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How to Find a Qualified Intermediary for 1031 Exchange

July 2, 2024

From keeping exchange funds in escrow to documentation and support, the roles of a QI are very instrumental to the success of your 1031 exchange. To have a successful and compliant tax-deferred exchange, you need to choose an experienced Qualified Intermediary (QI) with a deep knowledge of IRS regulations and a proven track record. You also need to make sure the QI can handle funds securely, maintain a neutral third-party status, communicate clearly, and guide you through the process.

If you’re in California, finding a reputable QI does not have to be a hassle. With over 30 years of experience, our licensed CPA professionals at Universal Pacific 1031 Exchange are experts at facilitating smooth and compliant 1031 exchange transactions. Schedule a free consultation with us to discuss your extension request and guide you through the process.

In the following article, we will guide you through the key steps and considerations on how to find a qualified intermediary for your 1031 exchange needs.

Who Is a Qualified Intermediary?

Who is a Qualified Intermediary?

A Qualified Intermediary (QI) is an independent party that facilitates the process of a 1031 exchange and makes sure the transactions comply with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regulations. Their primary role involves overseeing the transfer of funds from the sale of a relinquished property to help the exchanger acquire the replacement property. Qualified intermediaries hold the money in safe escrow accounts, safeguarding the exchange’s integrity while guiding you through the intricate process of like-kind exchanges.

What Is the Role of a Qualified Intermediary?

You need a qualified intermediary from the beginning of a 1031 exchange to the end, for various reasons. To begin with, qualified intermediaries guide the exchange by securely managing funds from the sale of the relinquished property to the purchase of the replacement property involved in the 1031 exchange.

QIs also make sure you adhere strictly to the IRS rules governing 1031 exchanges, keeping track of timelines and requirements that are required to maintain tax-deferral benefits. In addition, QIs act as custodians, safeguarding funds and preventing direct access by investors to avoid booting in a 1031 exchange, thereby upholding compliance with the Internal Revenue Code.

Apart from holding funds, QIs assist in preparing the necessary paperwork, written exchange agreements, and documentation, ensuring accuracy and completeness for legal compliance. Providing expert guidance, qualified intermediaries maintain impartiality as a neutral third party, offering advice and risk mitigation strategies while promoting fairness and transparency throughout the exchange process.

Legal Requirements For a Qualified Intermediary

Legal Requirements For a Qualified Intermediary

To qualify as a QI for a 1031 exchange, you must adhere to certain legal requirements stipulated by the IRS. The purpose of these requirements is to make sure that the QI functions as a neutral third party and facilitates a legitimate like-kind exchange. Some of the key legal requirements for a QI include:

  1. The QI must be an independent third party. It cannot be the taxpayer or a disqualified person. As per the IRS, a disqualified person typically includes close relatives, business partners, or anyone with a pre-existing relationship with the taxpayer.
  2. The QI must enter into a written exchange agreement with the taxpayer, known as the Qualified Intermediary Agreement. The agreement outlines the rights and responsibilities of both parties during the 1031 exchange period.
  3. The QI must comply with the safe harbor regulations outlined in Treasury Regulations Section 1.1031(k)-1(g)(4). These regulations provide specific guidelines for the actions and responsibilities of the QI in facilitating the exchange.
  4. The QI must ensure that the taxpayer does not have actual or constructive receipt of the exchange proceeds from the relinquished property. The funds must be held in a qualified escrow or trust account controlled by the QI.
  5. Qualified Intermediaries must provide written notice to the transferee – the party buying the relinquished property – that the QI is holding the exchange funds and that the transferee’s rights under the purchase agreement are being assigned to the QI.
  6. The QI must adhere to the strict timelines for identifying and acquiring the replacement property. The identification of potential investment properties for the replacement property must typically occur within 45 days of the sale of the relinquished property, and the acquisition must be completed within 180 days.

Preparing to Search for a Qualified Intermediary

Preparing to Search for a Qualified Intermediary

Before you choose a QI from a list of potential qualified intermediaries, you have to do a proper assessment of your specific needs and preferences. That way, you can be sure that the QI is the most suitable option for you.

