FAQ: Can my Parents Give Me a Gift to Help with my Down Payment?

I work with a lot of first time buyers in the DC area, which is a very expensive market and thus many clients have their parents help out either with down payment assistance or co-signing the loan. The most important thing is to get a trusted lender involved very early in the process. Lenders sometimes have different sets of guidelines by bank and also by loan product. It’s important to choose an appropriate product (e.g., 30 year fixed FHA, or 30 year fixed conventional) early in the process. Sometimes gifts can be ‘seasoned’ in the recipient’s account and used as a down payment, but if it arrives too late in the process it may cause problems with the loan approval.

There’s a big misunderstanding about gift taxes. For gifts below a certain amount, no filing is due to the IRS, and for above a certain amount a filing is due BUT taxes may or may NOT be due! It depends on the amount of the gift, how many recipients there are, and whether the giver has reached his or her lifetime exclusion. Parents often mistakenly assume they will be taxed on every gift above the reporting threshold, and thus want to structure it as a loan but that is one of the worst things they can do. If it’s structured as a loan then the lender will count it as debt and it will affect the recipient’s debt-to-income ratio and could very well result in a rejection by the lender. The key is to speak with your tax preparer early to determine whether the gift is taxable, and then speak to a trusted lender.

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