Selling Your Home? How Section 121 Saved Me Thousands

In their forties, many individuals transition from one home to another, often trading up from a modest dwelling to a more spacious one. During this phase, they face a critical decision: should they sell their former, smaller residence or retain it as a rental property? A thorough comprehension of Section 121 exclusion can greatly influence this decision, as it offers substantial tax savings opportunities that shouldn’t be overlooked.

What is Section 121 Exclusion?

Section 121 exclusion refers to a provision in the U.S. tax code, specifically in the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 121, which allows individuals to exclude a certain amount of gain from their income when they sell their primary residence. As of writing of this blog post, the exclusion amounts were up to $250,000 for single filers and up to $500,000 for married couples filing jointly, provided that they meet certain criteria.

Ownership: The individual must have owned the property for at least two out of the five years preceding the sale.

Use: The property must have been the individual’s primary residence for at least two out of the five years preceding the sale.

Frequency Limitation: The exclusion can generally be used only once every two years.

Partial Exclusion: If the ownership and use requirements are not met due to certain specific circumstances, such as a change in location of employment, health issues, or other unforeseen events, a partial exclusion may still be available.

It’s important to note that any gain exceeding the exclusion limits would be subject to capital gains tax. Also, if the home was used for business or as a rental property, there might be additional tax implications.

My Personal Experience

I once found myself in a situation that perfectly illustrates the practical implications of Section 121 exclusion. Back in August 2018, I decided to move out of my modest abode and purchase a larger home. My former residence was then converted into a rental property. Fast forward to April 2021, it struck me that overlooking the tax benefits of Section 121 exclusion would be unwise. Over the 7 years I inhabited that house, its value had doubled, pushing my potential capital gains over the $500K mark! This realization propelled me to initiate the sale process immediately.

However, the process wasn’t without its challenges. A tenant was occupying the property, and it required certain improvements before it could be put on the market. Fortunately, the tenant was cooperative and vacated the premises, allowing me to carry out the necessary renovations. By the time I listed the house for sale, it was already July 2021. A crucial question then arose: Did I need to have a signed contract by the anniversary of my move-out date in August, or did the sale need to be finalized by then? After a careful review of the IRS code, I deduced that the transaction had to be fully completed by that date. Armed with this insight, I communicated this condition to prospective buyers. Thanks to a favorable seller’s market, one buyer agreed to these terms, and we closed the sale two days shy of the deadline! It’s pivotal to remember that for the purposes of Section 121, the transaction is considered complete once the deed is recorded, marking the official transfer of ownership. So, when orchestrating such sales, it’s crucial to ensure that the ownership is fully transferred to the new owner within 3 years of moving out, assuming you’ve lived there for over 2 years prior.

Certainly, transforming your home into a rental property and navigating the subsequent complexities isn’t mandatory. Opting to sell your house right away is an undoubtedly simpler and more straightforward alternative.


Whether you choose to convert your home into a rental property or sell it immediately, understanding the tax implications is crucial. Section 121 can offer a considerable tax break, but it comes with specific requirements and deadlines that must be meticulously adhered to.

As we navigate the milestones of property ownership, let this blog serve as a reminder of the power of informed decision-making. Knowing the ins and outs of tax provisions like Section 121 can lead to significant financial benefits. Always consult with a tax professional to understand the nuances of your situation, and may your real estate ventures be as rewarding as they are enlightening.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

What's New Trending

Related Blogs