Real estate can be a tricky business. You put your home on the market, people make offers and there’s a lot of back-and-forth to make sure that everyone gets what they believe is the best deal. There are a lot of gray areas that make things more confusing, too. What if you’re selling your home to one of your own children or another relative and don’t want them to have to pay a bunch of fees and down payments? Maybe you don’t even want to profit off the sale at all… you just want them to be able to cover the remainder of the mortgage. Depending on the situation, using a gift of equity may be a better option to help make the sale happen.
What Is a Gift of Equity?
As you make payments against your mortgage, the amount that’s owed against your home decreases while the value of the property remains the same. The higher the value is, in comparison to what’s still owed against it, the more equity the home is said to have. You’ve likely heard about equity-based loans or other ways to use equity as a form of security, and they all come down to the concept that your home is worth more than what’s actually owed to pay off the remainder of its mortgage.
If you’re selling your home to a member of your family, in many cases you can use this equity to their advantage. A “gift of equity” is the practice of using the property’s own equity as a down payment for someone wanting to buy the property. This not only saves your family member money but may also qualify them for a better loan or lower mortgage payments if they’re borrowing to pay the remaining difference.
Selling Your Home
Before you can sell your house using a gift of equity, you have to determine the actual value of the property. This has to be a fair market appraisal, and if there’s a lender involved, then they may wish to choose the appraiser. You will also need to document any details relevant to the gift of equity, such as establishing a relationship, providing proof of residency (as well as any rental terms, if they apply) if the buyer already lives on the property and any additional details that are relevant to proving that both of you have a qualifying relationship and that you wish to make the gift of equity.
There are also issues such as closing costs and escrow fees that may have to be taken into account. In most cases, though, these can be covered by seller concessions (where you agree to absorb the costs by taking less of the sale price for yourself) as you are allowed concessions of up to 6 percent of the sale value in most cases. You will also need to draft a gift letter for use by both the lender and the IRS, which as you might guess, means you also have to pay taxes on the value of the gift.
Is It Actually Allowed?
In most cases, there is nothing preventing you from selling your home using a gift of equity so long as the buyer is a spouse, child. dependent or other individual with an established blood or legal relation to the seller. This includes both blood relatives and those who are adopted or placed under legal guardianship of the seller. Fiancés and domestic partners can typically qualify as well, so long as it’s allowed by the jurisdiction in which you live. Friends, non-related roommates and other unrelated buyers do not qualify.
The big thing to remember when it comes to selling your home using a gift of equity is that the rules for doing so will vary depending on where you live and the equity gifting program you use. There can actually be some pretty significant differences from one program to the next, so you definitely shouldn’t rush into selling with a gift of equity until you’ve done some research to see what the best way to do it in your state is. With that said, if you do your due diligence, this can be a good way to pass on property to a loved one, provided you avoid the potential pitfalls.