Saturday, July 7, 2012

Mom & Dad: Do’s and Don’ts on “Helping” Your Adult Child Buy Their First Home

Buying a home for the first time can be a daunting experience.  Often young people have saved for years to get a down payment together.  After they choose their Realtor, get pre-approved for a mortgage or get a proof of funds letter in hand for a cash purchase, they define their criteria and the fun begins.

Most first time home owners cannot afford to get all the features they would like, so they quickly learn to sort through what is most important.  Is proximity to work a priority?  Making sure you have room for a growing family or your ATV collection?  Is the home’s resale value a consideration?  Many first time homeowners think they will live in this home much longer than they actually do.  People get married, divorced, have children, get new jobs across town or across the country, etc.  When that happens, they need to move. National averages show us we move about every five years, so it is good to look ahead and plan for growth, change and resale.

Often times, I show a client a couple dozen homes and then when they start to be drawn to one property over another, they want affirmation that they are picking the best home for their money.  They call in their parents and they join us to see the top two or three homes.  Here is where problems can begin.  Since the parents have not seen the dozen or more homes we have seen, they have not had the benefit of comparison in the overall market to know these really are the best buys.  They have also not worked through prioritizing the criteria…maybe deciding they can live with a carport instead of a garage if they get the fenced back yard for their dogs.

Another problem I have run into with the relatives is hearing them vent all the negatives about a home that their son or daughter has deemed the best.  They somehow feel that is their job…to point out the soiled carpet or torn wallpaper (things we saw and discussed).  What I see happening here is what I call “stealing their joy.”  Instead of being excited, now the clients are doubting their judgment and consequently want to see dozens more homes, even if they don’t  quite meet their basic criteria….just to please the parents.   When that happens, often I see the really great home they had picked out be snapped up by another buyer, and the buyers are consequently remorseful.

Sometimes I have run into parents imposing their housing desires on their children:  insisting on a 1 story home, or a home that is move in ready, but far from work, or even some superstitions they may have, but their children do not share.  Instead of helping their children, parents can actually confuse and discourage them.
So how would I suggest parents help their children?  First, rather than jumping into the driver’s seat, allow your adult child to tell you what they like about the home.  Let them show you around.  Watch their expressions to see where they light up and where they have concerns.  If they are going to pay for the home and live there, they should be allowed to pick what they want.  Of course, if you feel they are making a big mistake in buying a home that is unsafe or in a questionable neighborhood, it would be wise to suggest they investigate by hiring a qualified inspector or calling the local police department to ask for crime statistics.   It would also be wise to consult with the Realtor they have chosen to air your concerns and listen for their perspective in their special area of expertise.
Parents can be a big help in assisting their adult children with the purchase of their first home, but they need to remember that they have given their children roots and wings.  They need to trust that all those years of living with their son or daughter have caused them to pick up on their wisdom.  Now is the time to encourage and listen as they chart their course and begin the new adventure called homeownership.

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