How to Use a Self-directed IRA for Investing in Turnkey Real Estate

Savvy investors often utilize the self-directed IRA when saving for retirement.

The self-directed IRA (available in both traditional IRA and Roth IRA structures) offers significant flexibility compared to traditional custodian-based IRAs.

When paired with turnkey real estate investing, it can prove to be a robust strategy for building wealth and saving on taxes.

Here we discuss using a self-directed IRA to invest in turnkey real estate and how this combination can help you better maximize your returns with effective retirement account tax sheltering.

Understanding Self-directed IRAs

A self-directed IRA LLC is a type of individual retirement account that allows for a broader range of investments than what has typically been available in traditional IRAs.

self directed IRA llc

While traditional IRAs, particularly those established by an employer, typically limit you to the stock market, bonds, and mutual funds, a self-directed IRA opens the door to various other assets, including real estate, precious metal and even private placements and private equity.

Differences Between Traditional IRAs and Self-directed IRAs

The key difference between the two lies in the investment choices available.

For instance, traditional IRAs are managed by custodians who often restrict investments to standard financial products or worse, products proprietary to their organization.

In contrast, self-directed retirement accounts are managed by IRA custodians who allow for a wider array of investment opportunities.

This flexibility on your choice of investments can be advantageous for investors looking to diversify their portfolios beyond conventional assets.

Benefits of Self-directed IRAs

A self-directed IRA can offer several benefits to investors:

  • Investment Flexibility: Invest in a wide range of assets including real estate, private notes, precious metals, private equity, private placements, royalties and even cryptocurrencies.
  • Tax Advantages: Enjoy tax-deferred (traditional self-directed IRA) or tax-free (Roth self-directed IRA) growth, depending on the type of IRA. These tax benefits are one of the more significant features of a properly structured self-directed retirement account.
  • Diversification: Reduce risk and potentially hedge against inflation by spreading retirement investments across various asset classes.

Eligible Investment Types

While self-directed investors have more flexibility and choice when it comes to where their retirement funds are placed, it is crucial to understand the rules and restrictions to avoid prohibited transactions.

What is Turnkey Real Estate Investing?

Turnkey and sight unseen real estate investing involves purchasing properties that are either newly-developed or fully renovated and managed by a professional property management team.

These properties are either already rented and stabilized as a cash-flowing asset or they are ready to rent out, providing investors with a hassle-free way to earn passive income from the outset.

Benefits of Turnkey Real Estate Investing

  • Hassle-free Management: Professional property management companies handle all aspects of the property. The best turnkey opportunities include the best property managers. Vetting your property manager is paramount to your success in turnkey real estate investing.
  • Passive Income: Steady rental income with minimal effort from the investor. The property manager handles the day-to-day operations at a reasonable cost.
  • Immediate Cash Flow: Properties are often already rented out, generating income from day one.
  • Appreciation: Like any other real estate investment, turnkey properties also typically experience appreciation and upside in equity growth.
  • Tax Advantages: Accelerated depreciation can allow for front-loaded write-offs, allowing investors the ability to mitigate tax liabilities from a W2 paycheck.

The Process of Acquiring a Turnkey Property

  1. Research: Identify reputable turnkey properties.
  2. Selection: Choose properties via our website based on location, potential returns, and management quality.
  3. Purchase: Complete the transaction (within your self-directed retirement account) and hand over management to the property management company.

Why Use a Self-directed IRA for Turnkey Real Estate?

Combining a self-directed account with turnkey real estate investing offers several advantages.

Advantages of Combining the Two

  • Tax-deferred or Tax-free Growth and Income: Earnings from real estate investments grow tax-deferred or even tax free (with a Roth) within your IRA.
  • Diversification: Real estate adds a tangible asset to your retirement portfolio that can also mitigate as a hedge against inflation.
  • Potential for Higher Returns: Real estate can (but not always) offer higher returns compared to traditional investments.

Steps to Invest in Turnkey Real Estate Using a Self-directed IRA

Setting up your self-directed IRA for investing in turnkey real estate is as simple as finding a custodian and funding the account.

In choosing a custodian, there are a myriad of options, but we typically advise toward the least expensive option as custodians are somewhat of a commodity service.

Once the account is set up with “checkbook control” (often referred to as a checkbook IRA LLC) you can start (within the confines of typical IRA limitations discussed further below) investing in alternative assets.

