What investments can be done with a Self-Directed Real Estate IRA?

The much shorter answer to the question “What investments can be done with a Self-Directed Real Estate IRA?” is almost anything. In addition to actual real estate, you can instead purchase other investment vehicles such as tax liens, mortgage notes or real estate options. These investments allow you to profit from real estate without owning the land.

The IRS does not publish a list of permitted investments, but only the short number of fellow investors or people you may not do business with who are called “disqualified persons.” These forbidden people are yourself, your spouse, parents, children, grandchildren and spouses of your children or grandchildren. However, because IRAs are legally independent entities, you may do business with anyone’s Self-Directed IRA. Also, neither you nor any disqualified persons may benefit from the property in any way. This includes staying there, even for one night. A disqualified person cannot stay on the property even if that person pays rent. You also cannot directly buy from or sell any property to a disqualified person nor employ them for any reason such as maintaining or managing the property. Neither you nor any disqualified person can perform any services on this real estate, even if you do it for free. This labor would be seen as benefitting the Self-Directed IRA through an in-kind transaction, so it is forbidden.

However, certain family members such as siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins are not considered to be “disqualified persons.” Therefore, they can invest in, purchase, use, or work on the property held by your Self-Directed Real Estate IRA without any restrictions.

All income from the property or expenses to improve and maintain it must also be paid by the Self-Directed IRA, not from your personal funds. Legally, you never see any of this money, as it all remains within the Self-Directed IRA. Although you may not do any business with a disqualified person, your Self-Directed Real Estate IRA can “partner” with them when investing in it. The purpose of partnering is to increase the amount of capital which the Self-Directed IRA has access to. However, when partnering all funds must be kept separate from each partner when buying, selling or using the property in any way. This prohibition also extends to changing the percentage of ownership controlled by any investor, as that is considered a sale or purchase.

Although there are significant tax benefits from using a Self-Directed IRA, there are some taxes which do have to be paid. As they say, nothing is perfect. For example, you may have used financing for the investment in your Self-Directed Real Estate IRA. Such financing is permitted as long as the loans are non-recourse. This type of loan is secured by collateral, such as property. Should you default on the loan, the lender may seize the property, but cannot look to the borrower for any other compensation if the value of security is insufficient to pay the entire loan balance. This protects the rest of your Self-Directed IRA assets from being seized by the lender.

Although you are prohibited from personally benefitting from property held in your Self-Directed Real Estate IRA while you are still of age to deposit into the account, after you retire you can then use the real estate as a home or benefit from it in any way. Also, after you begin making withdrawals from your Self-Directed Real Estate IRA, you can take real estate as an “in kind” distribution instead of cash.

Interested in learning more about Self-Directed IRAs?  Contact American IRA, LLC at 866-7500-IRA (472) for a free consultation.  Or visit us online at

Self-Directed Real Estate IRA Update – Criminal Background Checks and the Law

If you are a Self-Directed Real Estate IRA investor, it is not just tax laws governing retirement accounts you must worry about. There is a whole set of landlord-tenant laws you need to be aware of as well – and they can vary by jurisdiction.

For example, most Real Estate IRA investors have taken for granted that they will be able to run criminal background checks on applicants and screen out people with criminal histories. After all, these tenants pose a potential risk to neighbors, roommates and even potentially to the landlord.

That is not universally the case. For example, the city of Seattle made it illegal last year for property owners to decline to rent to applicants because of a criminal history. They made it a crime for landlords to even run a criminal background check.

The law, which the City Council passed unanimously last August, prohibits landlords from refusing to lease housing to individuals on the basis of their criminal history, except where the tenant is on a sexual offenders’ registry for a conviction received as an adult, and the landlord is able to provide a legitimate business reason for the discrimination.

The law also prohibits landlords from even asking about prior criminal records or creating blanket policies against renting to those with criminal histories or instructing their property managers and agents to turn down their applications. Advertisements with discriminatory language are also prohibited. Fines range from $10,000 for a first offense up to $55,000 for repeat offenders

This month, a group of small landlords affiliated with the Rental Housing Association of Washington is filing suit against the City of Seattle, arguing that the Fair Chance Housing Ordinance is unconstitutional. The RHA represents the interests of Real Estate IRA investors and those who own rental real estate directly, outside of retirement accounts. The Pacific Legal Foundation is providing legal representation.

