Seller Financing Strategies and 1031 Exchanges

As interest rates rise and financing gets more challenging, sellers who are motivated to sell may offer to finance a portion of the purchase price. At the closing, the buyer deposits some cash and signs a seller carryback note for the balance. If structured as an installment sale under IRC Section 453, the seller pays tax on any gain as the payments are received rather than paying tax on the gain in the year of sale for the entire purchase price.

If the sellers are also contemplating a tax deferred exchange under IRC § 1031, they will have to decide how to treat the seller carryback note. The note can either be kept outside of the exchange or, under the limited conditions described below; it can be included in the exchange.


In most cases where there will be seller carryback financing, the note is not included in the 1031 exchange. The note is taxable boot, but the tax is paid over time as the payments are collected. For example, if you sign a five year note and pay a portion of the principal balance each year, the tax obligation will also be spread out over that five year period.   

When the note is not a part of the exchange, it should be payable to the seller and delivered directly to the seller at the time of closing. Only the cash proceeds received from the sale are delivered to the Qualified Intermediary (QI) and used as exchange funds.


If an investor wants to defer all of the gain in a 1031 exchange, including the amount represented by the note, he has several options. In each case, the note should be made payable to the QI. The QI collects all of the note payments during the term of the exchange and they become part of the exchange proceeds.

In order for the note to be used as part of the exchange, it must either be converted to cash prior to the purchase of the replacement property or the seller of the replacement property must agree to accept the note as full or partial payment for the property.

Convert the Note to Cash

There are several ways in which an investor may be able to convert the note to cash prior to his purchase of the replacement property. First, the note can be a short term note that matures before the investor intends to buy the replacement property. The note payments are made to the QI and they become exchange proceeds. Once the note is paid in full, the QI uses that cash to purchase the replacement property. Because the note would have to be completely paid during the exchange period, the maximum term of the note is the earlier of 180 days or when the replacement property closing occurs.

The second option is for the investor to buy the note from the QI. In order to avoid the possibility of constructive receipt, most tax advisors recommend that this occur at the closing of the replacement property. The QI then uses the funds to purchase the replacement property at that closing.

Finally, the investor can arrange for an unrelated third party to buy the note. The proceeds from the sale would go directly to the QI as exchange proceeds, and the QI uses those proceeds to buy the replacement property. 

Use the Note to Purchase Replacement Property

Occasionally, a seller is able to use the note as partial payment for the replacement property. In this scenario, the QI assigns the note to the seller of the replacement property at the closing.


Some sellers elect to lend the money to the buyer of the relinquished property up front as a “hard money loan” rather than through seller carryback financing. Using this option, the seller acts as a third party lender and deposits cash in the amount of the loan into escrow. The buyer uses the loan funds to acquire the property, and then escrow delivers those funds to the QI for use in the exchange.


When combining a seller carryback note with a 1031 exchange, it’s important to carefully examine all the options and consult with your tax advisor and First American Exchange prior to setting up the transaction.


First American Exchange Company, LLC, a Qualified Intermediary, is not a financial or real estate broker, agent or salesperson, and is precluded from giving financial, real estate, tax or legal advice. Consult with your financial, real estate, tax or legal advisor about your specific circumstances. First American Exchange Company, LLC makes no express or implied warranty respecting the information presented and assumes no responsibility for errors or omissions. First American, the eagle logo, and First American Exchange Company are registered trademarks or trademarks of First American Financial Corporation and/or its affiliates.