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Tax Benefits of Real Estate Investment Properties – IRS Rules Explained

Renting versus buying can be a difficult choice. Still, according to The Wall Street Journal, almost two-thirds of American households own homes. Many more own rental properties or second vacation homes. By contrast, a Gallup Poll found that only one-half of Americans own stocks.

Home equity is the foundation of personal wealth in the United States, representing about two-thirds of net worth for most American households, per Bloomberg. The expansion of home ownership has been stimulated by government programs and tax advantages to incentivize the purchase of houses. According to a study in Social Forces, home ownership leads to “a stronger economy, better schools, and an invested, proactive citizenry.” Homeowners have higher voting rates and are more involved in civic organizations.

Owning real estate has some unique financial advantages. For example, homeowners can deduct their mortgage interest, mortgage insurance premiums, and property taxes from ordinary income. Also, proceeds from the sale of a house are treated as capital gains for taxes – up to $250,000 of the gain can be excluded from income for a single taxpayer or $500,000 for a couple filing a joint return.

Owning a home or investment real estate offers huge advantages to both society and you individually. Here’s how to get the most out of your investment.

Real Estate as an Investment

Owning an investment property is significantly different than owning the property in which one lives. While investors share many common risks – illiquidity, lack of transparency, political and economic uncertainty – each investment property is unique, varying by use, location, improvement, and permanence. Each investment can be subject to a bewildering collection of tax rules, all of which affect the net return on investment.

Andy Heller, co-author of “Buy Even Lower: The Regular People’s Guide to Real Estate Riches,” notes that most people pay too much for their properties: “The profit is locked in immediately once the investor buys the property. Due to mistakes in analysis, the investor pays too much and then is surprised when he doesn’t make any money.”

Heller advises that success in real estate investing requires:

  1. Thorough Planning. Too many people fall in love with a property without a strategy to make profits.
  2. Realistic Expectations. Buying, owning and selling real estate is not an easy way to riches. Eric Tyson, co-author of “Real Estate Investing for Dummies,” notes that you have to be smart, willing to work, and cognizant of your personal risk tolerance.
  3. Detailed Due Diligence. In efforts to close deals before competitors, many buyers fail to adequately check the history, conditions, and limitations of a potential property purchase, ending with surprisingly expensive rehabilitation costs.
  4. Competent and Experienced Advisors. Successful real investors invariably have a team of consultants to assist them in finding, analyzing, purchasing, financing, managing, and selling their properties.
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