Sell Your Property What You Need To Know When Selling an Investment Property

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Strategies and tips to maximize profits!

Are you considering selling a rental property? If so, using the right strategies can help you profit from the sale of an investment property and reduce your tax liability. Marketing the rental property, deferring capital gains taxes, and having a robust sales strategy are a few ways to sell an investment property for the best price.

Investment properties can be a reliable source of income to build personal wealth and enjoy recurring cash flow. However, circumstances change, and you may need to sell a rental property. But many variables affect your success in the selling process. Therefore, selling an investment property requires careful planning and execution. 

This article examines the top strategies and tips to help maximize your profits and make selling a rental property as smooth as possible.

When to Sell an Investment Property

The right time to sell an investment property depends on several factors.

Experienced investors often consider selling rental properties in various scenarios, such as when the local rental market stagnates, the property generates negative cash flow, high property taxes make it unviable, or when they seek portfolio diversification or need to address major life events. Property appreciation can also be a motivating factor for selling.

Keeping a close eye on your property’s performance and market trends can help you decide whether to sell or hold onto your investment for longer.

Strategies for Selling an Investment Property

Selling an investment property can be daunting for a new real estate investor. The sale of a rental property usually means paying capital gains tax and dealing with existing tenants. Plus, you have all the standard paperwork involved with a house sale.

Here are some strategies and tips for real estate investors to ensure a smooth and profitable property sale.

Assess the health of the local real estate market

Before selling a rental property, it is crucial to assess the local real estate market and rental conditions thoroughly. This analysis helps determine the market’s attractiveness to potential investors and provides insights into the demand and supply dynamics.

It’s also good to know if it’s a buyer’s or seller’s market. Remember that selling in a buyer’s market could be tough. And it may mean the property sits on the market for a long time, or you must drop the sales price.

Here are some signs that you can sell your rental property in a strong market:

  • High occupancy rates.
  • A strong local employment market.
  • High demand for rental properties.
  • Upcoming development or construction projects.
  • Positive population growth.

Selling a rental property in a strong market gives prospective property owners peace of mind.

Determine the right price

Listing the rental property at a fair market value (FMV) to attract real estate investors is crucial. To determine the right price for your rental property, utilize real estate comps by analyzing the average sales prices of comparable homes sold in the past three to six months. Another option is to seek a home value appraisal from a local real estate agent. These methods will help you set a fair market value (FMV) that attracts potential buyers.

Identify your target buyer

Identifying your target audience is crucial when selling a real estate asset. The type of buyer affects your selling strategy, sales price, and negotiation tactics. For example, a buyer who wants to purchase property for business or investment purposes differs from one who plans to live there.

Remember that most real estate investors are only interested in one thing—potential return on investment. However, selling a single-family rental home to a young couple requires a different approach. They usually want a place to “call home,” not to earn rental income.

Here are some examples of types of buyers to consider if you are thinking of selling your rental property:

  • Real estate investors seeking turnkey rental properties for investment purposes 
  • Buyers looking for a single-family rental home to serve as their primary residence
  • The current tenant interested in buying the property
  • A “cash-only” buyer who wants to buy a property in any condition

Therefore, depending on your sales strategy, you could use a real estate agent or sell a rental property FSBO—For Sale By Owner. FSBO would mean arranging the property sale and paperwork with the current renter or looking for a property investor. You can save money on agent fees, but more work is involved.

It’s important to remember that your selling strategy depends on the type of buyer. For example, a property investor knows that buying rental property with a good tenant minimizes lost rent. Therefore, they may be willing to pay over the odds for a solid investment. However, selling to the current occupier may mean you only get fair market value for the rental property sale.

Minimize your rental property’s expenses

You want to ensure the rental property is an attractive investment to potential buyers. Therefore, improving the property’s cash flow by reducing expenses makes financial sense. Of course, this doesn’t mean slacking on essential maintenance or repairs. But you could look for ways to cut operating costs.

Here are a few tips to reduce overheads when selling a rental property:

  • Keep on top of property maintenance.
  • Identify maintenance jobs you could tackle yourself.
  • Determine if managing the property is more cost-effective than hiring a rental property manager.
  • Consider if improving energy efficiency or capital improvements would lower utility bills.

Maximize rental income

Maximizing income from rent payments can make the rental property sales price more appealing. For example, making a capital improvement can allow you to increase your rental prices as it can result in more profits when you sell. In most cases, the sale of single-family rental homes depends on their appeal to current tenants.

It’s good to note that you must check the current lease and local state landlord-tenant laws to determine when you can increase rent.

Analyze your tax liability before the investment property sale

It’s crucial to remember that selling a rental property falls under different taxation rules. Selling a business property means you are liable for capital gains taxes and depreciation recapture tax. Depending on your tax bracket and length of ownership, the tax rate can be between 0% and 25%.

The amount of tax you pay depends on capital gain and depreciation deduction. So, how much tax will you pay when selling a rental property? Here is a short guide to paying taxes on a rental property sale:

  • Short-term capital gains tax: If you sell a rental property you owned for less than a year, you are liable for hefty capital gains taxes. The capital gains tax rate is the same as for ordinary taxable income.
  • Long-term capital gains tax: Selling an investment rental property you own for a year or more makes you liable for long-term capital gains tax. The rate at which you pay the tax depends on your taxable income and filing status. Check with a tax professional about the current tax rate for your state.
  • Depreciation recapture tax: When you sell your rental property, you must pay taxes on depreciation deductions you claimed on your tax returns to reduce taxable net income.

