I've owned my home for 1.5 years and it has been my primary residence. I decided to move, and want to sell, however, I'm unsure if I have to pay capital gains.

When searching the internet I find conflicting resources. Some say I need to have owned the home for 1 year, others say 2. I've even read that if its my first home, I don't have to pay capital gains regardless of time owned.

I cannot seem to find a straight positive answer, so I am hoping this forum can provide some clarity.

I live in Michigan if that information is needed.


The property must be your primary residence and you must have occupied it for 2 of the last 5 years and make no more than $250,000 in gains if you're single or $500,000 if file joint tax returns with a spouse.

There are exceptions, for instance for members of the armed forces.

Official IRS document regarding this subject: https://www.irs.gov/taxtopics/tc701

I believe everything you need is spelled out in that article and the accompanying link that will take you to the "Exclusion Test" to see if you're eligible for partial gains exclusions: https://www.irs.gov/publications/p523#en_US_2019_publink10008937

  • so if hyperinflation hit, you would be better off selling your house before it hit the $500k limit and then somehow buying it back without involving a wash sale or realtor so as to reset the limit?
    – Michael
    Sep 16 '20 at 21:10
  • and to be fair, hyperinflation not even really necessary. in some place, buying for the median home price and holding until the 30 year mortgage is paid off may result in more than $500k in imaginary gains entirely due to inflation. (or moreso for $250k if your spouse dies)
    – Michael
    Sep 16 '20 at 21:13
  • 3
    Is that $250k just from the sale of the house, or is it your net gains after buying another house after selling the first one (usually when you sell a house it is because you are buying another one)? I'd hate to have to pay capital gains tax on a $260k home when I am turning around and buying another one (of any value), for example.
    – TylerH
    Sep 16 '20 at 22:09
  • 3
    @TylerH - Unless you bought that $260K house for $10K or less, you wouldn't have a gain of $250K. If you sold that $260K house for $510K+ (and file individually), then you would start looking at taxes. Whether or not you buy another house has no bearing, but the price you sell for vs the price you originally paid is what matters.
    – BobbyScon
    Sep 17 '20 at 1:42
  • 2
    There is a rule that does allow you to defer taxes when using the proceeds of selling a property to buy another property (Section 1031), but it only applies to a business or investment property, not a primary residence (and it only defers the gains, they don't go away.) Sep 17 '20 at 3:11

How much (percentage) has the home appreciated in 1.5 years?

If you're selling at the same price or less than you bought it then there are no gains to be had and no taxes to be paid.

If you are selling above your purchase price then you can add qualified home improvements which you may have done during your occupancy to your cost basis.


If you still feel unsure then talk to a real-estate agent or preferably a real-estate lawyer or even a tax professional.

  • 1
    Not exactly. Make sure that you understand the differences between repairs and improvements when you are talking about renovations. houselogic.com/finances-taxes/taxes/… Sep 16 '20 at 20:32
  • @MorganRoberson Thanks, added!
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 17 '20 at 12:30
  • As the seller usually pays the realtor fees, that's 6% down the drain before capital gains as well
    – user662852
    Sep 17 '20 at 15:16
  • @user662852 I forgot about those but they're not relevant for OP since they exist regardless of capital gains or a wash/loss.
    – MonkeyZeus
    Sep 17 '20 at 15:20
  • 1
    @MonkeyZeus Not sure how realtor fees are not relevant, since they would certainly factor into reducing any potential capital gains.
    – Glen Yates
    Sep 17 '20 at 16:57

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