When you sell a stock, you owe taxes on your gain—the difference between what you paid for the stock and what you sold it for. The same is true with selling a home (or a second home), but there are some special considerations.
In real estate, capital gains are based not on what you paid for the home, but on its adjusted cost basis. To calculate this:
1. Take the purchase price of the home - this is the sale price, not the amount of money you actually contributed at closing.
2. Add adjustments:
3. The total of this is the adjusted cost basis of your home.
4. Subtract this adjusted cost basis from the amount you sell your home for. This is your capital gain.
Since 1997, up to $250,000 in capital gains ($500,000 for a married couple) on the sale of a home is exempt from taxation if you meet the following criteria:
Also note that as of 2003, you also may qualify for this exemption if you meet what the IRS calls “unforeseen circumstances,” such as job loss, divorce, or family medical emergency.
Tax implications of capital gains (IRS Publication 523)