Reverse Exchange: What It Is, How It Works, and Examples


A reverse exchange in real estate involves acquiring replacement property before selling the current property, enabling investors to strategically time their sales for potential profit maximization.

What is a reverse exchange?

A reverse exchange in real estate is a unique property transaction method where the replacement property is purchased before the sale of the current property. Unlike traditional exchanges, it allows investors to secure a new property first, affording flexibility in timing the sale of their existing property to optimize profit.

How a reverse exchange works

In a reverse exchange, the standard rules of like-kind exchanges may not directly apply. Typically, investors can defer capital gains taxes on a property sale by reinvesting the profits into a “like-kind” property. However, the IRS has established safe-harbor rules allowing for like-kind treatment, particularly if the properties are held in a qualified exchange accommodation arrangement (QEAA).

Special considerations

Success in a reverse exchange depends on an investor’s financial readiness to fund the new property without having completed the sale of the old one. Securing appropriate funding or working with specialized lenders is crucial in this process. The investor must meet financial obligations without the proceeds from the relinquished property’s sale.

Requirements for reverse exchanges

Reverse exchanges, governed by Section 1031 of the Internal Revenue Code, pertain to real property held for investment or business purposes. There are strict timelines—an investor has 45 days to identify potential replacement property and 180 days to finalize the purchase, or taxes will apply.

IRS guidelines and evolving rules

The IRS has clarified reverse exchange rules through Revenue Procedure 2000-37, offering guidelines for property owners undertaking such transactions. Despite this, confusion remained, leading to a Tax Court ruling in 2017 (Estate of Bartell, 147 T.C. No. 5, 2016) challenging the IRS’s stance on the responsibilities of exchange facilitators in a valid 1031 reverse exchange.


Here is a list of the benefits and drawbacks of reverse exchanges.

  • Flexibility in timing property sales
  • Potential for profit maximization
  • Allows acquiring a new property before selling the current one
  • Complex process requiring specialist facilitation
  • Financial readiness required for new property acquisition
  • Strict IRS guidelines and timelines

Frequently asked questions

What are the key differences between a reverse exchange and a delayed exchange?

In a reverse exchange, the replacement property is acquired before the sale of the current property, allowing flexibility in timing the sale for optimal profit. In contrast, a delayed exchange involves first selling or trading the current property before acquiring a new one.

Can any property be used in a reverse exchange?

Not every property is eligible. Section 1245 or 1250 properties are ineligible for this transaction. Reverse exchanges primarily apply to Section 1031 properties, typically investment or business-related.

Key takeaways

  • A reverse exchange enables acquiring replacement property before selling the current property.
  • Investors must adhere to strict IRS guidelines and timelines.
  • Financial readiness is crucial for funding the replacement property in a reverse exchange.
View article sources
  1. Reverse Like-Kind Exchanges: A Principled Approach – Brooklyn Law School
  2. Section 1031 Exchanges: Pitfalls and Policy Implications* – Iowa State University
  3. Nontaxable, Like-Kind Exchanges Under Internal Revenue Code Section 1031 – West Chester University
  4. Like-Kind Exchanges: Definition, Tax Benefits, and Real-Life Examples – SuperMoney