Gift or Loan — How Family Money Can Help You Buy a Home

Buy Right

If you’re a buyer on a tight budget, your family may be able or willing to help you with your downpayment if that’s the case, lucky you! 

I know financial support from family is not an option for every buyer, and I have articles about other options on my website. Still, if you do fall into the category of getting downpayment money from your family, this is a valuable guide. 

The first thing to decide:  should you or shouldn’t you accept their help?

It’s help that many first-time buyers do welcome, especially if coming up with a down payment or qualifying for a lower interest rate is going to delay their dream of homeownership.

If you have willing family members who have the finances or who may want to see you enjoy your inheritance now, then it’s worth the time to see if this is a viable financial option for you (and them).

The big question is whether it will be a gift or a loan. These are two very distinct options and are handled differently from beginning to end.

You and your family members will want to consult with experts on tax and real estate law so that all the “i’s are dotted,” and the IRS won’t question this intrafamily agreement.

It’s a Gift  — $56,000 tax-free!

A gift is just that, a present with no strings attached. It’s not a loan at all or even considered income. And you do not have to pay back anyone. Ever.

And, yep, you and your spouse could get up to $56,000 in one year. That could be a nice down payment.

However, you and your parents or other family members still need to follow some guidelines to avoid any tax implications and meet lender requirements. 

Of course, check with your accountant to double-check your specific tax implications, but a general rule of thumb is:

  • Parents can each give up to $14,000 to a child and another $14,000 each to their child’s spouse per year without facing a gift tax. That’s a total of $28,000 per person or $56,000 total per year for a couple.
  • If the gift is recent and is for the sole purpose of buying a home, a lender needs to see a signed agreement from parents stating that they have given their child a specific amount of money as a gift and don’t expect repayment.

In this situation, a lender wants the buyer to prove the origin of this new lump sum of money, which is usually put toward a down payment. The lender needs to understand any borrower’s complete finances and any risks fully, and this letter assures them that you are under no obligation to pay back this gift.

Parents or a family member can send the money directly to the settlement agent. That amount needs to match the amount stated in the letter. Many family members who lend money this way are happy to know that they are helping you buy a home and control where the money is going.

I’m not a licensed account, so be sure to check with yours about what the tax implications might be for you and your family.

Early Inheritance

If you and your parents are organized, the tax-free gift-giving can start earlier. With some preplanning, your parents can each gift you $14,000 per year over several years into an account in your name. Or double that if you’re married!

In this situation, the gifted money can become more “seasoned” in your account, well before you even start looking for a home or begin working with a lender. It essentially becomes your money, and no lender letter is required down the road.

However, the potential downside for your parents or other family members is that they now have no control over how you spend this money. It might not ever be used for a down payment on a home at all. It’s really up to you.

But that’s a serious family discussion that you need to have if you all decide to go this route. Everyone must understand the potential scenarios to avoid any family regrets over this gifted money or early inheritance.

Intrafamily Loan

Rather than gifting money, a family member can lend you money to purchase a home. That means you do have an obligation to pay back this money.

It’s a little more complicated to set up this family loan, but it can be a win-win for both sides:

  • The benefit of an intrafamily loan is that you can get a lower interest rate than what’s currently available for a 30-year fixed rate mortgage loan. And, your parents can earn more money on the interest from this loan than if their money was in a CD at their local bank.

See how it can be a pretty good financial transaction between you and your parents or between you and another family member?

Keep in mind that you and your family must abide by specific strict requirements, so you don’t face any gift tax or income tax penalties. It would be best if you met with a real estate attorney to draw up loan documents and set up appropriate rates, payback requirements, etc.

The interest rate your parents give you must meet the IRS’s applicable federal rate (AFR) for an “arms-length” transaction. It must be higher than the current AFR when you initiate your loan.

So if you don’t qualify for the best rate from a bank, then maybe a family member could agree to lend you money at a lower rate to cover some of your mortgage or all of it. Plus, this loan won’t have fees, points, or mortgage insurance that can increase costs for you.

And since this loan is considered a mortgage, you’ll still get to claim a mortgage rate deduction on your taxes. Another win for you!

One of the benefits of this scenario is that your parents will earn some money from this intrafamily loan. This is especially good for those parents who can’t afford to gift money and still need money to live on. They will need to pay income taxes on this money earned, but they’d have to do that on a CD too.

Email me with any questions about having family members help with financing your home purchase. Many buyers have done this before, and I can give you more guidance on family gifts and loans.


I'm Tehane, a local realtor helping locals buy, sell, and stay local in Honolulu  Schedule a conversationand let's talk about your current situation and where you want to be. Then, let's create a plan to get you there.  Every journey begins with the first step! 



BHGRE Advantage Realty
4211 Waialae Avenue, Box 9050
Honolulu, HI. 96816


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I'm Tehane, a local realtor helping locals buy, sell, and stay local in Honolulu. Schedule a conversation, and let's talk about your current situation and where you want to be. Then, let's create a plan to get you there. Every journey begins with the first step!   

Let's connect 

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