BY Jeffrey Dixon, MBA, CISP, SDIP Vice-President of Business Development

Did you know a Self-Directed IRA or Solo 401k can buy rental Real Estate? This comes as a surprise to many people. However, not only can a retirement account buy real estate, it can use a mortgage loan to accomplish the purchase. When the IRA or Solo 401k borrows money, the IRS requires it must a non-recourse loan, made to the IRA or Solo k, with no personal guarantees from you. The loan must also be a portfolio loan, which means it cannot be sold into the secondary mortgage market. Using financing provides you the option to buy a more expensive property or multiple properties.

How Does the IRA qualify to borrow money?

Since this is a portfolio, non-recourse loan, made to the IRA, with no personal guarantees, you will find that not many lenders will agree to loan money an IRA. You are not the borrower and therefore your income, credit or personal assets are not considered. We can email you a list of lenders that will make a loan to an IRA.  These are not lenders we endorse; we are simply providing the list as a service.

The lender wants to see that the property has a positive cash flow after the mortgage payment and expenses. Therefore, the tenants are essentially repaying the loan. Lenders also expect the IRA to have cash reserves left in the account because the IRA has to cover all expenses of the property. uDirect requires the IRA to have a 10% cushion of the sales price left over in the IRA after buying the property. You can never use personal funds with this asset.

For example, one lender we know of uses this calculation. They like to see that Net Operating Income is at least 125% of the loan payment. This is known as the Debt Service Coverage Ratio (DSCR). A 1.25 DSCR is the minimum cash flow needed to qualify a property from a cash-flow perspective. To calculate this ratio, take the Net Operating Income after taxes, insurance, HOA fees, management, etc. and divide that figure by the Principal and Interest payment on the loan.

Lenders that make a loan to the IRA generally require 40-50% down-payments. You would need to discuss with the lender the rate and terms that they offer.

 What if the IRA Defaults on the Loan?

With non-recourse loans, you are not permitted to guarantee the loan.  As a result, all the lender can do is foreclose on the property and take it over to try and sell and recoup their loan. Therefore, they cannot try to go after other assets the IRA owns or that you own personally.

Unrelated Debt Financed Income tax (UDFI):

Borrowing money in an IRA will lead to a tax called Unrelated Debt Financed Income Tax (UDFI).  The Solo 401k is generally exempt to this tax.

Consider a transaction where you put down 40% and finance 60% of the property. Since there is 60% financing on the property, 60% of the rents are potential taxable. You show 60% of the rents on the 990t tax return. You also write off 60% of the expenses. Therefore, if there is a net profit, the IRA pays the tax. The percentage used each year changes as the loan balance is paid down and the value of the property changes. When the loan is paid off, this tax is no longer applicable.

The fact that the IRA can owe taxes on part of the rents and profits does not mean the investment is a bad idea. You need to determine the net profit the IRA would receive after factoring in taxes. The investment can still make sense. Your tax advisor can assist you with that. Depending on the market, the property can increase in value, which also adds value to your Self-Directed IRA.

Does a 1031 Tax Deferred Exchange make sense?

The general answer is no, because personal income taxes on an IRA owned asset are already tax deferred. However, selling an IRA owned property that has a loan on it is different. You might avoid the UDFI taxes that occur with the sale. This is a topic that needs to be discussed with a tax advisor.

Final Thoughts:

uDirect IRA Services, LLC is not a fiduciary and does not render tax, legal, accounting, investment, or other professional advice. If tax, legal, accounting, investment, or other similar expert assistance is required, the services of a competent professional should be sought.

Consulting a tax or legal professional regarding a decision about a retirement account is a very good idea.  Contact us if you have questions about this or any Self-Directed IRA related topic. You can reach us at (866) 706-2798 or  Get started today by completing an online application HERE.

No information in this article should be considered financial, tax, or legal advice and may not be relied upon as such.