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Capital Gains Tax When You Sell Property

If you’re selling a home, what you make could be taxable. Depending on your property’s value and other factors, you might be hit with a big tax bill that you weren’t expecting.

Capital gains on real estate can be taxed, but there are things you can do to reduce or avoid what you owe to the IRS when you sell your house.

A capital gains tax is the fee you’re responsible for paying on profits you make when you sell an asset. Your capital gains taxes can apply to stocks, bonds, and tangible assets such as cars, boats, and real estate. The IRS and many states also assess the capital gains taxes on the difference between what you’re paying for your asset, known as your cost basis, and what you sell it for.

Capital Gains and Real Estate

The capital gains you might owe if you sell your home vary depending on your tax filing status and the sales price of your home. You may also be eligible for an exclusion. The IRS might allow you to exclude up to $250,000 of capital gains on the sale of real estate if you’re single and up to $500,000 on real estate if you’re married and file jointly.

If any of a certain number of factors are true, you then pay tax on the entire gain of the sale of your home.

These factors include:

  • The home wasn’t your main residence
  • You owned the property for fewer than two years in the five years before selling it
  • Not living in the house for at least two years in the five years before you sold it
  • You claimed the available exclusion on another home in the two years before selling this current home
  • Buying the house through a like-kind exchange, which is a 1031 exchange in the past five years
  • You have to pay expatriate tax

If you do owe taxes on what you made from selling your home, different capital gains tax rates can apply.

Capital Gains Tax Rates

If you owned the asset for a period of less than a year, then typically, short-term capital gains tax rates apply. The rate is the same as your tax bracket. Long-term capital gains tax rates will usually apply if you have owned the asset for more than a year. A lot of people qualify for a 0% rate, but depending on your income and filing status, you might pay 15% or 20%.

Avoiding Capital Gains Taxes When Selling a Home

Some of the things you can avoid having a tax bill from selling your home include:

  • The best way to avoid taxes is to live there for at least two years, which don’t have to be consecutive. If you’re a house flipper, you have to be careful here. If you sell a house you didn’t lie in for at least two years, your gains can be taxed. If you sell in less than a year, it’s particularly expensive because you may have to pay the higher short-term tax rate.
  • Determine if you qualify for an exception. You might still be able to exclude some of the taxable gains on the sale of your home because of work, health, or an unforeseeable event.

Finally, if you make any improvements, keep your receipts. The cost basis of your home will include what you paid to buy it and the improvements you made over the years. If your cost basis is higher, you may have a lower amount of capital gains taxes to pay. Remodels, expansions, and other updates can reduce your taxes.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

Can You Use Home Equity to Buy Another Property?

When you have equity in your home, you can tap into that and, if you’re strategic, use it as a way to build long-term wealth.

There are a lot of ways you can capture equity to build wealth. For example, you can pay off higher-interest debt or make home improvements that ultimately increase the value of your house. You can start a business or you can even invest in the stock market where returns might be significantly more than the interest you pay on your loan.

Another question people commonly have is whether or not they can use their home’s equity to purchase another property, which we discuss below.

Can You Use a Home Equity Loan to Buy a House?

In short, yes. You can use a home equity loan to buy a house, but that doesn’t mean it’s always the right decision in every situation. Using home equity can be a way to buy a second home or an investment property with caveats.

A home equity loan is a second mortgage, giving you a way to access the equity you’ve built in your home. Home equity refers to the difference between what you owe and what your home is worth.

The Upsides

If you’re thinking about using your home’s equity to buy another house, there’s a distinction you need to first make. Are you buying a second home or an investment?

If you’re planning to buy an investment property, using a home equity loan can give you more liquidity and make it less expensive. Benefits of using equity to buy an investment property include:

• You can put more toward your down payment. A home equity loan is something you receive as a lump sum payment so that cash can go directly toward a down payment. You’ll be a more competitive buyer, which is essential in the current market, and you’ll get lower interest rates and monthly payments.

• It can be harder to finance a second property because there are more stringent down payment requirements, so a home equity loan can be a more affordable solution and also one that’s more convenient.

• A home equity loan is secured with collateral, which is your current home. As a result, you get the benefit of lower interest rates.

If you’re buying an investment property, using your home equity can be a good wealth-building strategy. If you’re buying a second home, you have to consider that it’s not going to bring in income like an investment. That means that you’re going to be tying your home up in a loan and then taking on another loan, so you need to be in a solid financial position to make this work.

The Downsides

The downsides of using equity to buy an investment property do exist. These include:

• You’re swapping an asset for a debt. You’re taking the part of your home that you own, and then you’re putting it into a loan. Ultimately, no matter the specifics, you will have higher debt, so is that what you want?

• You’re vulnerable to housing market shifts, even more so when you own two properties instead of one. You’re doubling your risk if something happens in the housing market. For example, if the value of either of your properties goes down, you might owe more on your home equity loan and your mortgage, overextending you.

• If you were to default on your loan, you could lose both properties.

• You might end up having three mortgages but only two homes. Most home equity loans are second mortgages, so you have to combine this with the loan you’ll need for your second home, meaning three mortgages.

• Another downside you’ll have to weigh is the fact that interest payments on your home equity loan will probably not be tax-deductible because of 2018 changes in tax codes.

The big takeaway here is that, yes, using home equity to buy a second home is an option and sometimes a very good one. At the same time, there are risks and it’s not always the right decision, so you need to go over the details in your specific situation carefully.

Position Realty
Office: 480-213-5251

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