The argument is that the ordinance is a violation of landlord free speech and due process rights. The Association also claims that the City Council.

The City states that they believe the ordinance in question is not unconstitutional and will defend it in court.

Until the Association prevails in the suit, the ban on discriminating against convicted criminals remains in force.

It is not just a Seattle issue: In 2016, the U.S. Department Housing and Urban Development began sending warning shots against landlords: ““A policy or practice that denies housing to anyone with a prior arrest or any kind of criminal conviction cannot be justified,” wrote HUD general counsel Helen Kanovsky for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

The current HUD Administration seems to be friendlier to landlords, small businesses and investors.

It is a good idea for Self-Directed IRA investors to stay in close touch with an experienced landlord-tenant law attorney licensed in all states in which you own rental properties. Do not get blindsided by a law or ordinance you did not know about. Understand the law at the federal, state and municipal levels. And maintain adequate landlord insurance to protect you against problems.

For more information on Self-Directed IRAs, call us today at 866-7500-IRA (472). Or visit us at and download our guide to Real Estate IRA investing.

Upstate CREIA – Strategies for Purchasing Rental Properties in Your Self-Directed IRA

Event Location:

Southern Fried Green Tomatoes

1175 Woods Crossing Rd

Greenville , SC

Date and Time:

Start Date: 07/22/2013 | Start Time: 11:30 AM
End Date: 07/22/2013 | Approx. End Time: 1:00 PM


Sean McKay, Senior Vice President of American IRA, will be presenting: Strategies for Purchasing Rental Properties in Your Self-Directed IRA

This new group will be lead by 3 REI-specific professional services providers, who are all vendors of UpstateCREIA and will feature monthly topics and a Q & A session.

NOTE:You will need to plan on purchasing lunch each time you attend. They provide the room free, (so long as everyone eats) (good food and very reasonably priced)

Professional Focus Group – Led by 3 REI-specific professional services providers, and will feature monthly topics and a Q & A session.


This event requires payment at the event.
UCREIA Member and Other ACTIVE REIA Members: Free
Non-Member: $10.00

Group leaders are;

-Kevin Brady, Closing Attorney
-Brandon Smith, CPA
-Sean McKay, Real Estate IRAs

The is typically on the 4th Monday of the month.

Self-Directed Real Estate IRA: Benefit from a Recovering Economy

Self-Directed Real Estate IRABefore the Great Recession, housing prices were hitting all-time highs and everything looked bright for the real estate market. It wasn’t until a few years ago that the asset bubble popped – things were going too far, too fast. Since then, prices have declined quite a bit in a widespread correction.

Having said that, a number of economic variables have changed in recent months and the U.S. economy has leveled out, even growing beyond what it once was in some respects. This has benefited many asset classes, which is why a self-directed real estate IRA is ideal at this point in time. Many experts claim that the best is yet to come, and investors are taking notice. Prices have started to climb again, so a number of investors are rushing into real estate and buying up good deals while they still can.

Real estate is a wonderful way to strengthen your IRA’s portfolio – real estate will always have value, and you can use it for a number of different purposes including rental income. The tax benefits that IRAs possess are also hard to compete with. Investing in a property in your IRA’s name means that neither you nor any persons disqualified by the IRS will be able to utilize it until you reach 59.5 years of age.

You can definitely profit from a self-directed real estate IRA in short order. For example, you can fix up a house and sell it at an increased price or put your property up for rental. While you won’t be able to access these returns until you reach retirement age, it’s definitely a fantastic way to build up your nest egg. The Wall Street Journal, dated Tuesday March 19, 2013, front page headline says 57% of workers are saving too little to retire; careful planning can ensure that you are not among those unprepared for retirement.

As always, check with your real estate professionals and perform all necessary due diligence before taking part in any transaction.

If you have any questions about opening a new IRA account, contact us at 1-866-7500-IRA(472) or If you’d like to add real estate to your existing portfolio, contact us at 1-866-7500-IRA(472) or


Jim on Google+

Flipping Houses in an IRA

Flipping Houses in an IRA

For the purposes of this article, flipping is defined as the purchase of property with the intent to sell at a profit shortly after making significant improvements. If you have particular expertise in buying and selling real estate, and you are looking for ways to expand your real estate investment practice in a tax-advantaged way, flipping real estate in an IRA is an excellent way to do so, and you’re in luck: IRS rules allow you to hold a wide variety of assets in an IRA – including real estate. This means that real estate investors can take advantage of all the tax benefits of using an IRA, SEP-IRA, SIMPLE IRA, or solo 401(k) plan. For now, we’ll talk primarily about IRAs.

