Why real estate investing in a self-directed IRA makes no sense

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The stock market’s recent volatility has created concern among investors about relying too much on equities to fund their retirement years.

Some have turned to real estate investing directly in their IRAs to avoid the risk of stocks. But that strategy itself is risky, and many investment and tax experts recommend steering clear of it.

“Caveat emptor,” or, let the buyer beware, says Karim Ahamed, senior investment adviser for wealth management firm HPM Partners in Chicago.

He and many others cite multiple reasons why buyers should beware. These include tax issues, the perils of investing in individual real estate properties and the pitfalls of dealing with these properties in an IRA.

“Unless someone is holding your hand and you know what you’re doing, the chances of getting tripped up are good,” Ahamed says. “So you’re better off not getting in trouble. You can invest in real estate through a (mutual) fund or REIT, where you get the benefits of the structure without the risk coming into play.” Those benefits include diversity in geography and types of properties.

Read on to learn the detailed case against real estate investing in a self-directed IRA.