What does Multifamily Refer to?

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  • Written By: Diane Goettel
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2018
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The term "multifamily" refers to a residence that can be occupied by multiple families at the same time. This term is not used to describe apartment buildings, which are designed specifically to house numerous families at one time. Rather, it is often used to describe houses that have been designed or remodeled in order to give separate space to more than one family. In growing cities, homes that were originally constructed for one family are often remodeled to create residences for multiple families. This usually happens as cities become more dense.


Depending on the original size of the home and the intended size of the apartments that will be created within its space, a single family home can be turned into a multifamily home that can contain anywhere from two to five families. It is uncommon for houses that were originally intended for one family to yield more than five apartments when it is remodeled into a multifamily home. In most cases, these kinds of multifamily homes will have one apartment per floor of the building with a central staircase that gives access to the front doors of all of the apartments. The exception to this is in the cases of "garden apartments," which is a term that the real estate industry invented to avoid using the word "basement". These apartments, which are carved out of basement spaces, often have entrances that are separate from the main entrance that leads to the other apartments in the multifamily home.

While many multifamily homes are created out of homes that were originally intended for single families, there are some houses that are originally constructed with the intention of being multifamily homes. There are a number of reasons for this. One is that the people building the house hope to have relatives live in the second residence within their home. Another is that the homeowners hope to rent the apartment within their home in order to offset the cost of their mortgages.

Most multifamily homes have completely separate facilities with dedicated kitchens and bathrooms in each residence. Shared amenities may include a laundry room and parking area. If the home has an adjoining garden, this space may be shared or it may be dedicated to one of the residents. For example, if the residents in a garden level apartment are the only people in the building who have access to the back yard, then the yard will be theirs to use alone.



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