Advantages of Real Estate Investing

The many advantages of real estate investing are well-known to market veterans. And the vast majority of these advantages apply to retirement accounts as well. Using a self-directed IRA to invest retirement assets in real estate, including property flipping, allows you to take advantage of these lucrative aspects of real estate investing.

Leverage. Real estate has intrinsic value that is well understood by lenders. It is therefore relatively easy to borrow money to leverage your real estate portfolio. While historic unleveraged capital growth in the real estate market are modest and in line with many other asset classes, the judicious use of leverage has historically put real estate in a class of its own, when looked at on a return on invested capital basis. The IRS allows you to borrow money within your IRA to leverage real estate purchases, as well as handle immediate cash flow needs. Any loans taken out by your IRA need to be non-recourse loans only. The lender can have no claim to any collateral outside the IRA, and you cannot sign a personal guarantee.

Diversification. Real estate has historically provided an important diversification benefit against more traditional retirement investing asset classes such as stocks, bonds and funds.

Inflation Protection. As the purchasing power of the dollar declines, real estate potentially provides an important hedge against the ravages of inflation. A given plot of land, for example, will still yield the same number of bushels of wheat or corn, regardless of whether the dollar collapses or not. And no matter what happens to inflation, people still need to live somewhere. Demand for housing transcends inflation and everything else in the market.

Potential for Growth. Unlike bond income, the income from real estate investments tends to grow over time. This, in turn, supports gradual appreciation in property prices, and leads to eventual capital appreciation. In some cases, economic development or expansion in an area can cause a rapid and substantial increase in property prices – leading to ‘flipping’ opportunities.

Control. When you invest your IRA assets in a mutual fund, for example, you give up control. You have no input as to what happens with your money, and no control over how the fund manager invests it. You won’t even know what they’re doing with it for weeks or months, when the fund publishes its portfolio. By electing to self-direct your retirement investments, and by investing in real estate, you maintain full control over the investment. You can take positive steps to help the property appreciate in value, such as making renovations and improvements that improve the expected selling price of the property.

Advantages of Using an IRA or Other Retirement Account

Your IRA generally allows you to defer taxes on ordinary income or on long or short-term capital gains – though there are certain exceptions, in some cases, for profits attributable to leverage. This means that you can collect an unlimited amount of rental income, tax-deferred, or tax-free, if you use a Roth IRA. Your IRA generally allows you to defer taxes on profits generated by the IRA–unless, of course, it’s a Roth, which is tax free—until you reach age 59½. If you use a Roth IRA, you never pay income or capital gains taxes. However, if you have profits attributed to leverage, that percentage of your profits will be subject to unrelated debt income tax (UDIT) because it is not IRA money.

Likewise, you can buy or sell an unlimited number of investment properties within your IRA, tax deferred. However, you should be aware of unrelated business income tax. If you are determined to be engaged in the business of “flipping properties” – that is, if the IRS determines you to be a dealer in real estate, you will be judged to be operating a business within your IRA, which may generate a UBIT liability. This is a question you should raise with your tax advisor. Qualified tax advice is a must. American IRA does not provide individual tax advice.

If you use a Roth account, rather than a traditional IRA, your income and capital gains can grow within the account tax free. True, you can also get a deferral on capital gains taxes using a 1031 exchange. But you can only do so as long as you are exchanging one real estate investment property for another, and only during a specific time period. By using an IRA, you can move in and out of real estate as often as you like, provided you keep the sales proceeds in the IRA itself. If a transfer is delayed for whatever reason, you don’t have to worry about incurring a current capital gains tax liability within an IRA like you do if you don’t execute a 1031 exchange by the deadline. This may help you be much more selective about the real estate trades you make.


