Pros and Cons of Self Directed IRA Real Estate Investing

If you are looking for total control of your IRA investments and are tired of having to refer decisions over investment strategies to unimaginative advisors who tie your hands behind your back when it comes to making investment choices, or who is simply limited to his or her company’s range of products or investment policies, and of custodians who over-stringently interpret IRS investment regulations, then a self directed IRA is for you.

But if you want a truly self directed IRA and don’t want to be bound into traditional investment choices or limited in your ability to invest your money as you see fit when you see fit you need to take a step further. Then you should be looking at setting up a self directed IRA LLC. In other words, you become in effect the director of a limited company responsible for building your own IRA.

The advantages of this move are immediate and obvious –

Since you effectively become the custodian of the IRA, you will no longer have to pay transaction costs for every move you make with your self directed IRA LLC.

Since you control and handle all the transactions, the custodian for our IRA can be paid a flat annual fee. You can benefit from the lowest IRA custodian fees in the market. It does not matter if you have one million dollars in your IRA or one billion. Your custodial fees are fixed.

You have absolute decision making power – no ifs, no buts, no maybes; you do not have to ask permission of anyone else, you are the decision maker. It really is a truly self directed IRA.

A truly self directed IRA plan can be used as funding for a down-payment for a real estate purchase.

Because it is set up as a limited liability company (LLC), your self directed IRA assets are protected from creditors and litigators. Without the LLC, your retirement funds could be directly exposed to a frivolous lawsuit.

Investment Variety

You can benefit from massively extended range of investment choices; of course, you can still choose to invest in the traditional choices of stocks and mutual funds, but other choices include real estate, tax liens, tax deeds, options – any legitimate business investment opportunity that doesn’t breach IRS rules (which is most of them)

Having such a wide range of choices enables you to diversify your holding; essentially, you reduce your risks by spreading your investments over several choices (the opposite of putting all your eggs in one basket)

You can invest in international or foreign real estate in such places as Costa Rica with your IRA – LLC without asking for your custodian’s permission.

Finally, moving to an IRA LLC is an affordable choice for almost everyone; it is estimated that it is less than a half of the cost of having an IRA facilitator

In short, your self directed IRA LLC is a truly self directed IRA because it maximizes your ability to control how your IRA is invested. You are no longer limited by other’s choices, investment options or company policies. It is your IRA, your way.

But, as with everything in life, there is a downside – at least, potentially.

I have already hinted that traditional financial advisors are not best placed to give advice on other kinds of business investment such as real estate. They will have a good understanding of stocks and shares. Would you ask your dentist to do an angioplasty? By the same token, a traditional advisor will not know how to leverage the best deals in real estate or in other kinds of business investment.

It is important therefore that you choose an IRA advisor who can help you structure complex IRA and real estate entities, evaluate investment opportunities and avoid infringing on the self directed IRA rules in setting up investments.

Consequences of setting up your IRA-LLC incorrectly: “Internal Revenue Service could step in and simply disqualify the IRA, resulting in huge tax bills along with additional penalties for account holders who are younger than age 59?. A lot of people are going to get themselves in trouble and wind up losing their IRAs over this,” says Ed Slott, an IRA consultant.” (Wall Street Journal, You Did What With Your IRA?, author Kelley Greene, October 15, 2005).

Investing in a single property is no more difficult than buying your own home. Where real estate deals become complex is when you are seeking to fund developments, real estate lots, buying into apartment communities or other larger scale investments. This is where extensive knowledge of self directed IRA rules is paramount. Only someone with a strong background in real estate can supply these skills.

Rehabilitating residential real estate is a good example of where things can go wrong – badly. How can you tell a genuine opportunity from a poor deal? How do you know how much to invest in rehabilitating a property? Too often, people with little experience in the area spend over the odds on a property and fail to realize a return on their investment. Effectively, they pour money down the drain.

As well as a lack of familiarity with the business, without a solid knowledge of self directed IRA investment regulations, you could end up facing stiff penalties (up to 10 % plus taxes) or even disqualify your retirement altogether. As much as 50% of your IRA could disappear due to an unintentional violation.

Basically, once you set-up your IRA-LLC correctly, it comes down to being careful of whom your IRA does business with and who benefits.

You as the IRA owner cannot live in an investment owned by the IRA.

You cannot directly or indirectly buy, sell, or lease property between the IRA and a disqualified party except in cases where this is exempted.

Your IRA is not allowed to transaction business with your spouse, lineal descendants or their spouses (i.e. your grandparents, children, grandchildren, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, step-children) as they are considered disqualified persons. However, you can do business with your brother or sister, their spouses, nieces, nephews, cousins, aunts or uncles, which are relatives more distantly related to the IRA account. For example, if your IRA purchased a holiday home, your brother and his family could stay there for a holiday, but you could not.

You cannot take real estate property you already own or occupy and stuff in your IRA, even if you sell the properties to the IRA at fair market value (FMV). If you have to liquidate a portion of the IRA’s ownership in the property at the time of required minimum distributions – 70 ? in order to remain IRS compliant – you can do so incrementally. In doing so, the portion that is sold off can be taken as an IRA distribution.

You cannot extend personal credit to your IRA. For example, if wanted to use your IRA as a down payment on an investment property, then you could not personally acquire a loan in your name, take title to a property owned by your IRA. However, there are financing strategies that combine debt financing and your IRA and there are competent lenders who understand the IRA – LLC.

Investing in collectibles is a no-no. You cannot invest in artwork, antiques, rugs or a purchase a 10 carat marquise diamond ring for your spouse or your fianc? and pass it of as an investment.

Real Estate Financing and your IRA

Where you use a non-recourse loan to help purchase your investment because you do not have enough money in your IRA to do so, you may also face a tax known as Unrelated Debt Financing. But this can be mitigated through long term property holding where your use the property as a rental and the debt goes down. If you are terribly concerned with UBIT, then partnering with another IRA holder or a non-disqualified party who puts up the remaining cash could be the best way to eliminate UBIT all together. To learn more about pooling IRA holders together for larger real estate deals visit http://www.GroupDominion.com.

In order to defer UBIT you can decide to 1031 exchange the UBIT part of the transaction forward to another investment property and by doing so reap the benefits of both worlds: receive tax deferment through the 1031 exchange on the indebted portion and tax deferred benefits on the gain in the self directed IRA when you decide to exchange the property.

In addition, because the IRA is already a tax favorable vehicle, your IRA cannot receive additional tax deductions or depreciation as you would if it was your own home.

Picking the Right Self Directed IRA Advisor

With the assistance of a competent self directed IRA advisor, you can petition the IRS successfully and structure your real estate transactions so that you can make your real estate purchase outside the IRA. By doing so, prohibited transactions go away, UBIT goes away; you can receive personal benefit from the investment property, take title personally to an investment property without infringing on the rules and without facing stiff IRS penalties. In short, there are cons as well as pros to using self directed IRA LLCs, but choosing the right advisor will help you steer clear of the sandbanks.

About the Author

Joshua Geary with Asset Exchange Strategies is an avid writer, business strategist and online marketing consultant. For more information on self directed ira real estate investing visit the link.

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