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Trading the Landlord Hat for Tax Benefits: 721 vs. 1031 Exchanges Explained

For real estate investors feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of property management, and want to take advantage of current property valuations, the allure of a 721 exchange offers a welcome respite. Not only does it provide an exit strategy from the landlord role, but it also unlocks substantial tax benefits, including the potential for a step-up in basis for inheritance tax purposes. In this article, we delve into the tax advantages of 721 exchanges for investors seeking relief from landlord duties, compare them to 1031 exchanges, and highlight their implications for estate planning.

Understanding 721 Exchanges

A 721 exchange, also known as a UPREIT (Umbrella Partnership Real Estate Investment Trust) exchange, allows investors to exchange their real estate holdings for shares in a Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) without triggering immediate tax liabilities. This exchange structure provides investors with an opportunity to transition from direct property ownership to a more passive investment vehicle while deferring capital gains taxes.

Tax Benefits of 721 Exchanges

1. Tax Deferral: The primary benefit of a 721 exchange is the ability to defer capital gains taxes on the sale of appreciated real estate assets. By exchanging properties for shares in a REIT, investors can postpone tax liabilities until they sell their REIT shares or otherwise trigger a taxable event. This tax deferral enables investors to retain more capital for reinvestment and potentially amplify their returns over time.

2. Avoidance of Depreciation Recapture: Participating in a 721 exchange also offers the advantage of potentially avoiding depreciation recapture taxes. When a property is sold for a gain, any depreciation claimed on the property must be recaptured and taxed at a higher rate. Through a 721 exchange, investors can exchange their properties for shares in a REIT without triggering depreciation recapture, thus minimizing their tax obligations.

3. Step-Up in Basis for Inheritance Tax Benefits: One significant benefit of 721 exchanges, especially for estate planning purposes, is the potential for a step-up in basis for inheritance tax benefits. When an investor passes away, their heirs receive a step-up in basis for inherited assets, including shares in a REIT acquired through a 721 exchange. This step-up in basis can result in reduced capital gains taxes for heirs if they choose to sell the inherited assets in the future.

Comparing 721 Exchanges to 1031 Exchanges

While both 721 and 1031 exchanges offer tax-deferred strategies for real estate investors, there are key differences between the two:

  • Asset Class: 721 exchanges involve exchanging real estate assets for shares in a REIT, whereas 1031 exchanges involve swapping one real estate property for another like-kind property.

  • Tax Treatment: In a 721 exchange, capital gains taxes are deferred until the sale of REIT shares, whereas in a 1031 exchange, taxes are deferred until the sale of the replacement property.

  • Flexibility: 721 exchanges offer greater flexibility in terms of asset management and diversification, as investors gain exposure to a diversified portfolio of properties through REIT shares. Conversely, 1031 exchanges require investors to identify and acquire specific replacement properties within strict timeframes.

For real estate investors seeking relief from the burdens of property management, capturing current increased property value gains, and looking to optimize their estate planning strategies, 721 exchanges offer a compelling solution and Wise Wealth Partners can help with that process! By deferring capital gains taxes, potentially avoiding depreciation recapture, and benefiting from a step-up in basis for inheritance tax purposes, investors can unlock valuable tax advantages while transitioning to a more passive investment vehicle. When comparing to 1031 exchanges, the flexibility and tax implications of 721 exchanges make them an attractive option for investors tired of being landlords and seeking to streamline their investment portfolios for long-term financial success.


The taxation of investment real estate is an important consideration in retirement, estate, and tax planning. Engaging with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP®) is a pivotal step in securing one's financial future. A CFP® is not just any financial advisor; they have undergone rigorous training and examinations to earn their certification, ensuring they possess the expertise to provide comprehensive financial advice tailored to individual needs. They adhere to a strict code of ethics, which emphasizes transparency, integrity, and putting the client's interests first. To review your financial challenges with a professional CONTACT US! 

Investing involves risk and possible loss of principal capital. No advice may be rendered by Wise Wealth Partners, LLC unless a client service agreement is in place. You should consult with your professional before engaging in any transactions.  © 2024 Wise Wealth Partners, LLC. All rights reserved.

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