There are some things to be aware of when using your IRA for any kind of real estate investing:

  • You cannot use the property for your own personal benefit.
  • You cannot lend to or borrow from your IRA, nor can your ascendants, descendants, their spouses or any entities they control.
  • You cannot do business directly with your IRA. For example, you cannot set up a construction company and have your IRA hire your company to work on the house. The same restriction applies to your ascendants, descendants, their spouses and any entities they control.
  • You cannot stay in properties your IRA owns, even overnight.
  • If you use leverage, the IRS may impose a tax, called “unrelated debt income tax,” on a portion of the IRA’s profits. In some cases, however, this tax does not apply to assets held in self-directed Solo 401(k) plans. Consult your tax advisor for more information on how this tax may affect you.
  • Any money your IRA borrows must be in the form of non-recourse debt. This means that the lender can hold no claim on any assets outside of the IRA whatsoever. The entirety of the loan must be either unsecured or secured by assets within the IRA. You cannot sign a personal guarantee in this debt.
  • Because there is no tax on current income to deduct against, you cannot take deductions for depreciation of rental properties held in a retirement account.
  • Be aware of the restrictions on contributing new money to retirement accounts. Any expenses your IRA incurs over and above the $5,000 annual contribution limit for IRAs ($6,000 if you are over age 50), for example, must be paid for with money in the IRA already, money rolled over from other retirement accounts, or borrowed. You cannot make a massive cash infusion from outside the IRA using a traditional or Roth IRA account. However, you can take advantage of the higher contribution limits of SEP IRAs or Solo 401(k)s to intervene during a cash crunch, if you hold your property within one of these plans. SEP IRA contribution limits can be as high as $49,000 per year – many times that of an IRA.

Where We Come In

American IRA is a third-party administrator with particular expertise in self-directed retirement accounts, including real estate IRAs, 401(k)s, SEP IRAS and SIMPLE IRAs. Although not IRA products, you can also self-direct Coverdells and health savings accounts (HSAs) as well. This is a very specialized area of investment, and not every broker or other advisor has the skills to navigate the various rules and regulations that apply to self-directed retirement accounts. It’s important to partner with a firm that has skills and experience specific to self-direction and real estate within an IRA or other retirement account.

For more information, or to simply explore your options, call American IRA today at 1-866-7500-IRA (472). We look forward to working with you.

American IRA, a National Provider of Self-Directed Real Estate IRAs, Celebrates the Success of Yet Another Client on a ‘Fix and Flip’ Real Estate Purchase

American IRA, a national provider of self-directed real estate IRAs, celebrates the success of yet another client on a ‘Fix and Flip’ real estate purchase! This ‘Fix and Flip’ netted the client’s real estate IRA $28,500 in just six months.

The client used their real estate IRA to purchase the property for $50,000. In this case, the property needed about $15,000 in work. It wasn’t a huge rehab project but certainly one that many of the people reading this article have done themselves. Also keep in mind, once again, the holding costs. In this case, it was $1,500. HOAs, taxes, insurance and things of that nature are included in that number.

After 6 months, the client sold the property for $95,000. Once again their real estate IRA owns the asset, so depending upon the account the gains are going to be tax free or tax deferred. The property sold price was $95,000, the purchase price was $50,000, rehab costs were $15,000, and the holding costs were $1,500. The total profit was $28,500 ($95,000-$50,000-$15,000-$1,500=$28,500).

What a fantastic outcome: $28,500 in just six months!

Some words of caution:

People need to make sure that they are not exhausting all of the money from their real estate IRA when making a purchase. They need to have a substantial amount left over for any sort of incidental costs.

Also they need to keep in mind that their real estate IRA owns the asset, so all the cash flows in and out of their real estate IRA. When they’re paying the contractor for the work that’s done on the property, they’re going to instruct the American IRA, LLC office to actually cut that check from their real estate IRA to whatever appropriate parties for the acquisition.

The American IRA, LLC team can’t stress this enough. Do not cut it this close. The American IRA, LLC office probably gets two calls a week from a client panicked because they bought too much house, they don’t have enough money in the account, and at the end of the day the only option they really have is to make that contribution for the year to cover that balance.

As is always the case, the account holder needs to do the ‘due diligence’ on the asset that they’re purchasing.

