building just one home. 

When developing a narrow block, it’s always best to have a custom home builder draw up a plan to maximise the narrow frontage without sacrificing lifestyle benefits. They can help you understand the configuration of your block so you can choose the best design to fit your needs.

Maybe you are planning on using the other home as an investment by renting it out. Perhaps you are aiming to provide the second house as a home for elderly relatives or adult children. Whatever purpose you have in mind, several designs will fit your goals. 

Read on to learn more about dual occupancy homes so you can make the best decision for your block.

Types Of Dual Occupancy Home Designs For Narrow Blocks

A narrow block may seem to have limited potential due to its configuration, but it provides a myriad of possibilities and investment opportunities to a trained eye. The following are some of the types of dual occupancy homes for narrow blocks.

Side By Side Dwellings (Duplex)

Essentially, a duplex is composed of two separate yet attached living quarters. Each family will have two entrances and their very own space.

Building a duplex in one block allows the homeowner or investor to multiply the return for their investment. They could either rent out or sell one or both dwellings – either way, it brings more income than having just one home built on a narrow block.

A duplex is also the best bet for those who want to live close to family members but still want privacy and independence. They can move around in their own space while having the convenience and security of being close to one another. 

Front And Rear Dwellings

This type of narrow block home design has a separate dwelling in front and another at the rear part of the house. The driveway and garage are usually accessible at the back. There are no garage doors or driveways that can be found in front of the property, making it more visually appealing. 

Blocks with widths between 10 and 15 meters and those with narrow rear access can benefit the most from this design. You will be able to make the most of the limited space while still enjoying the benefit of a cleverly designed home.

Two Storey Duplex

A two-storey duplex is the best option for those with a narrow lot but still want to enjoy ample backyard space for a patio, garden, or pool. The second level for every residence means more space for additional bedrooms or any desired space.

In addition, this type of dual occupancy home offers spectacular views. A private balcony added to each home can be the perfect place to relax and unwind. A two-story duplex adds more value to the house and can mean double the return on investment. 

Granny Flat Designs

For seniors wanting a peaceful retirement home or young families wanting some extra space, a granny flat would be an ideal addition to a narrow block. The original concept for this design is meant to provide older relatives with a space they can call their own while having them live close by. It has since evolved into a charming space for various purposes – a home office, a library, a guest house, or a studio. 

Compared to a duplex design, a granny flat is detached from the main house. It allows owners to add a new structure without having to go through the process of subdividing. It can also be another source of income since owners can rent them out to people who do not need a larger house, such as couples, students, or young professionals.

Dual Key Homes

A dual key home is a cross between a granny flat and a duplex. It looks like a standard home from the outside, but the inside is divided into two separate units. It’s basically two units built in one narrow block, but it is not composed of two mirrored units, unlike a duplex. There is one front entrance that leads to two different doors. 

Sometimes, in the kitchen or living room area, a door opens to another studio apartment with its own kitchen and bathroom. It’s essentially one space shared by two tenants but with the benefits of having one’s own space. 

One of the main advantages of this type of dual occupancy is generating income from two properties while managing only one title. The owner will most likely pay body corporate fees and council rates for only one property. 

The strategy is that there is potential to generate two rental incomes, with only one property to manage.

How Wide Does A Block Need To Be For A Duplex in WA?

The minimum block size required to build a duplex in Western Australia depends on the R-codes for your property. For example, an R40 requires a block size of 440 square meters to build a duplex, but an R30 requires a minimum of 600 square meters. 

The R-code rating in Perth is just an initial indicator of the amount of land required to build a certain property. Other factors like the angle of the land and local council regulations will also impact the minimum area of the land needed to build a duplex. With many small and narrow lots in Perth it’s important to ensure your land is suitable for the development you have in mind before committing to buy. However, there are other dual occupancy options to maximise your investment if your block is too small for a duplex.

Why Consider Dual Occupancy On A Narrow Block?

Many first time homeowners and savvy real estate investors are now considering dual occupancy on a narrow block as an ideal first property for the following reasons:

Higher Return On Investment

Dual occupancy homes are deemed as a solution to increasing land costs. Having two homes on one property makes great sense financially. With this setup, the owner can collect rent from two separate living spaces. For that reason, dual occupancy properties also have a higher resale value. 

Some people opt to live on one side and choose to rent out the other. The rental income will then help pay the mortgage. Also, for some local councils, a homeowner will only pay for the fee of one property instead of two. It will mean more savings and less paperwork.

Another financial benefit is that it creates instant building equity. Dual occupancy homes are generally built under a strata title. It means that the two houses are valued as two separate properties. When sold separately, the owner or investor will achieve relevant growth in the property’s original value. 

Good For When You Can’t Subdivide

Subdividing land in WA is a lengthy process, so building dual occupancy homes on a narrow block is an alternative strategy when subdivision isn’t practical. A homeowner can still have two distinct and self-sustaining homes while enjoying the benefits of having a single property to manage.

