tax implications of selling a house below market value

Tax Implications of Selling a House Below Market Value

Selling a house below its market value might seem enticing, but it can bring about overlooked tax consequences. This choice can unknowingly lead to intricate tax obligations and financial worries.

Many homeowners are unaware of the substantial tax implications of selling a house below market value, potentially causing unexpected financial strains like capital gains taxes or disputes with tax authorities.

To navigate this, it’s vital to grasp these tax implications upfront, which we’ll cover for you below.

Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice. We are not experts in legal matters, and readers are encouraged to seek the proper professional legal counsel for specific guidance.

Can You Sell a House for Less Than It’s Worth?

Yes, you can sell a house for less than it’s worth. Urgency, personal situations, or aiding family/friends often drive this choice. Though legal, it may trigger tax consequences if the selling price is different from the fair market value of the property at the time of the sale.

If you’re in Southern California and want to skip the hassle of going through the ins and outs, preferring a fair cash offer for your home, get in touch with us today.

Reasons for Selling Property Less Than Market Value

Selling a house for less than market value can seem perplexing at first glance, especially in a competitive real estate market.

But, there’s a lot that goes into this decision for homeowners. Understanding what drives these choices is key to seeing the bigger picture in real estate.

Here are the main reasons why you’d want to sell your home for less than the local market price:

  • Assisting family or friends
  • Urgent sale
  • Personal circumstances
  • Current market situation warrants a fast sale
  • Tax benefits
  • Strategic sale

Let’s go through each of these in more detail so you can see if they apply to your situation…

Selling House to a Family Member Below Market Value

Selling property to family below market value often stems from a heartfelt desire to support family members or friends in acquiring property. This is particularly common in parents selling to their offspring or even grandchildren.

This generous act of selling to a family member enables loved ones to secure a home they might not otherwise afford, fostering a strong sense of community or familial support.

While it might seem like a kind move or a way to help out a family member, it’s crucial to understand the possible impacts (more on this below).

There are complexities tied to family dynamics, taxes, and finances that need careful thought before going ahead with such a deal.


Urgent financial needs often prompt homeowners to seek immediate liquidity, such as:

  • Unexpected medical expenses
  • Pressing debt repayment obligations
  • Impending relocation due to job changes or sudden job loss
  • Avoiding prolonged carrying costs
  • Mitigating further financial strain

Personal Situations

Life-altering events such as divorce necessitate a prompt resolution of jointly owned assets, leading to a quick sale at a reduced value to facilitate a smoother transition.

In inheritance cases, heirs might choose to rapidly liquidate assets to avoid prolonged property management or potential disputes among beneficiaries.

Additionally, when considering the best way to downsize for retirement, changes in family dynamics may prompt a rapid, undervalued sale to adapt to evolving lifestyle needs after children leave home.

Property Condition

Properties in poor condition, requiring extensive repairs or renovations, typically fetch lower prices in the market.

To circumvent investing time and capital in restoration work or to attract buyers willing to undertake renovations themselves, homeowners might opt for a quick sale at a reduced value.

This decision offers convenience and expediency, sparing sellers from the complexities and expenses of property renovation.

Market Conditions

In sluggish real estate markets where properties linger unsold for extended periods, sellers may strategically set prices below market value to distinguish their listing and entice potential buyers.

This approach aims to generate heightened interest and expedite the sale process amidst challenging market conditions, reducing the property’s time on the market.

Tax Benefits

Selling home below fair market value can be a calculated tax strategy. 

Offsetting potential capital gains taxes or leveraging tax advantages by selling at a reduced price may provide sellers with significant financial benefits in certain situations, making this approach an appealing option.

Strategic Moves

Sellers might deliberately under price their property to trigger bidding wars or attract multiple offers.

By fostering a sense of urgency among buyers, sellers aim to drive up the final sale price or expedite the transaction process.

This strategic method aims to offset the initial price cut by amplifying buyer interest and generating competitive offers, particularly when selling your house to an investor.

