Real Estate Quick Guide: What is a 1031 Exchange?

If you’re someone looking into selling and buying property, you’re gonna want to know about the 1031 exchange. Also known as a “like-kind” exchange this is one of the most used tax deferment strategies in the investing world. It allows property owners to sell their investments and buy other ones without paying taxes on them. In real estate, investors have to pay taxes as part of doing business but with this kind of exchange, they can delay it. If done correctly, it can a) help increase profits and b) reduce taxes owed. In this article, we’ll look at what exactly this type of exchange involves as well as requirements so you can ensure compliance with the IRS.

Understanding the 1031 Exchange and Rules

A 1031 exchange is a robust tax-deferral strategy favored by seasoned real estate investors. It enables the deferral of capital gains taxes on a property investment upon its sale, provided the investor acquires another property of a similar value using the proceeds from the initial sale. To understand the burning question, “what is a 1031 exchange?”, we can examine a real-life example!

Let’s consider an investor who owns an apartment villa appraised at $2 million. Over the years, the investor has held onto this rental property, witnessing substantial appreciation that has elevated the building’s worth beyond its original purchase price. Now, they set their sights on a commercial retail space in another city valued at $3 million to diversify their investment portfolio.

Opting to leverage the 1031 exchange, the investor sells the apartment building and reinvests the proceeds into acquiring the Boston retail space. They can defer the payment of capital gains tax resulting from the sale of the apartment building by using the 1031 exchange facility. Despite transitioning their investment from residential to commercial real estate, this transaction qualifies as a like-kind exchange since it involves assets of a similar nature. The overall market value increases from one property to the next. Therefore, it enables investors to transition their real estate investment while delaying tax obligations.

How is the 1031 Exchange Conducted?

Now that you have gained knowledge about a 1031 exchange, we can move to the transaction process. A 1031 exchange can present complexities, making it advisable to seek guidance from a qualified tax professional. While official portals provide comprehensive rules and details, here are fundamental aspects of how a 1031 exchange operates and the associated procedures.

  1. First, 1031 exchanges only apply to business or investment properties; properties used for personal purposes, such as primary residences or vacation homes, generally do not qualify.
  2. The properties sold and acquired must be “like-kind,” implying they share a similar nature, character, or class, though not necessarily the same quality or grade.
  3. The essence of a 1031 exchange lies in deferring taxation when no proceeds are received from the sale—a fundamental principle to bear in mind.
  4. There’s no obligation to reinvest the sale proceeds into a like-kind property; typically, only the reinvested portion is eligible for capital gains tax deferral.
  5. Adhering to specific deadlines is crucial; failure to meet these deadlines may render the gain from property sale taxable. Lastly, it’s imperative to recognize that accessing cash or other proceeds before completing the exchange could jeopardize the transaction’s qualification, potentially leading to immediate taxation gains.

As an investor, it’s crucial to acquaint yourself with the following 1031 exchange prerequisites: The properties involved in the exchange must meet the criteria for being like-kind. The taxpayer’s name on the tax return and the title of the sold property must match the name on the tax return and the title holder of the acquired new property. Personal residences are ineligible for participation in a 1031 exchange.

According to Section 1031, proceeds derived from property sales are subject to taxation. Therefore, proceeds from the sale must be directed to a qualified intermediary rather than directly to the property seller. The qualified intermediary will transfer these funds to the seller of the replacement property or properties. Typically, a qualified intermediary refers to an individual or entity contracted to oversee the 1031 exchange process, holding the transaction funds until they can be transferred appropriately to the replacement property seller.


If you’re involved in real estate investment or property ownership, you likely know what a 1031 exchange is. If you’re considering partaking in a 1031 exchange, it’s crucial to understand the process involved and collaborate with a seasoned real estate advisor well-versed in this domain. These exchanges necessitate the involvement of a qualified intermediary, often referred to as an exchange accommodator, typically an individual financial expert or a proficient company. Following the sale, you are granted a 45-day period to identify a property or properties for potential acquisition and 180 days to finalize the purchase. If you’re looking for more information on the 1031 exchange, I’ve found Realty Mogul’s knowledge center very comprehensive – they also offer a list of REIT properties if you want to get into real estate with less capital. Hope this article helps – best of luck in your investing endeavors!