Create An Extra Space To Rent Out (Or Airbnb) While Staying In Your Home 

Having a rental property under AirBNB can provide supplementary income. A duplex owner may live on one side of the property and have the other side rented out. Another option would be to have both homes rented out if you have another place to live. It opens up an opportunity to pay the mortgage sooner and enjoy tax benefits that come with dual occupancy. 

Provide A Living Space For Elderly Relatives Or Adult Children

Dual occupancy homes are a great way to provide a home for loved ones while still providing them with a space they can call their own. You can have a sense of security knowing that your elderly parents are just living nearby, and you can check on their well-being from time to time.

It would also be great to have your adult children and their families living close to you. Imagine all the Sunday brunches and the playtime with grandchildren that you can enjoy without having to drive around town. This lifestyle fosters family togetherness while still maintaining a sense of independence.

How To Build A Duplex On A Narrow Block

The best dual occupancy design for a narrow block is one that maximises the small frontage. The layout will also depend on the land configuration. You can opt for a single level or two-story duplex, but it will all boil down to the desired use for the homes and the lifestyle of its future dwellers.

When building on an irregular-shaped block, it’s important to work with an experienced builder who can work with you to create a custom design. This ensures you’re making the most of the block’s natural features and the finished development adds as much value as possible. Clever strategies can turn a lot’s limitations into features which actually enhance property value. 

Consider The Goals Of Building 

Before diving into the design process with your builder, you have to decide first the goals of the building and the lifestyle of its occupants. Are you planning on renting it out? Will your adult children and their kids be living there? Is it going to be a home for your elderly parents?

Whatever your plans for the homes are, you have to consider them in choosing the design and layout.

For example, elderly occupants may find it challenging to live in a multi-storey home. A bedroom and a bathroom on the first level will be a safer and more viable idea. On the other hand, if the future occupants may include kids, it would be nice to consider having a bigger yard space.

Be Flexible With Placement 

One of the highlights of building a dual occupancy home in a narrow block is that you can be flexible with the placement of the living areas. You can choose from endless possibilities that are appropriate to the block’s configuration. You can have two homes in one property by dividing it side-by-side, front and back, or one on top of the other. Each dwelling will also have its own entrance. 

Single Vs Double Storey Duplex

A single-story duplex is the best choice for those who do not want the challenges of climbing a flight of stairs. It is also less expensive to build. On the other hand, a double-story duplex allows for more rooms so you can have more space for a yard or other areas. 

Whichever design you choose, it would be best to keep in mind that having a higher ceiling will make the home feel bigger. The standard ceiling height is two and a half metres, but some homeowners opt to go as high as three. 

Building a home with high ceilings may cost more, but it can also add to the home’s value. Not only is it a good investment, but it’s also aesthetically pleasing as well.

Maximise Natural Light

Lighting a narrow home may take a little more creativity, but the end result can be rewarding. An economical and environment-friendly way to bring in natural light is to add roof windows or skylights. A home bathed in natural light gives the house a sense of space and luxury.

Another way of maximising natural light is to build staircases with a glass balustrade or an open tread. These fixtures allow light to flow through to the ground floor efficiently. 

Consider The ”Party Wall” & Sound Transfer 

A wall that is shared between two or more occupants of individual dwellings is called a party wall. If your home requires one, make sure it follows Australian building regulations. You have to comply with insulation requirements and the required minimum thickness.

You also have to consider the rights and responsibilities of both parties when it comes to renovations or construction.

You also need to consider sound transfer between party walls when planning your house design. It would be best to use ceiling cavities or acoustic grade insulation to minimise sound that can disturb your neighbours.

Provide Enough Parking Spaces

Did you know that off-street parking can add a huge amount to the value of your home? Knowing this is a pretty good reason to consider providing enough parking space to your home’s overall design. 

Adding a parking area may require you to compromise and let go of some spaces that you may want to have. But knowing that your house’s value will go up and that your car is safe in its own space is a compromise that will all be worth it. 

A clever way to incorporate parking in your house is to build a carport that doubles as a storage space. A tandem garage is also another viable option.

What Is The Difference Between A Duplex And A Dual Occupancy?

A duplex is a type of construction wherein two dwelling areas are built side-by-side on one block and possess identical features. On the other hand, dual occupancy means that two independent structures are also built on one lot. These structures vary in size, appearance, placement, or orientation.

How Long Does It Take To Build A Duplex?

A duplex can take between 12 weeks and 16 months to build, with an average of 8 months from start to finish. However, there are multiple variables that will influence the timeline of your duplex’s completion. 

Where you are building in Western Australia will impact the amount of time it takes to finish the build. What time of the year you start building will also affect your timeline. Starting your build in November when the rain generally stops in Western Australia, will make for a much faster build, than trying to dodge rain in the winter seasons.

Greg Grainger

Greg has over 40 years of experience in the WA building industry starting as a carpenter joiner.

He is entrenched in the local industry and has served on the board for MBAWA (Master Builders Australia WA) for over 10 years and was a founding director of Wesbuilders Cooperative for over 11 years.

With this experience he is able to quote accurately on new projects without the huge increase to provisional sum allowances.

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