How to Sell Your House to Your Child?

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|10 min read

Deciding to sell your home to your child brings a mix of emotions and practicalities into play. This isn’t just any real estate transaction- selling a home to a family member is about passing on a piece of your life’s story, a great way to avoid probate and keep the property in the family. 

Like selling your property in the open market, this process requires careful planning and smart decisions. From understanding tax implications to setting a fair price for your home, it’s about striking a balance between preserving family harmony and ensuring a sound financial transaction. There are a lot of things to consider before making such a big decision.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about selling your home to your child. We’ll discuss the pros and cons of this type of sale and what you need to do to ensure the transaction goes smoothly.

The Pros of Selling Your Home to Your Child

Selling your home to your child has its benefits that can simplify the process and offer some unique advantages. Some of the pros are: 

  • Avoiding Probate: Without a will, properties typically go through probate court after the owner’s death—a process that can be both lengthy and expensive. By selling your home to your child during your lifetime, you can sidestep this hassle.
  • Preserving Family Legacy: When you sell your property to your child, you’re not just making a financial transaction but also preserving a family tradition. Your home, rich with cherished memories, can continue to be a haven for family gatherings for years.
  • Minimizing Taxes: Capital gains tax is a reality when you sell a property. But a sale to your child might present opportunities to minimize, or even avoid, such taxes. This financial benefit is another compelling reason to consider this option.
  • Quitclaim Deed: If your goal is mainly to establish assets in your child’s name, and they don’t have the money to pay you upfront, you can draw up a quitclaim deed. This deed allows you to add your child’s name to the title of your home, and to make payments to you with a second mortgage.

The Potential Drawbacks of Selling Your Home to Your Child

While selling your home to your child can have its advantages, it’s important to be aware of the potential drawbacks associated with this type of transaction. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • Loss of Ownership and Emotional Attachment: One significant downside to selling your home to your child is the relinquishment of ownership. For many homeowners who have spent years creating memories within those walls, it can be emotionally challenging to let go of their beloved property. Coming to terms with this shift in ownership requires careful reflection and understanding.
  • Potential Financial Trade-Offs: When selling to a family member, it’s common for the property to be sold at a discounted price, lower than the home’s fair market value. This willingness to offer a lower price may stem from the desire to keep the property within the family, prioritizing its legacy over maximizing financial gains. As a result, you might not receive as much money for the property as you would if you sold it on the open market. It’s essential to evaluate the financial implications of selling your home below market value and weigh them against the sentimental value.
  • Future Sales and Capital Gains Taxes: Another consideration is the potential complexity if your child decides to sell the property in the future. If they sell it within a few years of purchasing it from you, they may be subject to capital gains taxes. It’s crucial to have an open and transparent discussion with your child about their long-term plans for the property, including the possibility of future sales and the associated tax obligations.

How to Sell Your Home to Your Child

If you’ve decided that selling your home to your child is the right move for you, there are a few options to consider. Each one has its own benefits and drawbacks, so you will want to consult with a qualified real estate professional to decide which one is right for you.

1. Sell the Home Now, But Delay Possession

One option is to officially sell the home to your child, but not give up possession. This means that your child will be the legal owner of the home, but you will continue to live there until you die. This can be a good option if you want to keep the property in the family, but don’t want to move out.

If you decide to pursue this option, you should consider arranging it so that your child purchases the home for fair market value and you establish a landlord/tenant relationship where you pay rent. Not only does this give your child the advantage of rental property deductions, but it can shield your child from any ambiguity the IRS may claim to collect taxes after your death.

One downside of this option is that you will need to get a life estate deed. This is a type of deed that allows you to retain possession of the property for the rest of your life. Not all states allow for this, so you will need to check with your state’s laws to see if it’s an option.

In addition, getting a life estate deed can be expensive and complicated. Finally, it can be very difficult to reverse a life estate deed. You will likely need to hire a lawyer to help you with not only creating the agreement but reversing it, as well.

2. Act as Your Child’s Lender

You can finance the mortgage for your child instead of selling the property outright. This option allows you to keep some control over the property, as you will technically still be the owner.

You can also charge interest on the loan, which can be a way to make some extra money. It is commonly advised that you charge the minimum applicable federal rate (AFR). For May 2023, the AFRs are:

  • 4.21% for Short-Term Loans
  • 3.51% for Mid-Term Loans
  • 3.66% for Long-Term Loans

There are a few downsides to this option. First, this option can be complicated from a tax perspective, especially if you’re charging an interest rate that falls outside the above guidelines. You will need to consult with a tax advisor to make sure you are handling things correctly.

Also, it can be difficult to enforce the terms of the loan if there are problems down the road. If your child doesn’t make payments on time or defaults on the loan, you may have a hard time getting them to make good on their obligations.

3. Discounted Sale

If you decide to sell the property outright, you can offer your child a discounted price. This can be a good way to keep the property in the family while still getting some money for it.

The downside of this option is that it can be difficult to determine what a fair discount is. You don’t want to give your child too much of a discount, as this could be considered a gift for tax purposes. Worse, it may be considered a related-party transaction by the IRS and subject you to higher scrutiny.