Start by evaluating the details of your 1031 exchange process, whether it involves multiple properties, complex timelines, or specific transaction requirements. Consider the level of guidance you may need. Some investors prefer hands-on support, while others seek more independent mentorship with occasional advice. Additionally, more complex exchanges, such as improvement exchanges and reverse exchanges, may require more guidance. Therefore, go for what works best for you.

Remember that communication is an important lifeline in any business relationship. As such, you’ll need to determine your preferred frequency and mode of communication with the qualified intermediary. Do you require a QI who is well-versed in handling similar exchanges, or are you open to working with someone newer but possibly more attentive? It’s recommended that you choose a QI experienced in handling similar cases. Additionally, consider the extent of ongoing support you expect throughout the transaction right from the initial consultation to post-exchange assistance.

Our licensed professionals at Universal Pacific 1031 Exchange possess the expertise and experience you require for a stress-free, compliant exchange, with over 30 years of proven experience on the job. Book a free consultation with us to discuss your extension request and start an exchange.

How to Find The Right Qualified Intermediary: Step-by-Step Guide

How to Finding The Right Qualified Intermediary: Step-by-Step Guide

With a combination of the right knowledge and expert guidance, you can find a qualified intermediary suitable for your tax-deferred exchange. Here’s a comprehensive 3-step guide for you.

1. Research Potential Candidates

Not all qualified intermediaries might be suitable for your exchange needs. When searching for a QI, explore their website, and look for comprehensive information about their services, experience, and testimonials. At Universal Pacific, we provide a free resource on everything you need to know about 1031 exchange and our services.

Beyond the QI’s website, assess their presence in industry-related forums, associations, or directories. A QI actively involved in such networks might be committed to staying updated with industry standards. Additionally, look for transparency in their fee structure. A qualified intermediary should clearly outline their fees, avoiding hidden charges or ambiguous pricing.

2. Evaluate Their Experience

Look for a QI with a substantial track record in handling exchanges similar to the nature and scale of your transaction. Experience in diverse scenarios often shows the ability to handle various complex transactions effectively.

Verify if the QI holds relevant certifications or memberships in professional associations dedicated to 1031 exchanges. Memberships or certifications from organizations like the Federation of Exchange Accommodators (FEA) or the National Association of Realtors (NAR) can signify a commitment to industry standards.

In addition to client references, review any case studies or success stories shared by the qualified intermediary. These materials can offer insights into their problem-solving abilities and successful transaction management.

3. Examine References and Reviews

Most times, you need to look beyond the QI’s website for independent reviews on platforms like Google, Yelp, or industry-specific forums. These platforms provide unbiased perspectives, shedding light on both positive and negative experiences.

In addition, request references from the QI and make direct contact with these past clients if possible. Inquire about their specific experience with the intermediary, focusing on aspects such as communication, support, adherence to timelines, and overall satisfaction with the exchange.

Key Factors to Consider When Choosing a Qualified Intermediary

Key Factors To Consider When Choosing a Qualified Intermediary

As you search for the right QI, it’s important to know what to look out for to make an informed decision. Some of the key factors include:

Reputation and Reliability

You can gauge a QI’s reputation by reviewing client testimonials and independent reviews on platforms like Google or industry-specific forums while seeking recommendations from trusted sources within the real estate or financial industry.

Also, look for indicators of reliability, such as the QI’s history of successful exchanges, prompt and transparent communication, adherence to deadlines, and commitment to resolving client concerns.

Fees and Other Charges

To understand the fee structure, request a detailed breakdown of the service fee, including any upfront charges, transaction fees, or additional costs, and the scope of services covered within their fees.

Do your due diligence by comparing fee structures among multiple QIs. Beware of unusually low fees, as they might signal hidden charges or compromised service quality.

Insurance and Safeguarding Funds

Inquire about the QI’s insurance policies. Adequate coverage safeguards against potential mishaps or errors during the exchange and provides a layer of protection for your funds.

