Real estate IRAs with checkbook control gain clout

Setup helps consumers save on annual fees, acquisition costs

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Individual retirement accounts that feature self-directed real estate purchases have become more understood in recent years, and consumers now a have speedier avenue to time-sensitive investments. Many providers of self-directed real estate IRAs now can set up a limited liability company (LLC) that allows consumers to write their own checks for property investments -- including foreclosures and recreational properties -- without waiting for a custodian to process paperwork or courier documents. "The costs for setting up an IRA with checkbook control can be considerably more than a standard IRA, but the IRA holder doesn't pay additional transactional, special asset-based or holding fees," said David Nilssen, president and CEO of Bellevue, Wash.-based Guidant Financial Group. For example, a real estate IRA worth $100,000 would cost the holder about 1 percent a year -- or $1,000 -- in maintenance fees. These fees are usually billed in quarterly payments of $250. The transaction costs of a...