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721 Exchange: A Guide for Real Estate Investors

As a financial advisor, it is crucial to stay informed about various investment opportunities and strategies to help clients achieve their financial goals. One such strategy is the 721 Exchange, a lesser-known but powerful tool for real estate investors looking to diversify their portfolios and defer taxes. This article will provide an overview of the 721 Exchange, its benefits, drawbacks, and how investors can use it effectively.

What is a 721 Exchange?

A 721 Exchange, also known as an UPREIT (Umbrella Partnership Real Estate Investment Trust) transaction, is a tax-deferred exchange that allows property owners to contribute their real estate holdings into a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) in exchange for operating partnership units (OP units). This transaction is governed by Section 721 of the Internal Revenue Code, which permits tax deferral on the exchange of property for an interest in a partnership.

The primary advantage of a 721 Exchange is that it allows property owners to defer capital gains taxes on the appreciated value of their real estate assets when they contribute them to a REIT. This tax deferral can significantly benefit investors who have held their property for a long time and experienced substantial appreciation.

Benefits of a 721 Exchange

  1. Tax Deferral: As mentioned earlier, the most significant benefit of a 721 Exchange is the deferral of capital gains taxes. By contributing their property to a REIT, investors can avoid paying taxes on the appreciation of their real estate assets until they decide to sell their OP units.
  2. Diversification: A 721 Exchange allows investors to diversify their real estate portfolios by exchanging their property for OP units in a REIT. This can reduce the risk of holding a single property and provide exposure to a broader range of real estate assets managed by the REIT.
  3. Professional Management: REITs are professionally managed entities, which means that investors can benefit from the expertise of experienced real estate professionals responsible for managing the properties within the REIT.
  4. Liquidity: Although OP units are not as easily traded as common shares of a publicly-traded REIT, they can be converted into REIT shares after a holding period, typically one year. This provides investors with increased liquidity compared to holding individual real estate properties.

Drawbacks of a 721 Exchange

  1. Loss of Control: Investors give up direct control over their real estate assets by contributing their property to a REIT. The management of the properties is now in the hands of the REIT’s management team.
  2. Tax Implications: While a 721 Exchange allows investors to defer capital gains taxes, they will eventually have to pay taxes when they sell their OP units or convert them into REIT shares. Additionally, REIT dividends are generally taxed as ordinary income, which may increase some investors’ tax rates.
  3. Potential for Depreciation: As with any investment, there is a risk that the value of the OP units or the underlying real estate assets held by the REIT may decline over time.

How to Execute a 721 Exchange

The process of executing a 721 Exchange involves several steps:

  1. Identify a suitable REIT: The first step is to identify a REIT that is interested in acquiring the investor’s property and has a compatible investment strategy.
  2. Negotiate terms: The investor and the REIT will need to negotiate the terms of the exchange, including the valuation of the property and the number of OP units to be issued in exchange for the property.
  3. Due diligence: The REIT will typically conduct due diligence on the property to ensure it meets their investment criteria and standards.
  4. Closing the transaction: Once the due diligence is complete, the parties will execute the necessary legal documents to transfer the property to the REIT and issue the OP units to the investor.

Like a 1031 Exchange, a 721 Exchange can be an attractive option for real estate investors looking to diversify their portfolios, defer capital gains taxes, and benefit from professional management. However, it is essential to carefully consider the potential drawbacks and work with an experienced financial advisor to figure out if a 721 Exchange is the right strategy for your unique financial situation.

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