Legions of Frustrated Investors Turn to Real Estate Investing: “Play and Pray” Amateur Property Flippers vs. Landlords

Rental Properties in Your IRA

For legions of investors frustrated with puny yields on savings and bonds, slow growth retarding stock market returns, and the usual substantial risk involved in security investing (any given stock or bond can potentially become worthless overnight), we have good news: The combination of declining real estate prices and steady or increasing rents have opened up a window of opportunity in real estate for income-oriented investors. In fact, years after the “smart money” was selling off real estate ahead of the bubble collapse, we are seeing signs that smart money is getting back in the real estate market. Indeed, up to 20 percent of residential real estate now sold is sold to investors – and not just to “play and pray” amateur property flippers, but to value-oriented investors as well, who are seeking to generate immediate positive cash flow.

Advantage for IRA Owners

This is a big development for IRA investors, because generating cash flow sufficient to maintain properties is important for IRA owners. Because you are restricted to $5,000 in new contributions to IRAs every year ($6,000 for those over age 50), you have to pay for any needed repairs or renovations to properties either with cash in the IRA, bringing on a partner, nonrecourse debt financing, or other retirement assets you can roll over into the account. When you can realize immediate positive cash flow from a property, however, net of financing costs and taxes, that takes a lot of the pressure off, and makes owning real estate in an IRA much simpler.

Getting Started in Real Estate IRA Investing

Owning property within an IRA is simple: Open an account with American IRA, a third-party administrator specializing in self-directed retirement accounts. Identify a property, fund the account, and direct us to purchase the property on your IRA’s behalf. We will work with your team of advisors to ensure that the property is titled and held in accordance with the IRS’s regulations pertaining to retirement accounts.

Using Leverage

If you can’t pay cash for the property, you can have your IRA borrow most of the purchase price. Typically, you can finance a property in an IRA with banks that specialize in non-recourse financing through IRAs which generally requires a down payment of about 35 percent, plus reserves. The loan must be a non-recourse loan, meaning the loan can only be collateralized by the property you’re buying, within the IRA. You cannot sign a personal guarantee on the debt nor can your IRA or any other prohibited person. Fortunately, in many markets, it is still possible to generate substantial free cash flow from well-chosen rental properties, even carrying a mortgage of 2/3ds of the value of the property.

In addition to a 35 percent down payment, lenders will typically look to see if they can expect a positive cash flow of 20 to 25 percent, net of expenses. Again, this is very doable in many real estate markets today.

Looking for more flexibility? The IRA is not limited to borrowing funds from banks that specialize in non-recourse loans, your IRA can also borrow from private lenders. Borrowing from private lenders has some added advantages to it as the terms and down payment are negotiable. When entering into loans with private lenders make sure to do your due diligence, use professionals to draw up the paperwork, and remember that the loan must be non-recourse.

One caveat: Because borrowed money is not IRA money, any profits attributable to borrowed money could be subject to unrelated debt income tax (UDIT). American IRA does not provide individualized tax advice – it’s important to retain your own tax advisor for advice on how this affects your personal situation.

Advantages of Holding Property in an IRA

IRAs allow you to defer all the income your rental property receives. This is a crucial consideration for real estate investors, because of the substantial amount of rental income, which would otherwise be taxable in the current year. If you hold the property in a Roth IRA, the income and potential capital appreciation is tax free.

Because there’s no current tax liability on rental income, you can’t take depreciation deductions on rental property you hold in the IRA. However, you aren’t paying current year taxes on the property, it’s a wash. Real estate investing in tax-advantaged accounts does not rely on depreciation allowances to make sense. You can still frequently realize positive cash flow very quickly or even immediately, even without depreciation.

Note, however, that if you have leveraged the property, you can deduct all the normal expenses, such as interest, taxes, insurance and depreciation in the percentage applicable to the percentage of debt on the property.

Other Accounts

Real estate investing in retirement accounts is not limited to IRAs. If you prefer, you can buy real estate within a self-directed Solo 401(k), SEP IRA or SIMPLE IRA as well. Many investors choose to do so because of the higher contribution allowances available in these types of accounts. For example, as of 2012, you can contribute up to $49,000 to a SEP IRA, or 25 percent of your compensation – whichever is less.

As a point of interest, Solo 401(k) accounts are not generally subject to unrelated debt income tax. You can use leverage within the Solo 401(k) account and the account remains fully tax-deferred, though you must still pay applicable property taxes and property expenses.


