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The best way to help your child buy a home

MoneySense logo MoneySense 2017-11-13 Romana King

Q: I am in the process of helping my daughter buy a condo, here is what we have done so far:

We signed the mortgage with her as primary and me as co-signer,  I will be giving her the down payment and she is going to be living there and she will be the one paying the mortgage and all expenses.

My question is what would be the best way to do this transaction looking it at both a legal and tax perspective. From the tax perspective: How should I arrange/declare that I am gifting her the down payment on this condo? And when do we claim the tax breaks for her as a first time buyer? Would that be at time of paying the lawyer for land transfer etc.? Also, I would like to still be able to have some room on my credit as to buy another property so we were thinking if her owning 90% of the condo and me keeping just 10% would work for this purpose. According to the lawyer, we both have to have some percentage assigned because we are both on the mortgage.

From a legal perspective, we are thinking about joint tenancy as the best way to protect the asset if one of us passes away unexpectedly.

My intention is really just to help her “fly on her own,” but with all the legal and tax implications, we’d really like to do it in the best way possible.

—Claudia

A: Hi Claudia. First, let me congratulate you and your daughter! It’s wonderful that you are in a financial position to help her with the purchase of her first property.

It appears you’ve given the current and future implications of this decision a great deal of thought.

I can only assume that your lawyer has asked for a percentage split on the property because you are co-signing the mortgage and because you are opting to have both you and your daughter on title as owners’ of the property.

This legal structure helps limit the amount of taxes you owe, as you can specify that your share in the property is nominal, say 10%. Just keep in mind that each joint tenant can gift or sell their portion of the property. That means, your daughter has the legal right to sell her 90% stake in the condo even if you don’t want or agree to the sale. It also means that you are exposing yourself to creditors, should your daughter file for bankruptcy or become a defendant in a lawsuit. Finally, the 10% that you own will not be sheltered under the principal residence exemption as this property is not your primary residence.

But there is a silver lining. The Canada Revenue Agency does not tax gifted money. That means if you opt to gift your daughter the entire down payment to purchase the condo neither you nor your daughter are required to pay tax on that gifted money. If, however, lenders find out that this gift is, in fact, a loan, this can seriously impact whether or not your daughter can qualify for a mortgage as all debts (even loans to family members) are included in debt ratios used to qualify borrowers for mortgages.

Finally, your lawyer or legal representative handling this real estate transaction will take care of the paperwork when it comes to the first-time home buyers’ tax credits and rebate. That said, ask your lawyer to confirm that your daughter won’t be exempt from these credits because you are on title. According to the CRA, a buyer is disqualified from claiming these credits if they’ve already owned a home or they lived in a home owned by their spouse or common-law partner now or in the last five years. While it seems remote that your daughter would lose eligibility to these credits, it’s still better to check now than find out the hard way.

Romana King is an award-winning personal finance writer, a real estate expert and speaker. 

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