No matter your tax situation and the condition of your home, our expert team are ready to give you a cash offer if you’re in Southern Cali. Contact us today for more information.

Pros and Cons of Selling a House Under Market Value


  • Faster Sale: Selling below market value often attracts more potential buyers, which can be beneficial for urgent financial needs or time-sensitive situations.
  • Attracting Buyers: A lower price can spark competitive bidding and driving up the final sale price.
  • Alleviating Carrying Costs: A swift sale at a reduced price minimizes ongoing expenses like mortgage payments, property taxes, and maintenance costs.


  • Reduced Profit: Selling below market value means accepting a lower selling price than what the property might fetch.
  • Potential Financial Impact: Lower sale prices may not cover outstanding mortgage balances or result in insufficient funds for the seller to meet their financial obligations.
  • Perception of Property Value: A below-market sale might create an impression of underlying issues or flaws in the property, potentially impacting future sale opportunities and its perceived value in the market.

Tax Implications of Selling a House Below Market Value

Selling a house below its market value can have significant tax implications that sellers need to consider:

  • Capital gains tax
  • Gift tax
  • Income tax
  • Property tax
  • Gift of equity

Below, we’ll delve into the various tax aspects associated with this scenario:

Capital Gains Tax Considerations 

Selling your home below market value may still trigger capital gains tax for the seller, albeit on a reduced gain.

The capital gain is usually calculated by subtracting the property’s adjusted basis from the selling price.

When selling below market value, the actual gain might be lower, potentially resulting in reduced capital gains tax liability. 

However, the IRS might require sellers to report capital gains based on the property’s fair market value rather than the selling price, impacting the final tax obligations.

With this in mind, it’s beneficial to carry out a comparative market analysis of the open market to check your home value before selling.

Gift Tax Implications

The IRS could consider the gap between the property’s value and the sale price as a gift.

Usually, gift tax applies if the gift exceeds the IRS’s yearly exclusion limit, which is $18,000 for 2024.

Sellers should note that such sales might trigger gift tax reporting or affect the lifetime gift tax exemption.

Income Tax Ramifications 

The IRS might perceive the tax value vs market value variance as income, potentially affecting the seller’s overall taxable income.

Depending on the situation, this variance might fall under ordinary income or a capital loss.

For clarity on how this valuation discrepancy impacts income tax obligations, sellers should seek guidance from a tax attorney.

Property Tax Adjustments 

Local tax assessors often use property sale prices to determine assessed property values for tax purposes.

If the market value of your property at the time of sale is greater than the selling price, it could lead to a reduced assessed value for property tax purposes. 

However, some jurisdictions might continue to assess property taxes based on the property’s fair market value for tax purposes rather than the actual selling price, potentially minimizing the impact of a below-market sale on property tax obligations.

Gift of Equity 

A gift of equity occurs when the seller offers a portion of the property’s equity as a gift to the buyer.

This situation arises when the property sells below its market value, and the difference between the market value and the sale price is considered a gift.

While this gift might have implications, it can also benefit the buyer, allowing them to secure financing based on the property’s higher market value while potentially reducing the need for a down payment.

Additional reading: What closing costs are tax deductible when selling a home

Tax Implications of Buying a House Below Market Value

It’s important that we focus on both sides of real estate transactions.

While there’s usually a tax focus on the value of the home from a seller’s perspective, you also need to understand the tax implications as a buyer:

  • Inheritance tax
  • Property tax assessments
  • Gift taxes
  • Capital gains tax

Inheritance Tax

Note that there are only six states in the US that impose an inheritance tax (there is no federal inheritance tax on a home sale):

  • Iowa
  • Kentucky
  • Maryland
  • Nebraska
  • New Jersey
  • Pennsylvania

Property Tax Assessment Impact

Buying a house below market value can affect property tax assessments. Appraisers typically use the property’s sale price as a benchmark for property tax evaluations.

Purchasing below market value might result in a lower assessed value, potentially reducing future property tax obligations.

However, in some cases, tax assessors might still consider the appraised value of your home rather than the purchase price, limiting the impact of buying below market value on property tax assessments.

