Advertisement
Financial Planning

I'm a Landlord: Can I Ever Truly Retire?

Investing in rental properties is a time-tested strategy, but when you’re ready to get out of the grind, you could face a big tax bill. Here’s one escape route.

There is a major dilemma facing many Baby Boomer investors today. Their successes in real estate have produced a failure in quality of life. What is the problem, and is there a solution?

Let's start with the problem: a “good problem” to have. Twenty to 40 years ago, you bought rental real estate, maybe a small apartment complex or several rental houses. This can be a great strategy to build wealth for someone in their earlier years of investing. But as I advise my own clients, owning actively managed real estate is best for a season of your life, but not for the duration of your life.

Advertisement - Article continues below

For example, you bought four rental houses long ago for $100,000 each. They are fully depreciated down to their land portion of $25,000 apiece. Today the houses would net $300,000 each. The problem is that you want to be retired now, but you own these now very old houses needing a lot of maintenance. You cringe when you receive a phone call. Is the roof leaking? Tenant moving out again? Midnight plumbing problem? Or did you just find out your “pet-free” tenant was hiding 12 cats from you when they moved in (true story)? You could hire a property manager, but they are expensive and each of these maintenance problems still costs you thousands to correct, and you still own very old houses!

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

So, you go to your CPA, and she informs you that if you sell the houses, your federal income tax alone will be over $250,000, and your state may tax you, too. Also, if you sell, your spouse and heirs will not be eligible for the step-up in basis when you pass away. Finally, you will be eliminating a big potential source of retirement income from your portfolio, and you would now need to find a different investment.

Advertisement - Article continues below

Section 1031 of the tax code allows for tax-deferred exchanges of properties where you can sell your real estate, then identify and close on replacement property in 45 and 180 days respectively. The problem with this solution is you still would own real estate you have to manage in your later years. Can you exchange tax free into a real estate partnership, real estate LLC, publicly traded REIT or private REIT? The answer is no to all of these.

There is a solution. Appreciated rental real estate can potentially be exchanged income tax free for real estate owned within a Delaware Statutory Trust (DST). The advantages of this can be dramatic. You can diversify by property type specifically into multi-family apartments, medical office buildings, self-storage or retail. You can diversify geographically by investing into several different DSTs in different areas of the country offered by different DST providers. The income tax of $250,000 could be eliminated for now, and potentially eliminated permanently to your heirs by continuing to hold DST investments for life.

Advertisement - Article continues below
Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

The cash flow from DST real estate can be higher than it is from high-maintenance older rentals. These investments are professionally managed and can often be placed into newer properties. Newer properties are eligible for accelerated depreciation using a methodology called “cost segregation.” What this means to you is that you could potentially shelter much of your rental cash flow from income taxes.

As with any investment, there are risks, costs and benefits. For my own clients, we vet potential DST replacement properties through more than 40 data points, including local economic indicators, expected yield after fees, loan leverage and property manager history through the 2008 real estate bust.

Besides the diversification and income tax savings opportunities, you probably picked up on the real advantage. You worked hard your whole life, invested money and countless hours into your rentals and now you want to enjoy the fruits of your labor without being tied to your “job” as a landlord of older properties. Your solution to a true retirement could be found in these three letters, DST.

Madrona Financial Services' registration with the SEC does not imply a certain level of skill or training. Advisory services are only provided after receipt of disclosure documents and execution of an advisory agreement. The information, suggestions and recommendations included in this material are for informational purposes only and do not constitute financial, legal or accounting advice.

Insurance products are offered through Madrona Insurance Services, LLC, a licensed insurance agency and affiliate of Madrona Financial Services. When we refer to preparation and filing of tax returns, tax returns are prepared and filed by our wholly-owned sister company Bauer Evans, Inc. P.S., a licensed certified public accounting firm. DST investments are only available to accredited investors and are offered solely through the issuer's offering documents. The DST sponsor determines whether to accept any individual’s subscription documents.

Advertisement

About the Author

Brian Evans, CPA, PFS

Owner, Madrona Financial Services

Brian Evans is the owner of Madrona Financial Services, Madrona Funds, LLC, and Bauer Evans CPAs and serves as the firms' chief investment officer, lead planner and senior portfolio manager. He was honored to ring the bell on the NYSE. Evans also hosts a weekly radio show on KTTH 770 AM, KRKO 1380 AM and KVI 570 AM, is a nationally published author and has been a regular guest on New Day Northwest, CNBC and Fox television.

Advertisement

Most Popular

11 Dividend-Paying Stocks You Should Think Twice About
dividend stocks

11 Dividend-Paying Stocks You Should Think Twice About

Dividend-paying stocks often can be a store of safety, but 2020 has been difficult on income equities. These 11 picks look like shaky plays despite th…
September 21, 2020
Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know
Medicare

Medicare Basics: 11 Things You Need to Know

There's Medicare Part A, Part B, Part D, medigap plans, Medicare Advantage plans and so on. We sort out the confusion about signing up for Medicare --…
September 16, 2020
Where You Should Invest Now
investing

Where You Should Invest Now

Kiplinger.com senior investing editor Kyle Woodley joins our Your Money's Worth podcast to answer investor questions about tech stocks, the election a…
September 22, 2020

Recommended

Check Your Financial Adviser Now (and Every Year) or Regret It Later
wealth management

Check Your Financial Adviser Now (and Every Year) or Regret It Later

Fewer than 10% of investors use such free background checks as Investor.gov, BrokerCheck or IAPD to check their financial advisers’ backgrounds. These…
September 21, 2020
The Annuity With a Tax-Planning Twist
Financial Planning

The Annuity With a Tax-Planning Twist

A qualified life annuity contract helps retirees with guaranteed payments to last their entire lives.
September 21, 2020
HSA Limits and Minimums
health savings accounts

HSA Limits and Minimums

Annually adjusted contribution limits and other requirements must be met if you're covering health care costs with a Health Savings Account.
September 21, 2020
Don’t Be Paralyzed by Uncertainty
retirement planning

Don’t Be Paralyzed by Uncertainty

You definitely need a plan, because what’s ahead could be scarier than what’s behind us.
September 21, 2020