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The Gift Letter – A Misunderstood Financing Secret

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Gift FundsI had three sales in a row this year that all used gift letters to solve three different problems.

In the first instance, the buyer that had a house to sell first and used a gift letter as a bridge loan so they could put in a non-contingent offer.

In the second instance, first time buyers had good income but no money down. However Fannie Mae allows gift letters for the whole down payment; so they got a 95% loan with a 5% gift letter and we negotiated closing costs from the seller resulting in a purchase with no out-of-pocket expense.

With the third sale, the buyers had 5% down but using a gift letter were able to put 10% down in order to reduce the cost of the mortgage insurance: They saved $60.19 /mo. and $13,356 overall because they will be able to cancel it sooner.  (I actually had a sale last year where the buyer used gift funds to put 20% down and eliminate mortgage insurance entirely).

I didn’t push this idea – it just came up in general conversation and as a possible solution to the individual problems. HOWEVER, there is one thing that I said that completely changed the perception of gift letters:  Although the donor must state they don’t require payback, there is nothing anywhere that says that the gift CANNOT be paid back.  So how does this change things?

I think the main reason gift letters are not used more often is the buyer feels uncomfortable approaching family members for a “handout”, and possibly the obligation that goes with it. However, if the buyer says, “I will pay you back”, now it become a business proposition.  Moreover, I think that there are a lot of family members who would be willing to gift money but are just never asked.  And for the ones that aren’t inclined toward gifts, for whatever reason (they may think that giving their kids something that large is not good for them), now it’s not a handout, it’s a hand up!

As a buyer, you might be surprised at how much money is available to you, and how willing people are to help, once they understand how gift letters work.

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About The Author
Chris Swanson

Born and raised in Southern California, Chris Swanson brings a rich background of real estate sales and sales management experience to the company. With over 40 years of residential real estate experience in San Diego; an award winning salesperson for Coldwell Banker Residential Real Estate, as well as holding the positions of Branch manager of several sales offices, District Manager and Regional Manager during his career.