Converting SFH to Duplex during rehab?

6 Replies

There is a property I am eyeballing that would require a fairly extensive remodel, but it is also big enough and laid out in a way that made me think it might be a good idea to convert it to a duplex. It might be able to be done without even losing a bedroom, but even if it goes from 4 bed 2 bath to a unit with 2/1 and a 1/1 unit, the rental income (or sale price) should be higher than a 4/2 SFR in the area.

That said I'm not sure if there's something I may be overlooking.

It already has 2 exterior doors positioned nicely with separate porches and room to have cars parked on different sides of the house (it's on a street corner).

I looked up the zoning regs for how the plot is classified and it is allowed by right (don't need to apply special allowances or rezoning) to have multi-family housing on the plot.

The rehab would already have it gutted enough that the changes to plumbing and electrical would be easier.

I don't have any idea how hard it is to get separate metering for water/gas/electric.  Is that normally very difficult?  Expensive?

Since I don't want to pay for tenant utilities, they would need separate HVAC and hot water in addition to the metering.

The second kitchen and related plumbing/electrical work would definitely be an added expense - laundry hookups too for that matter... but if the numbers add up that shouldn't be a problem.

Is there anything else I'm missing or could be overlooking that would throw my numbers off significantly?

Does anyone have experience with converting to a multi family property during rehab of a single family?  Any issues you ran into or things you wish you'd known going in?

You would have to check out zoning regulations in your area,

Where I am, I have to get a variance in addition to approvals if the area is not zoned for two. In addition, if the C/O is for 1,  and now will be 2, without the change and approval, the water and electric utility would not furnish you additional meters.

I don't know how the zoning department is in Nampa, but here in Tampa this would never happen. The city prefers SFH over multifamily. Definitely check first, it would be a shame to spend all that money only to find out you can't get the zoning.

Being “properly zoned” is only part of the issue....two units may have other restrictions such as different set back requirements, additional required parking, etc. Best to go down to the building and zoning dept and sit down face to face with someone.

Originally posted by @Frank Chin:

You would have to check out zoning regulations in your area,

Where I am, I have to get a variance in addition to approvals if the area is not zoned for two. In addition, if the C/O is for 1, and now will be 2, without the change and approval, the water and electric utility would not furnish you additional meters.

According to the city property maps, the plot is zoned to allow either single family or multi-family residences without special allowances needed. (Would definitely be talking directly to someone in the zoning office before moving walls or adding a kitchen or anything though)

To make sure I understand right, you're saying to get the utilities split it would have to have a certificate of occupancy - and thus would have to pass inspection. So it would have to be done with the bulk of the rehab before getting split metering... Once you've got the stamp of approval from the city, is there any reason the utilities would have a problem from there, or is it typically just a matter of paying whatever crazy fee they require for the work?


Originally posted by @Dennis M.:

Splitting utilities heat electric water etc .. make this conversion expensive

Purely regarding the cost paid to the utilities for the meter hookups and any extra lines or whatever that may be needed?

Originally posted by @Nick C.:

I don't know how the zoning department is in Nampa, but here in Tampa this would never happen. The city prefers SFH over multifamily. Definitely check first, it would be a shame to spend all that money only to find out you can't get the zoning.

It's not a local, if things work out I would be traveling to probably do a temporary live-in flip. But based on the city records, the plot is zoned to allow it already (obviously would triple check that with someone in the zoning office before converting anything), the zoning regulations explicitly specify that plots with that zoning can do multi-family without any special allowances (I believe "of right" was the phrase used).

If it is already zoned to allow either, is it still possible for the city to say, "Hey, I know we said you didn't have to ask for special permission to do multi-family here, but we really would rather you keep it as a single unit."?


Originally posted by @Wayne Brooks :

Being “properly zoned” is only part of the issue....two units may have other restrictions such as different set back requirements, additional required parking, etc. Best to go down to the building and zoning dept and sit down face to face with someone.

Oooh hadn't thought about multi-unit having different set back requirements.  I did actually check on the parking regulations, and between the existing parking, available street parking, and proximity to public transit it is way beyond requirements there.

The set back thing I'll definitely need to check on.  I suspect it will be fine, but the roads were widened there a couple years ago so it definitely needs to be checked.

As you said, I'll definitely want to sit down face to face with someone before doing anything to convert it to a duplex. The deal should be profitable either way I think if everything else comes together.  It's just a matter of trying to figure out which route would be more profitable (and how much more/whether it's worth the extra effort).  

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Thanks for the input everyone!

Even if my offer isn't accepted or things don't work out for other reasons it's been a good exercise, as a newbie, trying to assess the costs and potential returns of the two different options.

Originally posted by @John Warren :
Originally posted by @Frank Chin:

You would have to check out zoning regulations in your area,

Where I am, I have to get a variance in addition to approvals if the area is not zoned for two. In addition, if the C/O is for 1, and now will be 2, without the change and approval, the water and electric utility would not furnish you additional meters.

According to the city property maps, the plot is zoned to allow either single family or multi-family residences without special allowances needed. (Would definitely be talking directly to someone in the zoning office before moving walls or adding a kitchen or anything though)

To make sure I understand right, you're saying to get the utilities split it would have to have a certificate of occupancy - and thus would have to pass inspection. So it would have to be done with the bulk of the rehab before getting split metering... Once you've got the stamp of approval from the city, is there any reason the utilities would have a problem from there, or is it typically just a matter of paying whatever crazy fee they require for the work?

This is the way they handle here, it not to say that's the way they do it around where you are. The best way is to check with an electrical contractor to see what's required. Here, after meter installation,or one meter swapped out for another,  the utility does an inspection.

The problem in NYC is there are too many illegal conversions, and the authorities, utilities, don't want to make it too easy for you.  A C/O signifies what is officially approved, so the utility is telling me, if you're allowed two occupants legally, then you'll get two meters.