A typical self-directed retirement account can be funded from a rollover from one or more other IRAs or 401(k) accounts.

Non-Recourse Financing Options with Your Self-directed IRA

Non-recourse lending is a type of loan that is secured by collateral, typically real estate, but where the borrower is not personally liable in the event of default.

In the context of a self-directed account, this means that if the borrower defaults on the loan, the lender can only seize the collateral property, not any other assets of the IRA or the investor.

This is a critical feature when acquiring leveraged properties (i.e. not “all cash” deals) with an IRA since IRS regulations prohibit personal guarantees on loans within your IRA.

Importance of Non-recourse Lending in a Self-directed IRA

When using a self-directed IRA to invest in real estate, non-recourse loans are essential because they comply with IRS rules that prevent the account holder from personally guaranteeing any loan taken by the IRA.

Non-recourse lending allows the IRA to leverage its purchasing power without violating these IRS regulations, enabling investors to acquire higher-value properties and potentially achieve greater returns with the accompanying leverage.

However, there are a very narrow sub-set of lenders that will actually allow for non-recourse loans and the underwriting standards are typically more restrictive and cumbersome than typical real estate financing.

Benefits of Non-recourse Lending

  • Leverage: Allows the IRA to purchase more valuable properties than it could with cash alone, potentially increasing returns.
  • Asset Protection: Limits the lender’s recourse to the collateral property, protecting the other assets within the IRA and the investor’s personal assets.
  • Tax Advantages: Any income generated by the property, after loan payments, grows tax-deferred or tax-free within the IRA, depending on the type of IRA.

Risks and Considerations of Non-recourse Borrowing

  • Higher Costs: Non-recourse loans often come with both higher transaction/closing costs and higher interest rates and fees, which can impact overall returns.
  • Lower LTV: Because there is no recourse in the event of default, the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio on non-recourse IRA loans is typically much lower. If they have to retake the property in the event of a default, they need to cover and mitigate their own liability.
  • Strict Requirements: Non-recourse lenders typically have more stringent requirements for the property’s condition, location, and income potential.
  • Potential for Unrelated Business Income Tax (UBIT): If the property generates significant income, it may be subject to UBIT, which can affect the IRA’s tax advantages.

Because many of the IRS rules surrounding self-directed IRAs are strict and breaking of those rules can, in some cases, disqualify the entire IRA, it is best always to get the advice of experienced legal counsel when discussing your real estate investments.

Legal and Compliance Considerations

While there are many advantages to using a self-directed IRA to invest in turnkey properties, it is essential investors understand all the rules that can impact the viability of a transaction in acquiring real estate with an IRA.

Prohibited Transactions and Disqualified Persons

The IRS has strict rules on prohibited transactions (structure and type) and disqualified persons (or those who can invest alongside the IRA LLC).

Violating these rules can result in severe tax and legal penalties.

Ensure all transactions and management practices comply with IRS guidelines to avoid penalties and preserve the tax-advantaged status of your IRA.

Common Challenges and How to Overcome Them

Finding the Right Custodian

Select a custodian with experience in self-directed IRAs and real estate investments.

Navigating Complex Rules and Regulations

Work with legal and financial advisors to understand and comply with all regulations.

Managing Risks Associated with Real Estate Investments

Diversify your investments and conduct thorough due diligence to mitigate risks.

Success Stories and Case Studies

Exploring real-life examples of successful investments can provide valuable insights and inspiration. Here are a few case studies:

  • Case Study 1: An investor who leveraged a self-directed IRA to acquire multiple turnkey properties, resulting in significant passive income and portfolio growth. Our team still works with this individual who now is using his real estate IRA cash flow to branch into new properties and other investments.
  • Case Study 2: A retiree who wanted more cash flow in a Roth IRA, acquired properties with a roller and used rental income from turnkey properties to fund he and his wife’s retirement lifestyle, including copious amounts of travel


Using a self-directed IRA to invest in turnkey real estate can be a powerful strategy for building wealth and securing a comfortable retirement.

By understanding the process, adhering to legal guidelines, and conducting thorough due diligence on how you spend and invest your retirement savings, you can maximize your investment returns and enjoy the benefits of both tax-deferred growth and passive income.

Additional Resources

For further reading and expert guidance, consider the following resources:

For personalized advice and assistance, feel free to contact us at

Our team of experts is here to help you navigate the complexities of self-directed IRA investing and achieve your financial goals.

Nate Nead