Investing in Opportunity Zones

Chad Gleason CCIM

Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, Opportunity Zones were created with the idea of providing incentives for private investors to revitalize economically distressed communities, rather than using taxpayer money to do so. The main incentive is offering investors a way to shield their proceeds from capital gains taxes by investing those proceeds in these zones and hitting specific benchmarks.

Some of you might be wondering how this is different from a 1031 exchange? The key is that these investments don’t have to be like kind exchanges. To learn more about the rules behind these zones, review these frequently asked questions.

Now that we know what Opportunity Zones are, and why this act was initiated, lets see how it’s playing out in the real world from the perspective of Chad Gleason CCIM, with PENTAVIRATE in Seattle, Washington.

QFrom your perspective, why are Opportunity Zones good for the commercial real estate sector and communities in general?

AAnytime you are in a situation where you can have the added benefit and incentive to invest in real estate, it’s a great thing. We are working with groups who are looking at exit strategies from properties, but are hesitant to do so due to high capital gains tax costs. These zones offer an alternative to lower, and in some cases, totally negate the majority of capital gains taxes while providing the community with the benefit of improving dilapidated buildings or developing raw land.

QHow are local economic development groups using Opportunity Zones to attract investors?

AI am hearing of tax and zoning incentives being added to the already great benefits of the Opportunity Zones. This could be as simple as upzoning, as is the case here in the Seattle market, or with the addition of new market tax credits to the site, if applicable. Having designated assemblages within the zones are also key marketing tools for sites who are recruiting companies that are looking to develop, move or expand.

QLet’s say I want to invest in a property in an Opportunity Zone, can I just sell my Amazon stock and take those gains to buy a building?

AThere are a few options here: you can place all of your sale proceeds into the investment, partial proceeds or simply your gains from the prior investment. I would suggest sitting down with your REALTOR® and tax specialist to devise a strategy for your personal investment plan. The Opportunity Zone has great value when you are willing to place your funds in the project for up to 10 years.

QWhat is your go-to example of an actual project in an Opportunity Zone and what difficulties have investors encountered in trying to set themselves up to take advantage of these benefits?

AI usually don’t point to a specific example, but instead try to break down the impact for that specific client. Many investors are not willing to sell due to the large amount of capital gains taxes they would have to pay after the sale, so walking people through the process, showing them the pathway for reducing their capital gains taxes and showing them what that means to them in a cash on cash investment scenario, is the proper way to introduce them to an Opportunity Zone investment. The difficulties have been few outside of the timing of the roll out of rules that are now available to everyone. Over the course of the introduction of the program to the last round of the rules that were shared in May of this year, the relatively new program is only one and a half years old.

QHow are properties marketed differently when they are in an Opportunity Zone and what has been the impact of that fact on potential investor you work with?

AInvestors who are aware of the program and are looking to reduce the capital gains tax from a previous investment are now asking about properties in Opportunity Zones upfront in the process. In response, listing platforms as well as the agents using them are making sure that it is very clear their property is in a zone when it is, which makes finding properties easier and connects us to the other data we need to perform due diligence on projects.

QWhat advice would you give to a REALTOR® who is counseling a client on the purchase of a property in an Opportunity Zone in order to take advantage of the capital gains incentives?

AUse the information that is available to you through RPR along with NAR, CCIM, as well as your state and local associations. Learn as much as you can about the process, key points and timelines within the program. I strongly suggest you also work with the client’s real estate attorney and tax specialists to make sure the plan is right for them. The sale and reinvestment of the client’s sale proceeds is an important decision and needs to be very well understood for the success of everyone in on the transaction.

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