On the other hand, you don’t want to charge them full market value, as this could cause financial problems down the road. They may have a hard time making mortgage payments if the property is worth more than they can afford. You will need to strike a balance to ensure that both you and your child are happy with the deal.

You will also need to have a written agreement in place detailing the terms of the sale. This agreement should be drawn up by a lawyer to make sure it is legally binding.

4. Allow Your Child to Assume Your Loan

If your lender agrees, one option is to let your child assume your current loan. It’s important to check with your lender to see if they allow loan assumptions. Some lenders have strict rules about who can assume a loan, and they may not allow it in this scenario. Depending on the rules of the lender, you may have a few choices for how to proceed:

  • Your child assumes full responsibility for the loan – In this case, your child would make all future payments on the loan and would be solely responsible for any late payments or defaults. Be advised that this tactic is not always allowed for every loan or lender and your child would need to qualify for the loan.
  • Your child assumes partial responsibility for the loan – In this scenario, you and your child would both be liable for the loan. Your child would make a portion of the payments, and you would make the rest.
  • Refinance the loan and add your child to the title – You can refinance the loan and add them to the title of the property. This would make you co-owners of the property and equally responsible for the loan.
  • You pay off the loan and quitclaim the title – In this case, you would pay off the loan and then transfer the title of the property to your child. They would assume full responsibility for the property and any future payments of any future loans.

Be sure to check with a tax professional, as some loan assumptions may be considered a gift by the IRS and come with tax implications. For example, if the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is below a certain percentage, the IRS may treat the difference as a gift.

Can I Sell My Home to My Child for $1?

It’s not uncommon for parents to sell their homes to their children for $1. However, it’s important to note that doing this doesn’t necessarily erase any tax liability.

If your home has a fair market value of $200,000, and you sell it to your child for $1, the IRS will likely consider the difference between the two values as a gift. The 2023 annual exemption for gift tax is $17,000, the lifetime exclusion stands at $12.06 million, and the donor is responsible for paying gift taxes. That means you, not your child, would be on the hook.

Before you make any decisions, it’s important to talk to a qualified tax advisor to see if selling your home to your child for $1 is the right move for you.

How to Transfer Your Home To Your Child Tax-Free

There are other ways to transfer your home to your child without selling it. Many options can be done tax-free, which can be a big advantage.

1. Give Your Home as a Gift

As mentioned above, the annual gift tax exemption for 2023 is $17,000. That means you can give your child $17,000 worth of assets each year without triggering a gift tax.

If your home is worth less than $17,000, you may be able to transfer it to your child without any tax consequences. But, if it is more than $17,000, you’ll need to file a gift tax form.

Keep in mind that this option only applies to the value of the home. If you have a mortgage on the property, you will still be responsible for paying it off. Also, consult your tax advisor if you plan on filing for Medicaid within 5 years of gifting your home.

2. Sell It, But Hold a Note

Selling your home to your child at full market value, then continuing to hold a note on the property offers a unique opportunity to put the tax code to work in your favor. As mentioned above, you should include the applicable federal rate (AFR) for interest.

Then, gift your child $17,000 annually to make payments on the note. However, this technique is very slippery. You should consult with a tax attorney beforehand since it could incur significant tax complications if not done correctly.

3. Use a Family Trust

If you want more control over your home after you die, using a family trust is one way. You can put conditions on how and when your child can use the property.

For instance, you could put a stipulation that they can only sell the property after ten years or that they must use it as their primary residence.

As with the gifting method above, be sure to check if it will affect your Medicaid eligibility.

4. Will Your Home to Your Child

Leaving your home to your child in your will is probably the simplest way to transfer ownership. But, it comes with some disadvantages.

Your child won’t receive the property until after you die. So, if you need money from the sale of the property to pay for long-term care or other expenses, this isn’t the best option.

In addition, if you have other children, they may contest the will if they feel they’re being treated unfairly. This could cost your estate a lot of money in legal fees. Finally, the probate process can be lengthy and expensive.

If you decide to leave your home to your child in your will, consult with an attorney to draft the document correctly and avoid any potential problems down the road.

Other Important Factors to Keep in Mind

A few final thoughts to keep in mind when transferring ownership of your home to your child.

  • Solidify the Details Before Signing Paperwork – If you plan on continuing to live on the property, make sure your child is aware of that before finalizing any paperwork. You don’t want them to be surprised when you show up at their door with your belongings a few weeks after they’ve taken ownership.
  • Don’t Forego Official Paperwork – Any agreement between you and your child should be put in writing and signed by both parties. This will help prevent any misunderstandings or disagreements down the road.
  • Consult With a Real Estate Attorney – As with any real estate transaction, it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney before signing any documents. They can help you navigate the legalities of transferring ownership and make sure everything is done correctly.
  • Disclose Your Relationship to the Lender – If you have a mortgage on the property, be sure to disclose your relationship to the lender when you apply for a loan. Otherwise, it could lead to some issues down the road.
  • Use a Real Estate

The Bottom Line

There are a few different ways you can transfer ownership or sell your home to your child. But, it’s important to keep in mind the potential implications of each option before making a decision. Once you’ve decided on the best method for your situation, be sure to consult with a real estate attorney to avoid any potential problems down the road.

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