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The Often-Overlooked Value of a Ground Lease 1031 Exchange

A 1031 exchange is a popular tax-deferral strategy used by real estate investors to defer capital gains taxes on the sale of an investment property by reinvesting the proceeds into a like-kind property. While many investors are familiar with traditional 1031 exchanges, fewer are aware of the benefits and rules associated with a ground lease improvement exchange.

This specialized type of 1031 exchange offers unique advantages that can be particularly beneficial for investors looking to optimize their real estate investment strategy.

Understanding the Ground Lease 1031 Exchange

A ground lease improvement exchange involves using the proceeds from the sale of a relinquished property to acquire a leasehold interest in a ground lease and to make improvements on that leasehold interest.

Unlike a traditional 1031 exchange where the investor directly acquires a replacement property, this approach allows for the acquisition of a long-term leasehold interest (typically over 30 years) along with the construction of new improvements on the leased land.

Key Benefits of a Ground Lease 1031 Exchange

Tax Deferral and Cost Efficiency: Like traditional 1031 exchanges, a ground lease 1031 exchange allows investors to defer capital gains taxes on the sale of the relinquished property. Additionally, ground leases can often be more cost-effective than purchasing fee simple ownership of a property, allowing investors to leverage their capital more efficiently.

Flexibility in Property Development: This exchange type provides investors with the flexibility to develop or improve the property according to their specifications. This can be particularly advantageous for investors seeking to customize their investments to meet specific needs or market demands.

Strategic Location Opportunities: Ground leases often provide opportunities to secure prime locations that may not be available for fee simple purchase. By entering into a long-term ground lease, investors can benefit from strategic locations that enhance the value and potential return on their investment.

Risk Mitigation: Ground leases typically involve long-term agreements with stable landowners, which can offer stability and risk mitigation. The investor retains the leasehold improvements while benefiting from the security of a long-term lease arrangement.

Rules and Requirements

Identification and Timing: The process begins with the investor identifying the replacement property and the intended improvements within 45 days of the sale of the relinquished property. The improvements should be described in detail, including the legal description of the underlying land.

Qualified Intermediary and Accommodation Titleholder: The exchange requires the involvement of a Qualified Intermediary (QI) to facilitate the transfer. A special purpose entity (SPE) is typically formed to hold the leasehold interest during the construction period. This SPE, acting as the Exchange Accommodation Titleholder (EAT), plays a crucial role in the process.

Construction Period: The improvements on the leased property must be completed within 180 days of the transfer of the relinquished property. During this period, the SPE holds the leasehold interest, and the investor acts as the project manager, overseeing construction activities.

Value of Improvements: At the time of transfer to the investor, the combined value of the leasehold interest and the improvements must meet or exceed the value of the relinquished property to qualify for the tax deferral benefits. Any prepayments to contractors or non-real property items do not qualify for exchange treatment.

Practical Considerations

Investors should be aware of several practical considerations when pursuing a ground lease 1031 exchange:

Detailed Planning: Thorough planning and detailed documentation of the intended improvements are essential. The IRS requires clear identification of the improvements and adherence to the strict timelines set forth in the regulations.

Professional Guidance: Engaging experienced professionals, including tax advisors, legal counsel, and qualified intermediaries, is crucial to navigating the complexities of a ground lease 1031 exchange. These experts can provide valuable insights and ensure compliance with all regulatory requirements.

Risk of Non-Completion: There is a risk that the improvements may not be completed within the 180-day window. Investors should have contingency plans in place to address potential delays or complications in the construction process.

State-Specific Regulations: State laws may vary regarding what qualifies as real property. It is essential to understand and comply with the specific regulations in the state where the property is located.


A ground lease 1031 exchange offers accredited investors a powerful tool to defer taxes, strategically develop properties, and capitalize on prime locations. By understanding the unique benefits and requirements of this exchange type, investors can make informed decisions that enhance their investment portfolios.

For more information or to discuss how a ground lease 1031 exchange might benefit your investment strategy, please contact us today.  Our team of experts is here to provide the guidance and support you need to maximize your investment potential.

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Paul Getty

Paul Getty is a licensed real estate broker in the state of California and Texas and has been directly involved in commercial transactions totaling over $3 billion on assets throughout the United States. His experience spans all major asset classes including retail, office, multifamily, and student, and senior housing. Paul’s transaction experience includes buy and sell side representation, sourcing and structuring of debt and equity, workouts, and asset and property management. He has worked closely with nationally prominent real estate brokerage and investment organizations including Marcus Millichap, CB Richard Ellis, JP Morgan, and Morgan Stanley among others on the firm’s numerous transactions. Paul also maintains a broad network of active buyers and sellers of commercial real estate including lenders, institutions, family office managers, and high net worth individuals. Prior to founding First Guardian Group/FGG1031, Paul was a founder and CEO of Venture Navigation, a boutique investment banking firm specializing in structuring equity investments made by institutions and high net worth individuals. He possesses over 35 years of comprehensive worldwide business management experience in environments ranging from early phase start-ups to multi-billion-dollar corporations. His track record includes participation in IPOs and successful M&A activity that has resulted in investor returns of over $700M. Paul holds an MBA in Finance from the University of Michigan, graduating with honors, and a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry from Wayne State University. Paul Getty holds Series 22, 62, and 63 securities licenses and is a registered financial representative with LightPath Capital Inc, member FINRA /SIPC. Paul is a noted speaker, author, and actively lectures on investments, sales, and management related topics. He is author of The 12 Magic Slides, Regulation A+: How the JOBS Act Creates Opportunities for Entrepreneurs and Investors, and Tax Deferral Strategies Utilizing the Delaware Statutory Trust (DST), available on Amazon and other retail outlets.

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