Help with a down payment
With most lenders requiring borrowers to put down at least 20 percent as a down payment – unless using an FHA or VA loan, or purchasing mortgage insurance – the best holiday gift some people might receive would be help with a down payment on a house.
Making sense of the story
According to a survey by Trulia, the biggest barrier to buying a home these days is saving for the down payment. The survey, conducted over the summer, found that 51 percent of renters said coming up with money for the down payment was preventing them from buying, while 35 percent identified qualifying for a mortgage as the stumbling block.
Under federal tax law, each individual is permitted to give money or valuables worth up to $13,000 to a single recipient in a calendar year. A married couple could jointly bestow up to $26,000 a year per recipient.
According to one financial planner, there also is the option of lending a relative or close friend the money for the down payment, or the closing costs, then forgiving the loan in a future year. The recipient would have to pay interest on the loan until it was forgiven, at which point it would become a gift.
Another way to help with the down payment is to pay other expenses, such as tuition, thereby freeing up money to make a home purchase. Gifts for educational or medical expenses are not subject to taxes, as long as they are paid directly to the educational or medical institution.
However, prior to giving the money, gift-givers should consider their own financial picture, and they should make sure the recipient is responsible and not behind on other payments that could be subject to debt collection.