New Limits On Home Sale Profit Exclusion

If you are one of the fortunate folks who own a second home or rental property, and were planning to take fullest advantage of the capital gains tax exclusion on sale of your primary residence, the Housing Assistance Act of 2008 included a change that could impact your tax on the gains.

monopolypoortaxThe existing law excludes $250,000 of the profit from taxation if you’re single, and $500,000 if you’re married, when you sell a primary residence you’ve lived in for at least two of the last five years. (Your primary residence is the place you live; the address you use on your drivers license; where you’re registered to vote, etc.) If, for example, you bought a property in Ocean City, rented it out for several years, and then moved into it as your primary residence for a couple of years, your free-of-tax profit when you sell it under the existing law would have included any increase in value during the whole time you owned it (up to the limits).

The new law modifies that rule – it limits your exclusion (your free-of-tax profit) to the time the home was your primary residence. You must prorate the total profit between the periods the property was not your primary residence, and the periods that it was.

Only the period after January 1, 2009 is relevant – the period it was not your primary residence before that date won’t be counted in determining the “non-residence” time. For example, if you bought a second home on January 1, 2007, rented or vacationed in it for three years, moved into it on January 1, 2010, then lived in it for 3 years until you sold it, you would have owned the home for 6 years, during which it was a rental or vacation home for 3 years, and your residence for 3 years. However, since only one of the rental years was after January 1, 2009, the numerator in your calculation would be one (the number of non-residence years after January 1, 2009), and your denominator would be 6 (the total number of years you owned the property). In other words, 1/6 of your gain would be taxable; if your total profit was $150,000, then $25,000 of that would be taxable. Under the previous law you would have been able to avoid tax on up to $250,000 ($500,000 if married).

The new law only applies where the period when the property was a rental or vacation home before it became your primary residence. It does not apply if it was your primary residence first, and then became a rental or vacation property. In this case, you could be out of the home for up to three years before you would lose the $250,000/$500,000 exclusion.

If you had been planning to move into your current rental or vacation property, you should consider doing it as soon as possible to minimize your eventual taxes.

I’m not a tax professional – consult yours to verify this and explain it further.

Kim Hannemann, Real Estate Consultant/Realtor®, Samson Realty
Cell: 703-861-9234 • Fax: 703-896-5055 • Email:
It’s Good To Have A Friend In The Business®


If you would like to discuss real estate questions, sell or buy a home in Northern Virginia – including Alexandria, Annandale, Arlington, Burke, Centreville, Chantilly, Clifton, Fairfax, Fairfax Station, Falls Church, Kingstowne, Lorton, McLean, Reston, Springfield, or Vienna – contact Kim today.

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