Endeavor to understand how the QI safeguards funds during the exchange. Make sure they utilize secure and regulated mechanisms to prevent any mishandling or misplacement of your exchange funds.

Red Flags and Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Qualified Intermediary

Recognizing warning signs and avoiding certain typical mistakes can secure your 1031 exchange transaction. To begin with, beware of Qualified Intermediaries with vague or unclear communication regarding their services, fee structures, or compliance processes. A lack of transparency might signal potential issues.

Moreover, unrealistically low fees could mean hidden charges or compromised service quality. So, be cautious of QIs offering significantly lower fees than industry standards. Additionally, choosing a QI with limited experience in handling exchanges similar to yours might pose challenges. Lack of expertise in complex transactions could lead to errors or delays.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Choosing a Qualified Intermediary

It’s not enough to recognize red flags; you have to also find out the common mistakes you may be prone to and take appropriate steps to avoid them. One of the most common mistakes is choosing a QI hastily. If you rush the decision without comparing other options, you might not be able to make informed considerations before making your decisions. Hence, take the time to evaluate various options diligently.

Another common mistake is ignoring client feedback. Client feedback, especially from genuine sources, can let you in on how the QIs have performed over the past years, and from there, you can predict if they are reliable or not.

Moreover, many investors tend to focus only on fees when comparing qualified intermediaries. Bear in mind that cheaper does not always mean better, and overly low prices might indicate a flop in the quality of the service.

Final Steps in Engaging a Qualified Intermediary

Final Steps in Engaging a Qualified Intermediary

The final steps in finding and engaging a Qualified Intermediary involve drafting agreements and establishing effective communication channels. Some of the key points to consider when drafting an agreement with a QI include:

  • Confirm that the agreement clearly outlines the services the Qualified Intermediary will provide, including fund handling, compliance support, and exchange facilitation.
  • Detail the QI’s fees comprehensively, including any upfront charges or additional costs. Clarify services covered within these fees to prevent misunderstandings.
  • List the compliance obligations very clearly and make sure the QI adheres strictly to IRS regulations and industry standards throughout the exchange.
  • Consider involving legal expertise to review the agreement so that it aligns with your interests and protects your rights during the exchange.
  • Discuss alternative plans in case of unforeseen circumstances. Also, outline the procedures for addressing potential issues or delays.

Consider the following when setting up effective communication channels:

  • Establish your preferred communication modes and frequency of updates with the QI to ensure clear and consistent information flow.
  • Define key milestones and timelines in the exchange process, aligning your expectations as they relate to critical deadlines to prevent delays.
  • Confirm documentation requirements, ensuring clarity on responsibilities for preparing, submitting, and maintaining necessary paperwork.
  • Assign roles and responsibilities to all involved parties, which will help you avoid any form of confusion and will also guarantee accountability during the exchange.
  • Establish a feedback mechanism to address concerns or suggest improvements to help foster open communication and enhance your exchange process.


When choosing a Qualified Intermediary for your 1031 exchange, prioritize reputation and reliability. Finding a QI with a good reputation, clear fee structures, proper insurance coverage, and a commitment to protecting your funds assures you of a trustworthy partner. Pay attention to warning signs like lack of transparency, unusually low fees, or limited experience to avoid potential pitfalls in selecting a Qualified Intermediary (QI) for your 1031 exchange.

At Universal Pacific Exchange, we’re committed to helping you facilitate a successful exchange so you can enjoy the tax benefits. Take the right first step by booking a free consultation call with us today!

About The Author

Michael Bergman, CPA
Michael Bergman is a California licensed CPA and Real Estate Broker with over 32 years of experience in commercial real estate. Specializing in 1031 tax-deferred exchanges and financial oversight, his expertise is invaluable for complex real estate transactions. Michael’s unique blend of financial acumen and real estate knowledge positions him as a trusted advisor in the industry, offering sound advice and strategic insights for successful property management and investment.

Don’t let taxes hinder your property investment decisions. Connect with us today for a free, no-obligation 1031 exchange consultation. Let us help you navigate the process with ease.