Explaining "Attached 1/2 Duplex", "Condex" and condo

By
Real Estate Broker/Owner with Austin Modern Living

What is an "Attached 1/2 Duplex" and what is a "Condex" vs a Condo?
I recently had someone ask why they saw the MLS list the property type as a "condo" or an "attached 1/2 duplex" when the property was clearly a single family home.  Here was my response and what I hope is an accurate, if not quick, overview of an often mis-understood type of property ownership.

I'll try to explain what I (and a few others) call the "condex"
Austin is running out of close-in land and lots to build on.  Builders are taking older houses down and building out new construction homes on them.   The city of Austin has many building and zoning restrictions that allow only a certain "density" of single and multiple-family housing development.  Certain lots are zoned only for a single family residence (what we call a house!), other lots are zoned for duplexes, others for 4-plexes, apartments, etc.  The sweet spot in the Austin market for the last couple of years has been designing (mostly with a modern aesthetic) a "duplex" that lives like 2 single family homes.  Builders have done this by pushing the envelope in terms of what the City of Austin considers a duplex and what the public really wants to buy and live in (a single family house).  From a marketing perspective, a "duplex" is usually a side A and a side B.  Investors usually buy them as rent houses, right?  But this is different because you are only buying SIDE A or SIDE B...not both.  Each side is considered a single family dwelling and while the lot is still platted as one lot, and even though the structure shares a wall and roof, they are surveyed with a division of land (well, sometimes). 

What about the HOA and Insurance?
I know you are scratching your head right now.  These are legit properties and super popular right now in Austin because the designs are usually modern and it allows families to live close in for a lower price.  In a nutshell, these are duplexes, where you buy one side of the duplex and share 2 expenses with the other half:  1. home owner's insurance policy, and 2. maintenance of the shared structure, mainly the roof.  Now, insurance companies do not recognize this type of home as described, but they do recognize and underwrite insurance on "condos".  SO, the builder hires a lawyer, who drafts the legal paperwork to "condo-ize the duplex" and voila you have a...condex (which is the word I use!).  And this is where the HOA part comes into play.  The two sides each are given (usually) 50% voting rights in this newly formed, tiny, 2-party HOA.  HOA docs are usually very simple and cover how to pay for insurance and maintenance.  The only fees are usually those required to pay for the insurance and maintenance.

There is still a lot of confusion in the marketplace
Now, the Austin MLS system and probably 95% of Realtors in Austin have absolutely no idea what I just wrote above! They know "house", "condo", "duplex"...if it doesn't fit in one of those boxes it doesn't exist!  As if this needed further complication, the Austin MLS just a few months ago added a property type field called "Attached 1/2 Duplex".  In my opinion this isn't perfect nomenclature and certainly most agents in Austin are not using it, still opting to list these properties as "condos".  I'm on the fence if I like it or not, but I do use it and hope all Realtors will start to use it.  In fact there are only 23 listed as "attached ½ duplex" in Austin right now.  Here is a link to them just so you can compare and contrast:
Customer Full - Residential

Here is a link to my website:
Austin condos for sale in Austin

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