There are markets all over the U.S. where duplexes or even multifamily buildings can be converted into single-family dwellings. Some locations, San Francisco for example, maybe more difficult markets in which to achieve this because cities don’t want to lose housing stock. In other areas, like some of the small mining towns of Pennsylvania, the process may be more feasible.

In part, your decision will depend on why you’re making the choice to convert your multifamily building. If the upgrade is an investment, you’ll need to calculate the financial inputs against the ultimate potential selling cost of the dwelling. Without getting into too much math, a general rule of thumb is this works best in areas where the housing prices have risen much faster than rent.

The other reason to convert, of course, is simply to create a bigger space that is custom-designed to your specifications. In this case, it’s a matter of working out a budget and researching the costs of making the renovations, This is the first step to see if you can do it within your financial limitations. To do this, you’ll need to know what’s involved in converting so that you have an accurate picture of the costs, time, and labor involved. Here are steps to take if you’re considering converting a multifamily dwelling to a single-family home.

  1. Research

    Before you even begin to plan, you should spend time researching the permissions and necessary permits for your area. Zoning regulations specify individual dwellings for an area and thus may restrict decreasing available homes, particularly in a tight market. You will also need to know what building and other permits you’ll need. Therefore, you need to research local zoning laws and neighborhood bylaws/covenants. You may also research any local heritage registries that may limit or prohibit renovations.

  2. Plan

    Once you know it’s possible to build and that you can access the required permissions, you’ll want to start planning. You’ll almost certainly need to hire a structural engineer to show you what load-bearing and structural features must remain. In addition, you will probably need to have blueprints drawn of the changes you will make (some permissions will require blueprints). You can also do some work on your own, by researching the original plans of the dwelling. This helps you to see the location of the new walls and thus where you may begin to make breakthroughs.

  3. Thinking as one

    Depending on whether you’re dealing with a duplex or multifamily building, you may be dealing with multiple kitchens, bathrooms, laundry rooms, etc. You will need to start planning for what your single-family dwelling will need. You should also determine where you want these amenities to be. As part of this process, you will have to convert multiple utility links down to one. You also need to convert water, sewage, and gas to single outlets. It’s, also, very important to convert electrical inputs to one fuse box for the entire unit. You need to do this so that you can shut off power from one location.

  4. Invest in experienced professionals

    The expertise required for such a conversion calls for the use of professionals.  The qualified professional should have significant experience with a variety of issues. They include load-bearing conversions, major water, and electrical overhauls, and structural considerations for the location of staircases, baths, kitchens, and more.

  5. Redecorate

    When the dust from renovation has settled, you’ll be converting two aesthetics into one. This might mean making adjustments in decor to unify the style of the single-dwelling. Flooring, tile, window treatment, appliance, fixture, and cabinet changes may be in order as well as a rethinking of color schemes.


In case you have any architectural, structural, and MEP design requirements, or need full multifamily conversion design including structure and HVAC design, feel free to contact us.  We provide you with the full permit set design + T24 for your request.

Ivan Young is a writer from Happy Writers, Co. in partnership with designer furniture retailer, Bauhaus 2 Your House.