One of the best, most secure, most certain to grow investments you can make is real estate, but with an IRA, investing in real estate never seems to be an option offered. That’s not, however, because you’re not allowed to invest in real estate with your retirement cash; rather, it’s because most IRA funds don’t take advantage of a little-known IRS rule that allows for it.
If you’re like most people holding IRA account, you have your funds invested with a bank or a brokerage. That means you’re limited to stocks, bonds, annuities, and other paper securities – not real property. In today’s market, that may mean your IRA funds are tanking, and it certainly means that they are not growing as robustly as they were five years ago. The real money to be made right now is in real estate.
You can get into IRA real estate investing by looking for custodians that specialize in real estate IRAs, using the rules contained in Section 408 in the Internal Revenue Code. These special IRAs build a portfolio around all kinds of cash-generating and appreciating real estate: commercial, residential, rental, industrial.
It is not legal to hold your own 408-based IRA; investing in real estate with your retirement funds must be done by special custodians. However, you have freedom in many ways to work with your IRA real estate. For one thing, your custodian holds your property, but doesn’t necessarily administer it, select properties to purchase, or even set and collect rents. These may all be your tasks, and they give you a great deal of leeway in how your own money gets invested.
It’s easy to see that an IRA investing in real estate gets very complex. Do rents get re-invested in your IRA? Can you charge yourself for administering your own properties and make cash from your IRA in that manner? What kinds of property can you purchase to include in your real estate IRA? Is it possible to hold foreign real estate in your domestic IRA? A good custodian can tell you the specific rules governing your IRA; real estate investing through this route is more complicated than just doing it yourself but the tax advantages make it worth it.
While if you work it properly you can benefit to a certain degree from IRA real estate investing beyond the simple IRA, you cannot put your own home into your IRA, nor can you lease space in one of your IRA properties for your own business. You also can’t put properties you or your immediate family already own into your IRA.
IRA investing in real estate rules does allow you to purchase property in conjunction with others to put into your fund, and it allows you to include some leveraged property as well, provided your custodian allows for it. You can also sell properties while they are in your IRA, provided you don’t sell them to yourself or to a family member.
One of the best ways to realize a great benefit from IRA investing in real estate is to hold a property that will become your retirement home in a Roth IRA. Upon maturity, you have the custodian distribute the property in-kind – assigning the title of the home directly to you. If you did this with a traditional IRA, you’d be liable for income tax based on the value of the property at the time of distribution; with a Roth, you owe nothing outside of costs associated with the transfer. There are few nicer gifts to give yourself to celebrate retirement.
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