Philadelphia Duplex Conversion to Triplex?

8 Replies

I bought a duplex that has a basement with a lot of potential for a 3rd unit addition. I've gotten a couple of estimates from contractors, and pricing looks feasible as well. What should I do next to ensure this is a real possibility before moving forward? 

And if it turns out that I am not able to make it officially a third unit, any ideas on how to get my money's worth from the space?

Updated over 2 years ago

The property is located in Philadelphia, PA.

You need to check with city to find out if zoning and code will allow you to add another unit. If so You need to hire a design build contractor or an architect to develop plans and specifications to start moving forward with the project and permitting process.

@Tyeisha Thomas,  as @Greg Dickerson , your locale will determine what's legal as far as zoning and building code. It would be helpful for others to help you if you mentioned where the property is located. 

@Tyeisha Thomas 100% agree with the comments above. Now that you have a reasonable idea that it may be financially feasible, you need to check the zoning. Lot's of small MF properties in Philadelphia are grandfathered into their existing use. Expanding the use beyond what is grandfathered may trigger the need to seek zoning relief which, depending on your neighborhood, might be difficult to get, especially when it comes to expanding a MF property located in a RSF zoning district. 

@Tyeisha Thomas

You can read my post from couple years back about how the process work:

https://www.biggerpockets.com/forums/742/topics/511026-how-i-got-variance-for-duplex-in-philadelphia-aka-re-zoning

It all depends on the zoning of your property and if you already have any variance or not.  Maybe you are able to do it without gettin a variance. However, most-likely you will have to get a variance and have to comply to all current building codes, including egress in the basement and sprinkler system for the whole property.  Make sure that contractor you work with knows what he is doing and knows the rules. 

Cheers, 

Yuriy

Thanks guys! Sound advice. That's what I was afraid of. So if it does turn out to be more than the headache is worth, any other ideas on how to make the space add value?

Typically, the Philadelphia Zoning Board of Adjustment ("ZBA") and the Planning Commission do not look favorably on units located in basements and they are difficult to get approved. That being said, every property is different with a different set of circumstances, so nothing is impossible.

It seems like a perfect space to use to increase my return. Any suggestions on another way to use it to increase return? i.e., personal living space, laundry or an office.

Without knowing more details about the property/space it's difficult to say, but generally I think your best bet would be to keep the duplex use and use the basement as additional space for one of the units or a common area for laundry, storage, etc.