What Does it Mean When a House Sells for $1 In California?

For most people, owning a home is a big goal and a sign of success. But since the pandemic, demand for homes shot up, making prices skyrocket—up to 7 times the average annual income as of June 2022 in the US.

Homes are getting too expensive for lots of people, especially millennials, born between 1980 and 2000.

Given this info, maybe you’re a parent wanting to help your kid buy their first house. You could do this by selling them a home for a super low price.

But how low of a price can you go?…

What Does it Mean when a House Sells for $1 In California

The short answer is yes, you can sell a house for $1. But, you’ll find that doing so can have a lot of tax implications. So, we put together this guide to give you an understanding of the process and what you can do to mitigate the tax hit.

When you sell a house, you give someone else ownership of the property in return for something valuable, typically money, which is known as “consideration.” This fair trade makes it a legal sale.

What is Nominal Consideration & Valuable Consideration In California

In a usual home sales process, the buyer pays you, the seller, what is considered valuable consideration. The closing price typically aligns closely with the present market value of the property. No one is at a disadvantage in this transaction as both sides receive their rightful share. For instance, selling a house in its current condition to a relative. An example of this is selling as-is to a family member.

When you sell a house to your family or child for a token amount like one dollar, it’s called nominal consideration. That’s because one dollar doesn’t match the actual market value of the property. If it’s clear that one party is getting much less than the property’s true value, it’s important to note that it’s not necessarily against the law. however, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will want to look more closely at the transaction.

Specifically, how much taxes they could collect on the sale.

You may believe that transferring property to your child for a low price, like a dollar, would let you dodge IRS involvement. But that’s not true. If your property is sold to your child for much less than its actual value, the IRS sees it as a gift and you’ll face a gift tax.

Do You Have to Pay Taxes when Selling a House to a Family Member for In California

Gift Tax

The gift tax applies to imbalanced property transfers where one party receives significantly less than the other.

The good news is, there’s an annual exemption of $16,000 for individuals and $32,000 for couples. This exemption applies per person, so if your child is married, you can give each spouse up to $32,000 without tax consequences. The gift tax rate, ranging from 18% to 40%, is then applied to any amount exceeding the exemption.

The gift tax is separate from federal taxes. Currently, Florida, California, Wisconsin, and Virginia do not impose a gift tax.

Gift Tax In California

You have the option to pay taxes in the year of the gift or defer them by utilizing your lifetime estate tax exemption.

Every individual has the freedom to gift a set sum during their lifetime without facing tax obligations. This protection against taxes persists posthumously, termed the Federal estate tax exemption. Consequently, upon death, the total value of one’s possessions is tallied, with any surplus amount liable to estate taxes.

In 2022, the exemption stands at $12.06 million but is slated to decrease to $5.49 million in 2025 unless Congress enacts a permanent adjustment.

Capital Gains Tax

You may be wondering about the tax implications if you decide to transfer ownership of your home to your child for a nominal fee, like a dollar. What about the increase (or decrease) in value since you purchased it? And what if you’ve upgraded the property, boosting its worth?

Here’s how it works: When you transfer ownership to your child, they inherit the same tax basis as you, which includes the original purchase price plus any enhancements you’ve made. So, if you bought the property for $50,000 two decades ago and invested another $50,000 in improvements, your child’s tax basis would be $100,000, even if the current market value is assessed at $400,000.

Capital Gains Tax In California

What this means is, that if your child decides to sell the house at fair market value, the computation for capital gains tax purposes will be up to 20% of the profit ($300,000).

Example: Selling to Family Members for $1

Let’s say you have a home you bought for $30,000 three decades ago. Thanks to incredible growth in real estate values, it’s now valued at a massive $400,000. So, you and your spouse decide to sell or transfer it to a married family member for a token price of $1. The tax authorities will then see this as a gift worth $399,999.

How much tax do you owe if the highest gift tax rate of 40% applies to you?

Taxable amount = Market value – payment – exemptions

Taxable amount = $400,000 – $1 – $64,000

Example Selling to Family Members for In California

Taxable amount = $335,999

Gift tax = Taxable amount * 40%

Gift tax = $134,399.60

Although the tax bill may seem huge, you can choose to subtract it from your lifetime exemption, so you don’t need to pay it now.

