In the Boston metro area, a 2-family or 3-family property is called a “multi-family”. Another term for the 3-family is “triple-decker,” or, more locally pronounced “triple deckah”.
“It is estimated that by 1920, the city of Boston had over 15,000 triple decker houses. Areas such as Jamaica Plain and Dorchester were popular with the emerging middle class, and became “streetcar suburbs” as transportation systems expanded from the older, core sections of the city. Typically, the affordable triple decker homes attracted live-in landlords who would collect rent from the other two apartments.” ~Wikipedia.org
Triple deckers are a unique facet to our housing stock in the Boston metro and a typical layout might include: 5 rooms, 2 baths, front and back decks, and a small, rectangular lot size. Total living area, per unit, might be 750 sf, at a minimum, with some having more space than others.
Since the advent of the condominium, the triple decker has become a target for condo conversions by developers and small contractors. Do a search for multi-family units in Cambridge and Somerville, for example, and you will see a price range from $400k to over $1m for triple deckers. A contractor or developer would likely do some renovations (floors, painting, etc.) to each unit, then sell each unit individually to seek the highest profit. This is one reason to purchase a triple decker.
Two other groups of Buyers who may purchase a triple decker or two-family home are: investors and owner occupants. The investor would purchase the property to rent out the units with the aim to reach positive cash flow from the whole property. Positive cash flow, in general, would mean that the rents generated from the rents would be higher than the costs for taxes, insurance, utilities, etc.
An owner occupant (individual, or perhaps family) would purchase a triple decker or two-family home to occupy one of the units and rent out the other units to help lower the cost of ownership. Costs such as the monthly mortgage, taxes, insurance, and water/sewer bills would be lowered by the incoming rents.
Please feel free to contact me if you are actively searching for a triple decker or two-family home in the Boston metro area. I have a lot of experience to offer you in your search as I purchased a two-family home a few years ago. If you are up to the challenge, it is quite rewarding.