DST Investment Advisors

1031 Exchanges

An Introduction to 1031 Exchange Investments

1031 Exchanges

Investing in real estate can pose challenges for both newcomers and seasoned investors. Dealing with landlord responsibilities and navigating economic downturns at regional or national levels can present various obstacles.

This challenge becomes particularly apparent when selling an investment property. Capital gains and other taxes can significantly reduce your profits unless you have a strategy in place to shield your gains. Fortunately, you have the option to divest from an investment property while deferring capital gains taxes through a 1031 exchange.


1031 Exchange

What is a 1031 Exchange and Why Use It?

A 1031 exchange, also known as a like-kind exchange or a tax-deferred exchange, is a tax strategy in the United States that allows individuals or businesses to defer paying capital gains taxes when they sell certain types of investment property and reinvest the proceeds into another similar property. The name “1031 exchange” refers to Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, which outlines the rules and regulations governing this type of transaction.

Here’s why individuals and businesses use 1031 exchanges:

Tax Deferral: The primary purpose of a 1031 exchange is to defer capital gains taxes. When an individual or business sells an investment property, they would typically owe capital gains taxes on the profit from the sale. However, by completing a 1031 exchange, they can defer these taxes until a future date when they sell the replacement property.

Reinvestment: A 1031 exchange allows investors to reinvest the entire proceeds from the sale of one property into another property without being subject to immediate capital gains taxes. This can provide investors with more capital to invest in a new property, potentially leading to greater returns.

Portfolio Diversification: Investors can use 1031 exchanges to diversify their real estate portfolios. For example, they can exchange a residential property for a commercial property or swap one geographic location for another, all while deferring taxes.

Wealth Preservation: 1031 exchanges can be a valuable tool for preserving wealth and assets. By deferring taxes, investors can potentially increase their net worth over time and pass on more significant assets to heirs.

Upgrade or Consolidation: Investors can use 1031 exchanges to upgrade their properties or consolidate their holdings. For instance, they can exchange multiple smaller properties for a larger, more valuable one, or they can trade up to a property with better income potential.

Estate Planning: 1031 exchanges can be incorporated into estate planning strategies to facilitate the transfer of real estate assets to heirs with reduced tax liability. This allows for the preservation of family wealth for future generations.

Business Relocation: Businesses can use 1031 exchanges when relocating to a new facility. They can sell their old property and acquire a new one without triggering immediate tax liability.

Retirement Planning: Investors looking to transition into retirement may use 1031 exchanges to reposition their real estate investments for income generation in retirement without the burden of immediate capital gains taxes.

Capital for Property Improvements: Investors can use the tax savings from a 1031 exchange to fund property improvements or renovations, potentially increasing the value of the replacement property.

Flexibility: 1031 exchanges offer flexibility in choosing replacement properties, allowing investors to tailor their real estate holdings to meet changing investment goals and strategies.

It’s important to note that 1031 exchanges have specific rules and requirements, and not all properties or transactions may qualify. Additionally, there are strict timelines for identifying and acquiring replacement properties. To ensure compliance with tax laws and regulations, individuals and businesses engaging in 1031 exchanges should work closely with qualified tax advisors, attorneys, and qualified intermediaries (QIs) who specialize in facilitating these transactions.

Steps to Completing a 1031 Exchange

Meeting specific deadlines is crucial for the successful execution of a 1031 exchange. Although this section offers a step-by-step guide to the exchange process, it’s highly advisable to seek guidance from seasoned tax and legal professionals before commencing an exchange. This consultation ensures that you align with your investment objectives, adhere to IRS timeframes, and steer clear of potential pitfalls.

Follow These Steps

Step 1: Preparing in Advance Given the time-sensitive nature of 1031 exchanges, careful planning is essential before relinquishing an investment property. Begin by considering the types of replacement assets that align with your investment objectives and satisfy the IRS’s “like-kind” requirement. In regions with highly competitive real estate markets, finding suitable like-kind assets can be challenging. Therefore, laying the groundwork before selling (relinquishing) your property is critical for a successful exchange.

Step 2: Assembling an Exchange Team Chances are you already have an accountant and tax professional in your corner. However, you’ll also need to enlist the services of a third-party Qualified Intermediary (QI) to facilitate the 1031 exchange, as investors are prohibited from handling proceeds from the sale of their relinquished assets.

Qualified Intermediaries, also known as Exchange Accommodators, fulfill several crucial roles. They acquire relinquished properties from exchangers and transfer title to buyers. Additionally, they acquire replacement assets from sellers and transfer title to exchangers. In the interim, they handle all the necessary documentation to complete the exchange.

Because Qualified Intermediaries safeguard all proceeds from the sale of relinquished assets in escrow until they are required for purchasing like-kind replacements, it’s imperative to select a thoroughly vetted QI to mitigate the risk of misconduct.

Step 3: Identifying Replacement Properties Replacement properties must closely resemble the character or investment quality of the asset you are selling. Exchangers have a 45-calendar day window to identify up to three replacement assets following the close of the sale of their relinquished properties. If the cumulative value does not exceed 200 percent of your relinquished asset’s sale price, you can identify more than three properties.

