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What is a 1031 Exchange?

A 1031 exchange, also known as a “like-kind exchange” or “Starker exchange”, is a mechanism in the U.S. tax code that allows real estate investors to defer paying capital gains taxes on the sale of a property, provided they reinvest the proceeds into a new property of “like-kind” within a specified time frame.

Why Would You Use a 1031 Exchange?

Imagine you own a commercial property that has appreciated significantly since you purchased it. If you sell this property, you will typically owe taxes on the profit or “capital gains.” However, if you intend to reinvest those gains into another commercial property, a 1031 exchange lets you defer the tax, allowing your investment to grow more efficiently.

The Basics:

1. Like-Kind Property: The old and new properties must be of “like-kind.” This doesn’t mean they have to be identical. For example, an office building can be exchanged for a retail store. The primary requirement is that both properties are held for business or investment purposes.

2. Timing is Crucial: From the date of selling the old property:

· You have 45 days to identify potential replacement properties.

· You have 180 days to close on the purchase of the new property.

3. Qualified Intermediary: The sale proceeds must be held by a qualified intermediary (QI), not the seller, between the sale of the old property and the purchase of the new one. The QI ensures that the investor doesn’t have “constructive receipt” of the funds, which would disqualify the 1031 exchange.

4. Equal or Greater Value: To fully defer all the taxes, the new property should be of equal or greater value than the old one. If it’s of lesser value, you might be liable for some taxes.

5. All Equity Must Move: All equity from the relinquished property must be reinvested. If not, this could be treated as “boot” and might be taxable.


· Tax Deferral: The primary benefit is the deferral of capital gains tax. This allows investors to leverage the full amount of their investment capital into their next property.

· Portfolio Growth: Over time, by leveraging the 1031 exchange, an investor can grow their portfolio’s value and income potential without losing money to taxes.

· Flexibility: Allows for strategic real estate decisions, such as relocating investments, diversifying assets, or consolidating properties.

Things to Watch Out For:

1. Strict Rules: The IRS has stringent rules and timelines for the 1031 exchange. Failure to adhere can lead to the exchange being disqualified.

2. Professional Guidance is Crucial: Due to the complexity of 1031 exchanges, tax advisors, qualified intermediaries and similar professionals should be engaged who are versed in 1031 exchange protocols.


A 1031 exchange is a powerful tool for savvy commercial real estate investors looking to maximize their investment potential while deferring taxes. When considering a 1031 exchange, working with experienced professionals best ensures a smooth and compliant transaction.


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