Potential Gift Tax Considerations 

The IRS could perceive the difference between the property’s fair market value and the purchase price as a gift from the seller to the buyer.

However, the application of gift tax largely depends on the size of the difference and whether it surpasses the annual exclusion limit set by the IRS. Buyers should consider potential gift tax reporting requirements or consult a real estate attorney for guidance.

Note that if you’re buying the property at what’s known as an “arm’s length” transaction, gift tax laws aren’t something to worry about.

Capital Gains Tax and Future Sale

When the purchase price of your property is below its market value, it might affect the capital gains tax when you sell it later. 

The difference between the purchase price and the future selling price will determine the capital gains tax liability.

If the property’s value appreciates significantly before selling, buyers might face higher capital gains tax liabilities on the profit from the sale, potentially offsetting initial savings from purchasing below market value.

How Can I Sell My House Below Market Value?

Listing your house below market value can be a strategic decision with various methods available. Here are the different options:

Direct Sale to a Real Estate Investment Company

Opting for a direct sale to reputable home-buying companies, like us here at SoCal Home Buyers can be the most efficient way on how to sell your cash to a home buyer

By choosing this method, you can swiftly finalize the sale without the need for repairs, staging, or agent commissions.

Contact us today for a fair cash offer on your Southern California home, ensuring a quick and hassle-free transaction.

For Sale by Owner (FSBO)

Selling your house without a real estate agent allows you to control the selling price, potentially opting for a lower value to attract buyers. 

Yet, FSBO requires comprehensive knowledge of the selling process and can involve extended listing periods.

If you choose to go this route, remember to always get an independent appraisal from a home inspector and both the buyer and seller must agree to the terms of the sale.

Auction or Short Sale

Auctioning your property or going through a short sale with your lender’s approval might result in a sale below market value.

However, this process could impact credit scores and involve complex negotiations with lenders.

Key Takeaways on Selling Under Market Value

Selling property for less than market value can have various implications and strategies. Here are the key takeaways:

  • When contemplating selling below market value, explore various methods, such as direct sales to investment companies, price adjustments, FSBO, auctions, or property improvements, to align with your goals.
  • Selling below market value might sell your house fast but could potentially reduce profits. It’s crucial to weigh the benefits against the potential financial implications before choosing this route.
  • Lower sale prices can have different tax consequences for both sellers and buyers, both good and bad. Understanding these implications beforehand can aid in informed decision-making.

Additional reading: How much does it cost to sell a house


Can I Sell My House Under Market Value to a Family Member?

Selling your home to a family member below market value is allowed. But, it’s important to think about possible tax consequences and make sure the deal follows legal and financial rules. It should genuinely represent a fair sale, meeting all the required norms and guidelines.

Can I Sell My House to My Son for $1 Dollar?

You can sell your home to your son for $1, but it might bring up gift tax concerns for both of you. It’s wise to talk to a tax expert to fully grasp and handle any tax responsibilities that might arise from this situation.

Can I Sell My House to a Friend for Less Than Market Value?

Yes, you can sell your house to a friend for less than its market value. But, it’s essential to make sure the deal follows all the legal and financial laws. That way, you can avoid any issues or misunderstandings that might pop up during the sale.

Can My Parents Sell Me Their House Below Market Value?

Yes, your parents can sell their house to you for less than its market value. But, it’s important to make sure everything is done following the legal rules. That way, you can avoid any possible tax or legal issues linked with the sale.

Can My Parents Sell Me Their House for $1?

Yes, it’s possible for your parents to sell their house to you for a mere $1. Nevertheless, this might trigger gift tax implications that could impact both sides. It’s advisable to consult a tax professional to comprehend and handle any potential tax responsibilities arising from this transaction.

Can You Sell Your House for Any Price?

Yes, it’s entirely within your right to sell your house at any price you wish. Nevertheless, it’s pivotal to ensure that the sale follows all legal and financial protocols, preventing possible problems concerning tax responsibilities, gift-related implications, or misrepresentations of the market value.

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