Real estate can be a great investment, and many people don't know they can also put property into their IRAs. However, they have to be careful: one small mistake and an IRA's tax advantages disappear.
So what are the rules to follow to have a qualified real estate purchase?
- You can't mortgage the property.
- You can't work on the property yourself — you've got to pay an independent party to do any repairs.
- You don't get the tax breaks if the property operates at a loss. You can't claim depreciation either.
- All costs associated with the property must be paid out of your IRA and all income deposited into the IRA. You can find yourself in a bind if there isn't enough cash in the IRA to deal with a major property expense.
- You can't receive any personal benefit from the property — you can't live in it or use it in any way. It has to be strictly for investment purposes. So that vacation property you're considering buying or a house to rent to your kids — not allowable.
Any investment made by your IRA must be considered an arm's-length transaction: You can't use money in your IRA to buy or sell real estate to or from yourself or family members. You can't receive any indirect benefit either — you can't pay yourself or a family member to be the property manager.
For a traditional IRA, you must take required minimum distributions at 72 (was age 70 1/2 prior to 2020) and that applies with real estate as well. It can be awfully hard to sell real estate off in portions, so then how do you cover the required distributions without cash? These are problems you need to solve before you start your retirement investing. However, you can roll over money from the sale of one property to the purchase of another without any tax consequences, inside the IRA.
Three more points to weigh when thinking about investing in real estate IRAs:
- Your IRA cannot purchase a property that you currently own. IRS regulations don't allow transactions that are considered self-dealing. They don't allow your self-directed IRA to buy property from or sell property to any disqualified person — including yourself.
- A real estate investment needs to be titled in the name of your IRA, not to you personally. All documents related to the investment must be titled correctly to avoid delays.
- Real estate in an IRA can be purchased without 100 percent funding from your IRA. You can use undivided interest and partnering with others.
There are a lot of working parts to keep in mind if you want to hold real estate in your IRA, and it might not be right for everyone. Let us know if you're considering it, or if you have other retirement account questions, and we'll see what's right for your situation.