Qualified Intermediary Requirements: 1031 Exchange Series Part Five
If you’ve been following along with our seven-part series on 1031 Exchange basics, you know that we’ve already covered the first three of the six basic requirements. Now, we are moving on to the fourth requirement, using a Qualified Intermediary. The IRS requires the process of a 1031 Exchange to be documented and managed by the Qualified Intermediary. In this article we will discuss the requirements for a Qualified Intermediary (QI), their role in the exchange process and what to look for your QI.
1031 Exchanges Require a Qualified Intermediary
The IRS has a strict set of rules and time limits that you must stick to in order to qualify for a 1031 Exchange. Using a Qualified Intermediary to document all the transactions of your exchange and hold your proceeds is part of those rules. The IRS code states that an unrelated third party must document and manage just the 1031 Exchange part of the transaction. During the exchange process, you will use the services of your usual and familiar real estate professionals. This may include a real estate attorney, a title company, an accountant for tax reporting, and probably several real estate agents. A Qualified Intermediary is simply another professional that is added during a 1031 Exchange. In addition to their mandated role, a good QI will also act as your guide through the process.
Something important to note here is that the Qualified Intermediary MUST be involved before the closing of the sale of your investment property. A 1031 Exchange starts with the sale of a piece of investment real estate and ends with the purchase of replacement property. But this only works if your Qualified Intermediary is in place prior to the sale.
Who Can Be Your Qualified Intermediary?
The Qualified Intermediary is an unrelated third party. While we have mentioned a “third party” before, it’s important to emphasize that the Qualified Intermediary must truly be a third party. It cannot be your attorney, real estate agent, husband, or wife, etc. It has to be a completely unrelated party where all they do for you is document and manage your 1031 Exchange.
While the statue isn’t completely clear on what “qualified” is, it is crystal clear on what disqualifies someone from this role. That is: if there's an agency relationship, a business relationship or a family relationship, the person or entity would be disqualified. This essentially means that as long as you haven’t purchased used tires from the used tire shop down the road, they could technically act as the Qualified Intermediary. However, that’s clearly not in your best interest. To understand why, let’s take a look at exactly what the Qualified Intermediary does.
What does the Qualified Intermediary Do?
The Qualified Intermediary will work alongside you and the rest of your regular professionals to document the entire 1031 Exchange and hold the proceeds from your sale. At a minimum, this includes:
- * Creating an exchange agreement (between QI and the investor)
- * Providing the assignment of contract rights (signed by the investor and enacted by the title company)
- * Giving notification (all parties to the transaction have to be notified – no standard of when)
- * Receiving and maintaining sale proceeds during the transition into the new investment/until the end of the exchange
Let’s take a closer look at these official aspects of the QI’s role.
EXCHANGE AGREEMENT: There will need to be an exchange agreement between you and your Qualified Intermediary that lays out all of the requirements we discuss in this article series. This agreement will specify what your role is going to be, what you’re going to have to do to finish the exchange, and what the Qualified Intermediary is going to do for you. This exchange agreement will be your contract with them.
ASSIGNMENT OF RIGHTS: As part of the process of using the Qualified Intermediary, there must be an assignment of rights. This is where you assign your rights to the sell the property to your Qualified Intermediary. Many states and jurisdictions already have real estate contracts that have check the boxes or default cooperation addendums for a 1031 Exchange. If that is not the case with your contract, we recommend you simply make your contracts assignable if possible. Regardless, this assignability and the exchange documents prepared by your QI allow the title company to direct deed the properties from the exchanger to the buyer and from the seller to the exchanger.
Note that your QI should never take title to either the relinquished or replacement properties. The QI is the assignee only on the settlement statement. This is an aspect of the assignment of rights that should be discussed in your Qualified Intermediary selection process (see more below).
NOTIFICATION: The statute does not specify how or when the parties to the exchange must be notified, only that it is required. Some exchangers have experienced more aggressive bargaining situations when the seller realizes a 1031 Exchange is in process. As a result, most QIs opt to provide this required notice as part of the closing process.
RECEIPT AND MAINTENANCE OF PROCEEDS: For an exchange to be valid, the investor may not have actual or constructive receipt of the proceeds from the sale of their relinquished property. Remember how we said before that you must have the Qualified Intermediary before you close the sale of your investment property? Part of the reason why is that after the closing of the sale, your proceeds must go into an exchange account with the Qualified Intermediary. The IRS considers funds in escrow with the title company constructive receipt by the seller, so the funds must be transferred to the QI. Then, when you purchase your replacement property, the funds will be transferred by the QI directly to the title company for closing.
Finding and Hiring the Right Qualified Intermediary
As your QI has to be an unrelated third party and will be holding significant cash on your behalf, we recommend you look for someone that meets these five criteria:
- * Uses dual signatory segregated, qualified escrow accounts for your exchange funds (at no charge).
- * Guarantees their exchange documentation.
- * Provides support and documentation in the case of an IRS audit (at no charge).
- * Is easily accessible to answer questions (at no charge).
- * Has extensive, verifiable experience and a solid reputation.
While the exchange fee charged is a consideration, there is a range and a variety of potential additional charges among QIs who meet the above criteria. We recommend you check out our previous article on how much an exchange should cost to see what you should be paying and what your fee covers.
Don’t miss the next part of our series on the 1031 Exchange basics, when we’ll be talking about all of the necessary title requirements.