Derek Morgan
Derek Morgan
Young woman filing her taxes
Derek Morgan
Derek Morgan

    What is a 1031 Exchange?

    At our Unreal Estate, our mission is to provide you with the tools you need to take control of your real estate goals. If you are a property owner looking to sell, a 1031 exchange may be just the tool for you. This article serves to empower you with knowledge concerning 1031 exchanges so you can enter the real estate market confidently.

    In short, a 1031 exchange is a way for sellers to potentially postpone capital gains taxes from the sale of certain properties by reinvesting the proceeds from that sale into a like-kind property. Yes, you read that right. By using a 1031 exchange, you can defer paying taxes on the sale of a property by using the proceeds to purchase a similar property. It's like a "do-over" for your taxes. 

    However, before you run out and start swapping properties left and right, there are a few things you need to know. Let’s dive deeper into 1031 exchanges, how they work, the role of a qualified intermediary, and the regulations and requirements set out by the IRS. We want you to have a solid understanding of the ins and outs of 1031 exchanges, and whether or not this strategy is right for you.

    How a 1031 exchange works

    Step 1: Identify the properties

    The first step in a 1031 exchange is identifying the properties that you want to sell and exchange. A 1031 exchange is only applicable when the two properties being bought and sold are "like-kind," meaning they do not have to be identical, but they must be similar in nature and value.  For example, you can exchange a single-family residence for a multi-unit apartment building, as long as they are of similar value and nature.

    Step 2: Find a qualified intermediary

    Once you've identified the properties you want to sell and exchange, you can proceed with selecting a qualified intermediary, also known as an exchange facilitator. A qualified intermediary is a neutral third party that holds your funds in escrow until the exchange is complete. They are responsible for ensuring that all the deadlines are met and all the paperwork is in order. A poor choice could result in losing money, missing key deadlines or paying taxes now instead of later.

    Step 3: Notify the IRS

    The next step, most likely the most important step, is to inform the IRS about your transaction by filing IRS Form 8824 with your tax return. This form is used to describe the properties, outline a timeline, explain who was involved in the process and list the money involved. Only by completing this form will you be able to defer paying taxes on the sale of the property until the replacement property is sold.

    Step 4: Meeting the “like-kind” property requirements

    Now, here's where it gets a bit tricky. Both the relinquished property you sell and the replacement property you buy must meet certain requirements. The relinquished property, commonly known as the Phase 1 or Downleg, is the property that you're selling in the exchange. The replacement property, on the other hand, is the like-kind property that you're buying with the proceeds from the sale of the relinquished property. The same person or entity must own both the relinquished property and the replacement property during the exchange.

     The IRS Fact Sheet defines what properties qualify for a Like-Kind Exchange, including “Like-kind property is property of the same nature, character, or class. Quality or grade does not matter.” Try Unreal Estate’s buyer search for all the current listings active on the market now.

    The Importance of Choosing the Right Qualified Intermediary

    The importance of choosing the right qualified intermediary cannot be overstated. A poor choice can result in losing money, missing key deadlines, or even paying taxes now instead of later. Doing your due diligence and carefully selecting a qualified intermediary that you trust will help you avoid those types of complications.

    Evaluate the level of experience and expertise of the qualified intermediary you choose. A professional with a proven track record of successful 1031 exchanges can provide valuable guidance and advice throughout the process, helping to ensure that your exchange goes smoothly and that you are able to achieve the maximum tax savings. Additionally, having a qualified intermediary that is well versed in the latest regulations and requirements set out by the IRS will give you peace of mind, knowing that you are in compliance with all the laws and regulations, to avoid any penalties or disputes.

    Another point to consider before choosing the right qualified intermediary is the cost involved. Some qualified intermediaries may charge exorbitant fees, while others may offer a more competitive rate. You need to consider the costs and how they will impact your overall savings and return on investment. This is where working with an attorney might help you navigate the complexity of the exchanges.

    IRS Regulations and Requirements

    The IRS has strict regulations and requirements for 1031 exchanges, and it's crucial to understand these regulations before embarking on an exchange. These regulations are set out in IRC Section 1031, and they are designed to ensure that 1031 exchanges are used only for legitimate business or investment purposes, and not for tax avoidance. View the full document for more information on the rules and regulations that moderate 1031 exchanges.

    One of the key regulations is the 45-day identification rule, which requires you to identify a replacement property within 45 days of the sale of the relinquished property. You also need to close on the replacement property within 180 days of the sale of the relinquished property. 

    Additionally, you can only defer taxes on the net equity of the relinquished property, not on the entire sale proceeds. This means that you cannot use the proceeds to pay off debt or other expenses and still defer taxes on the entire amount.


    In conclusion, a 1031 exchange can be a powerful tool for property owners looking to sell and defer paying taxes on the sale of a property. By reinvesting the proceeds from the sale into a like-kind property, sellers can put off paying capital gains taxes until a later time. With the right guidance and advice, a 1031 exchange can be a great way to achieve significant tax savings and improve your overall return on investment. So if you're thinking about selling a property, select a selling plan on Unreal Estate and be sure to explore the option of a 1031 exchange and explore what options might best benefit you.

    We'd love to hear your thoughts about this article and our blog. Let us know how we did by completing the Unreal Estate Blog Feedback Survey.

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