Remaining lifetime estate tax exemption = $12,060,000 – 134,999.60

Remaining exemption = $11,925,000.40

It’s important to consult a tax attorney before finalizing the sale of your property to a family member, especially if it’s priced at one dollar. This consultation will determine your tax liabilities accurately. If the taxes seem excessive, the attorney can assist in reducing them.

Yes, many real estate transfers are made without consideration to the grantor. Simply speaking, ownership of the property passes to another individual (grantee) with the grantor receiving nothing in return. This is performed through a property deed.

Examples of no-consideration property deeds are as follows:

  • Transfer between spouses
  • Transfers from the estate of a deceased person
  • Transfers between family members
  • Transfers made after divorce has been finalized

If a property is given away for free to a family member, the grantor will usually use a quit claim deed to transfer the title.

What are Other Reasons for Selling a House for $1?

It’s also possible that a property is very run-down and will need substantial funds to meet regulations and be habitable again. Plus, it likely owes thousands in property taxes and other liens.

Seller wants a bidding war

Unless the real estate deal is with a family member, it is extremely rare that a house sells for an actual sale price of $1. Sometimes a house sits on the market for too long. So, upon the advice of a real estate agent, the seller would re-list the property for $1 to possibly spark a bidding war amongst potential buyers.

seller wants a bidding war In California

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) acquires foreclosed houses or those that owe a lot in back taxes and sells these to local governments for $1 in order to provide housing for low to moderate-income families.

The local governments will then fix up the properties and decide the sale price which is easily accessible to those who may need it the most.

Blighted areas

In some parts of the US, real estate and job situations have gotten really bad, causing folks to leave their homes and go elsewhere. These areas have lots of beat-up, empty houses and an overall feeling of emptiness.

To entice folks to come back, governments offer housing deals like the Dollar House Initiative in Gary, Indiana. Here, buyers can snag a house for just a buck! But there are a couple of conditions to meet, like having a family income of at least $35,000 and agreeing to fix up the place and live there for at least five years.

Blighted areas In California

While it’s possible to sell your home for just a dollar, especially to family or others, there are numerous hidden costs to consider. Taxes like gift, estate, and capital gains can be complex, so consulting with a legal expert is wise to understand the intricacies.

Alternatively, if you’re dealing with a property draining your finances and feel compelled to sell for a dollar, why not explore selling to us? At JiT Home Buyers, we buy homes as-is!

We can provide you the best deal with a cash offer from our network of cash buyers from across the United States. You don’t have to deal with the hassle of working with a real estate agent and their fees!

Interested? Fill out our form so we can get started. If you have any questions, you can reach us at (510) 473-5885 and we’d love to hear from you!

California Resources

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We Buy Houses AS-IS In California

We are a local real estate investment company in California that buys houses in any condition. We also buy mobile homes and condos in any condition. You can sell your house fast for cash regardless of the condition.

Our service area includes homes in San Francisco, San Jose, Sacramento and throughout California. Our goal is to serve homeowners with a simple solution when selling there house fast.

You can start the process to sell your house fast by calling us or filling in the online form. We will respond back to you the same day and present you with a fair cash offer for your house. If you accept our cash offer for your home, you can schedule a closing date and get cash for your house.

The Easiest Way To Sell Your House Fast In California

You’re in the driver’s seat when you accept our cash offer for your house. We make the process simple, fast, and easy to follow when working with us. You have no obligation to accept our cash offer for your home when contacting us for a fair cash offer for your home. No matter the reason you want to sell your house, we want to buy your home as is. Remember that you get many benefits that include no real estate agent commissions, no cleaning, no improvements, and no stress. Our cash offer for your as-is house assures you of fast cash payment at closing with a reputable Title company. You can count on our company to give you a fair cash offer for your home! If you’re still thinking, “I need to sell my house fast”, calling us could be your best decision all day. 🙂

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Author: Saini

My name is Saini, and I founded the JiT Home Buyers team with years of experience in the real estate industry. I have assisted numerous sellers in selling their homes quickly, “AS-IS”, and for a fair price.

He’s been featured in multiple publications including Yahoo Finance, GoBankingRates, LegalZoom, The Mortgage Report, Apartment Therapy, US News and World Report, and SuperMoney among others.

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