The IRS imposes a few rules on what you may and may not do with real estate within your IRA. For example, neither you, nor your parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren or your spouses or legally adopted step-children can borrow from, lend to or buy or sell goods and services from your IRA, nor may any entities they control. Note that un-adopted stepchildren are not prohibited.

You also can’t use the property for the direct benefit of any prohibited individuals. They can’t even stay overnight in a property, whether or not the property charges rent. Assets in IRAs must be solely used to grow and to generate eventual retirement income for yourself or your beneficiary, and for no other purpose. However, one great strategy commonly used by investors is to buy a retirement home now with their IRA, rent the property until they retire, and then – after having reached age 59½, take the house as a distribution for personal use. If the account is in a Roth IRA, there won’t be any taxes due on the distribution.

For more information, or to explore your options, call American IRA today at 866-7500-IRA(472). We look forward to working with you.

American IRA, LLC, a National Self-Directed IRA Provider, Announces Joint Webinar with Hanover Companies Featuring Investing with Self-Directed Real Estate IRAs & 401(k)s

American IRA, LLC, a national self-directed IRA provider, announces joint webinars on September 26th with Hanover Companies featuring real estate investing with self-directed real estate IRAs and 401(k)s. Find out how easy it is making the choice to take control of those retirement dollars as one of the nations’ leaders in self-direction, Sean McKay, takes you step by step through the process!

American IRA and Hanover Companies will be presenting educational tools for self-directing and purchasing real estate with a self-directed real estate IRA.

American IRA will educate everyone on opening a self-directed real estate IRA account and everything it entails including:

  • Real estate purchases
  • What to do when there is a shortage of funds
  • Partnering with an IRA
  • Real estate purchases within an LLC
  • And more…

Hanover Companies has structured a real estate investment specifically for the self-directed real estate IRA investor. They will provide educational insights on the process of doing diligence for specific real estate markets, identifying the correct assets, timing the purchase of real estate, how to leverage retirement dollars, and how this can all be done through self-direction.

Click below to sign up for either of these webinars:

September 26th starting at 12:30pm Click here to Register

September 26th starting at 8:00pm Click here to Register

U.S. Home Prices Drop For 6 Straight Months, An Article Written By The Associated Press Reports, CEO Of American IRA Speaks About What This Means To Real Estate Investors

The Associated Press reports that U.S. home prices drop for 6 straight months. Jim Hitt, CEO of American IRA speaks about what this means to real estate investors while he offers a reminder that self-directed IRAs are an excellent tool when investing in real estate.

The Associated Press article goes on to report that the steady price declines have brought the nationwide index to its late 2002 level. Home prices have fallen 35 percent since the housing bust. The average price in Atlanta fell 17.3 percent in February compared with a year earlier. That’s the biggest annual drop in the history of any city.

Still, the article states that some areas are seeing gains in housing prices such as Phoenix and most cities are reporting smaller declines than in previous months.

This all leaves investors with many decisions to make. Some investors feel that they should only invest when they can buy at ‘rock bottom’ prices and sell ‘high’. Other investors look carefully at the overall trend of real estate in each area and determine what the realistic short-term and long-term gains are. While still other investors wait for a more stable market that provides them with less profit but more certainty in relation to potential profits. These investors are all looking to buy and flip the property or buy-hold-then sell the property.

There is yet another class of investors that like to ‘buy and hold’ real estate for current income…generally rental properties. When these investors like to purchase real estate varies; though all of these investors look carefully at these properties using calculations to forecast the monthly income, expenses, and ultimately profits. The caution here is to know the rental income averages for the area and to purchase the property correctly so that profits can be maximized.

Jim Hitt, CEO of American IRA, says, “Self-directed IRAs are a tool that savvy investors utilize. Purchasing real estate inside a self-directed IRA allows their profits to be tax deferred and in some cases tax free. There are many investors who ask my opinion as to whether now is a good time to purchase real estate or whether it is better to wait for the market to bottom out. After 40 years of watching the real estate cycle go up and down, my observation is that it is not the ‘bottom’ that is important. The important things is getting in at a good time. In this market, my opinion is that now is the time to invest in real estate. The key to every successful venture is to due your ‘due diligence’ before purchasing any real estate and to always use professionals, such as CPAs and Attorneys, to ensure that your interest is protected.”