The Proper Way To Receive A Cash Gift As Down Payment On A Home

Tighter mortgage guidelines since late-2008 are forcing home buyers to make bigger downpayments.  Anecdotally, the change has led to a surge in buyers taking gifts of cash from family members.

If you’re among those accepting a cash gift from family, it’s important to know that you can’t just deposit the money in your bank account.

There is a proper way to accept a cash gift and it requires 3 distinct steps:

1.  Complete and sign an acceptable gift letter

2. Document the gifter’s withdrawal of funds with teller receipts

3. Document the giftee’s deposit of funds with teller receipts

See, mortgage lenders pay close attention to gifts-for-downpayments.  For one, lenders have to make sure that downpayment cash is “clean” (i.e. not laundered).  And, secondly, they want the gift to really be a gift and not a loan-in-disguise.

This is why lenders will often require that a signed, dated letter accompany the home loan application.

As an example:

I am the [relationship to recipient] of [name of recipient] and this letter serves as evidence that I am gifting [name of recipient] [amount of gift] to be used for the purchase of the home at [complete address of property].

This is a gift — not a loan — and there is no expectation of repayment.

[Signature of gifter]

To further appease lenders, gift recipients should make sure that gift funds are not commingled at the time of deposit.  If the gift is for $12,000, for example, the bank’s deposit slip should indicate that a $12,000 deposit was made — nothing more, nothing less.

Don’t add a random $50 check to the deposit, in other words.  If you have a separate deposit to make, make it as a subsequent transaction with its own receipt.

It’s also worth noting that gifting funds between family members can create both legal and tax liabilities.  If you’re unsure about how donating or receiving a gift may impact you, call or email me directly.  If I can’t help you with your questions, I can refer you to somebody that can.

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