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Down Payment Gifts

When it comes to home buying, 20% or higher is the standard mortgage down payment size that most lenders would ideally prefer. However, things are much different today than they have been in the past, as FHA loans and other proprietary mortgages often have much lower down payment requirements. In some instances, though, your family may decide to gift you some money towards a down payment. This will work wonders over the life of your loan, as a larger down payment equals less money in interest. You may want to talk to a financial advisor about a down payment gift before you make on, though.

Who Can Gift Down Payment Funds?

Lenders generally won’t allow you to use a cash gift from just anyone to get a mortgage. The money usually must come from a family member, such as a parent, grandparent or sibling. It’s also generally acceptable to receive gifts from your spouse, domestic partner or significant other if you’re engaged to be married.

The reason banks prefer these sources for a down payment gift is because they are more provable than, say, a stranger on the street who gave you money. It also indicates to lenders that you and your family actually have enough money to afford the loan.

Restrictions on Down Payment Gifts

How much money you’re eligible to receive as a down payment gift depends on the type of mortgage you’re borrowing. If you’re taking out a standard conventional loan, all of your down payment can be gifted if you’re putting down 20% or more. If you’re putting down less than that, part of the money can be a gift. However, some of it will probably have to come out of your own pocket, with the final split varying based on your loan type.

If you’re taking out an FHA or VA loan, the entire down payment can be gifted unless your credit score is below the minimum threshold of 580. In that scenario, you’d be responsible for paying at least 3.5% of the down payment yourself. Regardless of whether you’re getting a conventional, FHA or VA loan, a down payment gift is only acceptable when the house you’re purchasing will be your primary residence or second home.

Documenting a Down Payment Gift

Down Payment Gifts

Lenders require you to provide some detailed documentation any time a down payment gift is changing hands. Specifically, you’ll have to produce a letter which includes the name of the donor, their relationship to you, the date and amount of the gift and a statement that says the money has no expectation of repayment.

Both of you will need to sign the letter and the lender may also require additional documents to back it up. For instance, you might have to show copies of the donor’s bank statements to prove that they’re actually in a position to make a gift or a copy of a deposit slip showing when you place the money into your account.

While there’s no specific time frame on when you can accept a down payment gift, it’s always better to do it sooner rather than later. When you apply for a mortgage, most lenders look at your bank statements from the previous two to three months. If you’ve had a down payment gift sitting in your account for that entire time period, you may not have to jump through extra hoops to document it.

Tax Implications for the Giver of a Down Payment Gift

The IRS imposes a gift tax on certain monetary gifts and this tax is paid by the person donating the money, rather than the one who receives it. As of 2022, you could give up to $16,000 to any one person without incurring the gift tax. If you’re married and file a joint return, you and your spouse can jointly gift up to $32,000 to a child or other family member. There are no restrictions on how many people you can make gifts to each year.

In some cases, both parties can agree to have the person receiving the gift pay the tax. If you’re thinking of going this route, it might be a good idea to crunch the numbers first to find out how it may impact your tax liability when you file.

Bottom Line

Down Payment Gifts

If your family decides to help you out with a down payment gift, you should be extremely happy. However, like any large financial move, there are some rules and regulations to consider. Perhaps the most important is for the giver of the gift, as they’ll need to account for that money on their taxes. For the gift’s receiver, make sure you document everything along the way so you have everything at hand if you ever need to rely on it.

Financial Planning Tips for New Home Buyers

  • When you introduce a mortgage into your life, your long-term financial plan may need adjustments. A financial advisor can help you do this. Finding a qualified financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three financial advisors who serve your area, and you can interview your advisor matches at no cost to decide which one is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.
  • Before you decide on a home to buy for you and your family, you’ll want to find out exactly what you can afford to spend. Use SmartAsset’s home affordability calculator to start.

Photo credit: ©iStock.com/sommart, ©iStock.com/arthon meekodong, ©iStock.com/PeopleImages

Rebecca Lake Rebecca Lake is a retirement, investing and estate planning expert who has been writing about personal finance for a decade. Her expertise in the finance niche also extends to home buying, credit cards, banking and small business. She's worked directly with several major financial and insurance brands, including Citibank, Discover and AIG and her writing has appeared online at U.S. News and World Report, CreditCards.com and Investopedia. Rebecca is a graduate of the University of South Carolina and she also attended Charleston Southern University as a graduate student. Originally from central Virginia, she now lives on the North Carolina coast along with her two children.
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