As the director of Cronulla Real Estate, Mark Wigley decided that the quickest path to paying down his Sydney mortgage was to knock down his home and build a duplex.
That was in 2015, when the Sutherland Shire Council amended its Local Environmental Plan (LEP), easing restrictions on minimum lot sizes and floor space-to-landscaping ratios for dual occupancy housing.
The 37-year-old has since built two duplexes and sold two out of the four homes he built in an area where, according to Domain market data, the median house price for a four-bedroom dwelling is about $1.65 million.
“Knocking down the family home and building a duplex was purely a financial decision,” Wigley says. “In doing so, we reduced our mortgage significantly and upgraded our living environment.
“The alternative to building our first duplex was living in a brick veneer 1960s home full of asbestos, or building a liveable home for around the same cost as building two. When we built the first duplex, we created a nice home for us to live in and kept the other dwelling to rent out and create an additional income stream.”
As Wigley tells it, he and his wife Leigh haven’t looked back. The couple went on to build two more adjoining homes in nearby Caringbah: they sold one dwelling off the plan and still reside in the other half of the duplex.
“It would have cost us about $1 million to knock down the old house and build a new house. We did the same thing and got half a house but, by selling one half, our build is paid for,” he says.
Wigley says the new house comfortably accommodates the family, including children Marlin, four, Pia, two, and baby Sage, who each have their own bedroom. He says the four-bedroom home includes a study, ample storage, high ceilings and a lock-up garage. Additional amenities include a pool and light-filled living area with views over a verdant reserve.
“The duplexes of old were limited in regard to overall internal space in which to accommodate families. The new LEP laws meant the floor-space ratio in R2 low-density residential areas increased from 45 to 55 square metres and that made a huge difference to duplex designs in terms of their liveability,” he says.
“Our entire home is easier to upkeep as it’s only half a block. The new landscaped garden has been designed so every square inch of it is functional and low maintenance.
“From a professional perspective [as director of a real estate agency], I see the option of building a duplex suits people for a multitude of reasons: it accommodates multi-generational living, it’s an investment opportunity, and it helps families who pool resources to get a leg-up on the property ladder.”
Robert Gullo, operations manager at Rawson Homes Duplex, agrees that the demand for duplexes continues to grow in Sydney thanks to changes in the housing code, which has increased the supply of affordable housing. And duplexes are not what they used to be, he adds, with Rawson Homes duplexes having the feel of a standalone home.
“Rawson Homes duplexes have four bedrooms and generous-sized master bedrooms with walk-in wardrobes and additional, functional storage space,” says Gullo.
“They have spacious well-appointed kitchens along with contemporary en suites and bathroom layouts to add a level of sophistication.”
Gullo says the range of Rawson duplexes on offer today provides a clear distinction between dwellings.
The trend towards duplex living is driven by a broad demographic. Land prices are expensive in established areas and, with Sydney’s population expanding quickly, more and more people are looking for different housing solutions.
“Duplexes can suit investors who buy one block of land and sell two homes – older parents helping children get their first home; younger people who split the cost of a block with friends; multi-generational families who want to be together,” says Gullo.
Key features of Rawson Homes’ modern duplexes include generous entries to each home, open-planned living and dining areas filled with natural light and ventilation, as well as outdoor entertaining areas.
Gullo says today’s duplexes have a sophisticated street appeal thanks to the range of asymmetrical facades and styles on offer.