Most of Singapore lives in flats or condos. But high-rise living doesn’t mean your entire household has to be crammed on one single floor.
Duplex homes are spacious units in condo or apartment blocks offering the luxury of living on two separate floors. In land-scarce Singapore in particular, a two-storey home offers a superior degree of privacy and customisability.
What is a duplex house or condominium?
In Singapore, duplex homes are two-storey properties consisting of a lower and an upper floor, usually connected by stairs.
The division of the property into two floors maximises space and offers the feel of living in a landed house. HDB Executive Maisonettes are a type of duplex, but the term is most commonly used to refer to condominium units.
Related article: 10 HDB Executive Maisonettes Under 600k
Landed houses with two floors can also be described as duplexes, but in Singapore they are typically referred to as two-storey houses instead.
There is a common misconception that most duplexes are penthouse units. While many penthouses are indeed constructed as duplexes, duplex units can be located on any floor. For instance, ground floor units which tend to have a higher ceiling height can be designed as duplexes too.
How much do duplex houses cost?
Compared to single-floor units with the same per square foot floor area, there is no premium on duplex units. Any perceived premium in price is due to the larger size, since duplex properties tend to be on the bigger side compared to similar properties with the same number of bedrooms.
However, as with all types of property, there are other factors which can lead to higher prices. For instance, an exceptional view can command a price premium.
Penthouse units, which tend to command the highest per-unit prices in a condo development, are often built as duplexes. That being said, it is worth noting that the per square foot prices of penthouse units are often not that high compared to other units in the same development when the presence of void spaces and/or large roof terraces are taken into account. As such spaces are not classified as living spaces, developers may lower the per square foot asking prices.
What are the advantages of a duplex house?
Duplex homes offer a vastly different living experience from single-storey homes. Here are some of the key advantages.
1. Greater flexibility of use
Compared to single-storey units, duplex homes offer unparalleled flexibility in terms of layout. With two floors to customise, residents can choose to situate the common areas on a different floor to the bedrooms. They also have the option of placing bedrooms on separate floors so members of the household can enjoy greater privacy.
2. More space
Double-storey layouts tend to be more spacious and offer the feel of a landed house or bungalow, which is a great draw in land-scarce Singapore.
This abundance of space can be used in a number of ways, depending on the layout of the unit. Some of the largest duplexes can accommodate vast recreational areas including rooftop pools or entertainment decks.
A larger unit also offers the possibility of setting up spaces such as home offices or entertainment zones that enjoy privacy from the bedrooms or common areas.
3. Conversion into dual-key condo unit
Certain types of duplex units can be converted into a dual-key unit which accommodates two households with two separate entrances. This enables the owner to rent out one of the residences while occupying the other, or to house a multigenerational household in the unit without sacrificing privacy.
Non-duplex dual-key units typically consist of one larger and one smaller residence, with the smaller one designed to be rented out. Conversely, duplex units with certain layouts can offer greater parity between the two units.
Midtown Bay duplex unit layout, source: GuocoLand
For instance, at Midtown Bay, a new integrated development by GuocoLand located on Beach Road, duplex units can be split into two equal-sized residences stacked one on top of the other. And if you do decide to add doors to turn it into a dual-key home, the only common area would be a small lobby square at the entrance.
3 ways to use your duplex layout
Duplex houses offer a wealth of possibilities when it comes to using and organising the space. Here are some ways you might wish to use a duplex layout.
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1. Entirely residential unit
A single household can enjoy the entire residential unit with its abundance of living space. One popular configuration is to place all the bedrooms upstairs, thereby offering privacy when entertaining on the lower floor.
2. Dual-key use for residence or investment
As mentioned, some duplexes can be converted into dual-key units for two households, with each household occupying one floor. If you wish, you can generate rental income by renting out one of the floors without having to buy a second investment property and incur Additional Buyer’s Stamp Duty (ABSD).
3. Home office
For those who work from home or run their own businesses, the lower floor can be converted into a home office. Employees can also work there so long as you comply with the terms and conditions of URA’s Home Office Scheme, which stipulate that no more than two non-residents may work in a home office.
What to look out for when buying a duplex
Duplexes come in many shapes and sizes. Here are some factors to consider when shopping around for one.
1. Void space
Many duplexes feature a loft-style design. That’s perfectly fine if you chose the duplex for this aesthetic, but if not, the ultra-high ceilings usually result in quite bit of unusable void space.
If you wish to maximise living space, opt for a duplex unit with less void space. For example, duplex units at Midtown Bay consist of two storeys stacked one on top of the other, so living space is spread more or less equally over the two floors. The two storeys each have a ceiling height of 3.2m – if they were built as a loft they would have a 6.4m ceiling instead, that’s a lot of unusable void space!
2. Distribution of living space
Penthouse duplex units at some condos pack living space on the bottom floor and use the top floor for a rooftop terrace or pool. If you want to use the extra space for private facilities, then that’s fine.
However, this is not ideal if you need more living space for your family or wish to convert the unit into a dual-key unit or home office.
Duplex homes come in a variety of different layouts. In order to find the most suitable configuration, look for units that use space efficiently enough to satisfy your household’s need for living space.
As Dora Chng, General Manager (Residential), GuocoLand, puts it, “Living in a duplex is a unique lifestyle that is not replicable.
What makes Midtown Bay’s duplexes even rarer is that almost the entire space on both levels is useable and both floors have a high ceiling height of 3.2m. Such a design makes it ideal for the modern professional who is looking for the perfect combination of usability and flexibility of space, liveability and privacy.”
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