Step 4: Securing Acquisition Financing When settling the debt on your relinquished property, it’s typically advisable to replace it with a comparable debt load for the replacement asset. Ensuring you have the means to secure financing or equity capital is crucial for completing the exchange promptly. Given the 180-day window to finalize the exchange after selling your relinquished property, it’s vital to ensure this piece of the puzzle fits before initiating the exchange process.

Step 5: Contract Signing and QI Involvement Once you have a replacement asset under contract and in escrow, your Qualified Intermediary initiates the necessary paperwork to fulfill exchange requirements.

Step 6: Closing on the Replacement Asset Upon closing the deal, your Qualified Intermediary transfers funds to the title company, following the standard procedure for a real estate transaction. It’s worth reiterating that you must complete the purchase of your replacement asset within 180 days after concluding the sale of your relinquished property.

Be Aware of Risks with 1031 Exchanges

Engaging in a 1031 exchange is not without its share of risks. Adhering meticulously to the established regulations is essential to ensuring the success of your exchange.

We’ve identified three primary risks that could potentially derail your 1031 exchange, ultimately leaving you liable for capital gains and other taxes on the sale of your investment property.

Risks with 1031 Exchanges

Risk 1: The 45-Day Deadline The IRS mandates that replacement assets must closely resemble the relinquished assets in terms of their “like-kind” nature. You are granted a mere 45 days to identify up to three replacement assets, and they must exhibit a similar investment grade as the asset you’ve relinquished. In markets where desirable properties are swiftly snatched up upon listing, you could find yourself struggling to locate a suitable replacement within this tight timeframe. Initiating your search well in advance of selling your current investment property provides a crucial buffer of time, affording you the opportunity to conduct thorough due diligence on prospective properties.

Risk 2: The 180-Day Deadline Although there has been some flexibility regarding this deadline in light of the impacts of COVID-19, it is advisable to regard this timeframe as immovable. Failing to close on a replacement asset within 180 days after selling your relinquished asset is likely to invalidate your exchange. To ensure a seamless exchange, it’s prudent to secure professional assistance and financing, if applicable, well in advance.

Risk 3: The Selection of Your Qualified Intermediary (QI) The choice of a knowledgeable Qualified Intermediary (QI) can significantly impact the smooth execution of the exchange process. Since the QI essentially acts on your behalf, buying a replacement asset and selling a relinquished one, it is paramount to select one who conducts business responsibly and professionally.

In addition to safeguarding your funds, Qualified Intermediaries are responsible for preparing and executing all the requisite documentation for a legitimate transaction between the seller and exchanger. Given that this industry lacks federal regulation, it leaves room for potential misconduct. When choosing a QI to facilitate your exchange, it is prudent to seek references and ensure a responsible choice.

Pros of a 1031 Exchange

Having elucidated the functioning of the process, let’s now explore the primary advantages of undertaking a 1031 exchange.

Primary Advantages

Postponing Capital Gains and Other Tax Obligations When you sell an investment property without engaging in a 1031 exchange, capital gains tax is not the sole tax liability you encounter. You may also find yourself responsible for depreciation recapture, state capital gains tax, and Affordable Care Act taxes. Cumulatively, these taxes can consume up to 35 percent of your profits. Opting for a 1031 exchange enables you to delay payment on all of these tax obligations.

Potential for Enhanced Cash Flow Imagine you’ve held a rental property for a decade, witnessing substantial asset appreciation. Instead of remitting a substantial portion of your proceeds from the sale of that investment property to the IRS, you can channel the entire amount into a 1031 exchange property of greater value. This new asset has the potential to generate higher annual returns compared to your original investment, bolstering your cash flow.

Acquisition of Fresh Assets Through 1031 exchanges, you can transition into progressively larger assets, potentially augmenting the value of your commercial holdings over time. In the event of your passing, you can pass down these assets to your heirs, who may benefit from a one-time step-up in basis. This advantageous provision could allow them to divest the assets without incurring deferred capital gains and depreciation recapture taxes.


Despite the numerous potential advantages, there are also some drawbacks associated with 1031 exchanges:

Tax Deferral, Not Elimination: A 1031 exchange postpones capital gains taxes rather than eliminating them entirely. If you decide to sell your replacement property without initiating another exchange, you will become liable for the deferred taxes along with any depreciation deductions you have previously claimed.

Stringent IRS Regulations: The 1031 exchange process is subject to rigorous IRS regulations. This is where you will heavily rely on the expertise of your Qualified Intermediary to navigate the intricate rules and requirements.

Value and Mortgage Balance Requirements: In addition to the critical 45- and 180-day deadlines, your replacement property must have a value and mortgage balance that is either greater than or at least equal to your relinquished asset’s value and mortgage balance.

Basis Reduction for Depreciation: Depreciation for a replacement property in a 1031 exchange is calculated based on the adjusted basis of your relinquished asset. Typically, this adjusted basis is lower than what you would establish if you had acquired the property through other means.

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