You can legitimately defer capital gains taxes when selling a real estate investment. Section 1031 of the tax code lets you defer taxes by swapping one investment property for another.

There are a few caveats when deferring paying capital gains tax:

  • You must invest all the sales proceeds to avoid taking a tax hit.
  • The replacement property must be of equal or greater value to the property sold.
  • You are still liable to pay closing costs and legal fees.

Sell at the right time to reduce property taxes

Getting a healthy return on investment is all about timing. For example, you can reduce taxable income by holding an investment property for more than a year before selling it. This way, you pay taxes based on the long-term capital gains tax rate.

It is highly recommended to consult with a tax professional to understand the tax implications and strategies for selling an investment property to ensure you comply with tax regulations and optimize your tax position.

Arrange a pre-listing inspection and do repairs

Ensuring the rental property is in its best condition is vital for maximizing the purchase price. Therefore, arrange for a home inspection before listing. A pre-listing inspection flags any repair or maintenance issues. You can then resolve the issues before showing the property to potential buyers.

While a home inspection may involve some cost, it is a worthwhile investment as it can save time and potential complications during the sales process. By addressing any repair issues identified in the pre-listing inspection, you can present the property in better condition and give potential buyers confidence in their purchase. This may lead to smoother negotiations and a higher likelihood of closing the deal successfully.

Get documentation in order before you list your rental property

There is a difference between selling a rental property and a personal residence. The potential buyer is likely an investor interested in making money from the property. Therefore, you must have all the relevant documents when selling an investment property. These include the following:

  • Income and expenditure projections
  • Current rental agreements
  • Disclosures
  • Recent utility bills
  • Current year’s tax bill
  • Your tax returns

Communicate with your tenant

Open communication with current tenants is vital for maintaining good relations. If you plan to sell the home with an active lease, you can restate the renters’ minds about your plans. However, selling can get tricky if you want them to vacate the property before selling. Therefore, check clauses in the rental agreement about selling a tenant-occupied property.

Market your property 

A solid marketing strategy is vital for selling a rental property fast and for the best price. The first step is to stage the property for sale. This requires taking professional photographs to attract investors. Then, you can use the photographs to list the rental property on investor real estate websites.

How To Sell a Rental Property To an Existing Tenant

Selling a property with tenants differs from selling an unoccupied or primary residence. Various selling strategies can help sell your investment property fast, regardless of occupancy. However, much depends on the lease and your tenants.

Wait for the lease to expire

When selling a tenant-occupied property, checking the lease terms is crucial.

If the tenants have a month-to-month agreement, you can give them a written notice to terminate the tenancy by a specific date per local laws and regulations.

With a fixed lease agreement, the situation depends on the terms. For example, an early termination clause gives you more flexibility when selling. Therefore, the “ball is in your court” when you want to sell.

Suppose there is no early termination clause. In that case, the tenant can remain in the property until the lease expires. However, rental property owners have several options to sell the property and let the tenants remain.

Structure a rent-to-own agreement

Have you considered your current tenant to be a potential buyer? This strategy could be a win-win situation for you and the tenant. From the tenant’s viewpoint, they don’t have to move, and they become proud homeowners. From your side, you avoid the hassle of staging the property, listing it, and all the other time-consuming tasks of selling a home.

Of course, if the tenant can arrange financing, the house-selling process is quick and efficient.

Suppose the tenant needs time to secure a mortgage. For example, they must save for the down payment. In this case, you can arrange a rent-to-own agreement. Typically, you let the tenant continue to pay rent for a set period, say five years. After that, they can buy the property at the agreed purchase price.

If you decide to sell to your tenant on a rent-to-own basis, a real estate attorney must draw up an “Option to Purchase” agreement.

Pay your tenant to leave

Suppose you cannot wait for a fixed-term lease to expire. In that case, you must negotiate an amicable exit strategy with your tenant. This method usually involves offering a financial incentive to leave. In other words—pay them to vacate.

Here are a few options to entice your tenant to vacate the property:

  • Pay for moving costs
  • Pay their security deposit on the new place
  • Offer to pay the difference in rent on a comparable home for the time left on the lease
  • Pay them a cash sum to encourage them to vacate

However, weighing the pros and cons of paying them to move is good. In some cases, it makes sense to let the lease expire. However, if you need to sell quickly, parting with your cash can help you move on.

Sell a rental property with an active lease

Some real estate investors actively look for rental properties with tenants. This type of deal means the new owner doesn’t have to look for tenants. Instead, they let the current tenant live there for the remainder of the lease period. After that time, the landlord can decide whether to extend the lease.


The decision to sell your rental property for a healthy profit requires a robust strategy. Selling rental properties differs from selling a primary residence in two ways—dealing with tenants and deferring capital gains tax.

If the rental property is tenant-occupied, you must consider the lease agreement terms carefully. For example, does it have an early termination clause or not? If not, have a strategy to encourage the tenant to move or find a real estate investor willing to take on the current lease.

Selling an investment property means paying tax on capital gains and recapture depreciation. Using the 1031 exchange is a way to defer paying capital gains tax if you invest in a “like-kind” property.Knowing the right time to sell an investment property is part of a solid exit strategy. You can learn more about refinancing, selling, or deferring capital gains taxes in part of BiggerPockets’ SMARTER Guide to Real Estate Investing.

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