Updated: Aug 14, 2019
The longer the better. Unfortunately, there is no safe holding period for property to automatically qualify for a 1031 Exchange. Keep in mind, the properties only need to be "held for investment" to be eligible for an exchange. Time of ownership is only one factor the IRS looks at when determining if the properties were "held for investment", thus qualifying for 1031 Exchange.
In one private letter ruling (PLR 8429039), the IRS stated that a minimum holding period of two years would be sufficient.
Although a private letter ruling does not establish legal precedent for all investors, there are many advisors who believe two years is a conservative holding period, provided no other significant factors contradict the investment intent.
Other advisors recommend that Exchangors hold property for a minimum of at least twelve months. The reason for this is twofold:
A holding period of 12 or more months means the investor will usually reflect it as an investment property in two tax filing years.
In 1989, Congress proposed a one year holding period for both the relinquished and replacement properties. Although this proposal was never incorporated into the tax code, some believe it represents a reasonable minimum guideline.
In addition to the holding period, the IRS may consider other factors in determining if a property was 'held for investment', such as:
The intended use of the property when it was acquired
How the property was ultimately used
Reported rental income and depreciation taken
Signed lease agreements with tenants
Advertising, promotion and efforts to rent or use the property
If the IRS ever questions the 'held for investment' requirement, it will certainly help to be prepared with evidence (past tax filings, copies of lease agreements, etc.) of intent.
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact our office anytime at 877-471-1031 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.