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Realtor Q&A: How to help children navigate home-buying process

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It’s a conundrum faced by many parents – how involved should they be when their adult children embark on their first home purchase?

Other than handing out cash, in what ways can parents be the most helpful when their children are first-time homebuyers? The Sun Gazette surveyed local real-estate professionals and received a wide array of opinions.

Dean Yeonas, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “You always want to own property. So any parent counseling and advising their kids to get them over the hump and understand that and see the big picture, and that buying is an asset, would be good advice. Kind of talking them off the ledge.”

Carol Temple, Coldwell Banker: “Parents will either convey their anxiety or their confidence to their child. Many parents are likely to be on high alert when their offspring is on the brink of a first-time property purchase. Anxious parent, anxious child. The buyer’s agent can volunteer to have a conversation with the parent to answer questions and explain the process. Should the buyer and parent want that, a productive dialogue between agent and parent will go a long way to ease real or imagined concerns. Confident parent; confident child; smoother transaction.”


Rob Ferguson, Re/Max Allegiance: “I like it if the parents are able to go to see homes once we narrow the search down to a few final homes. It is helpful for the first-time buyers to have their parents’ opinion and support on the home they ultimately pick, and helps reinforce the home they choose.”

Joan Stansfield, Keller Williams: ”Parents who want to be involved are always welcome and appreciated – preferably, however, early in the process. When parents want to provide their opinions, decisions or financial assistance, we prefer they attend showings, assist in establishing the budget, as well as negotiations of the contract and home inspections. When parents swoop in inserting strong opinions or negativity after these opportunities pass, or just in time to attend settlement, it creates doubt and is never productive or healthy. We seek to define all pertinent parties involved during our buyer consult. Buying a home for the first time is intimidating and often scary, for both the parents and their adult children. So we work hard to cover all angles.”

Archie Harders, Long & Foster: “That is dependent upon the relationship existing between parent and adult child. That being said, however, I believe a healthy brainstorming session of questions and possible/probable issues is a good exercise and provides a good way for parents to communicate their experience.”

Betsy Twigg, McEnearney Associates: “They should not try to micro-manage their children’s decisions. How can they be most helpful is by not being helpful, and they shouldn’t get mad when their children don’t follow their advice. When they are involved, sometimes Realtors can get conflicting instructions from both parties.”

Steve Wydler, Wydler Brothers: ”I’m biased, but I think the best advice a parent can give their adult child is to encourage their child to hire a knowledgeable and experienced real estate agent. And then, and this is the hard part for most parents, stay out of the way and let their child make his/her own decision.”

Ann Wilson, Keller Williams: “Encourage your child to attend a first-time-homebuyer course. Encourage your child to investigate available grants and down-payment-assistance programs their state, county or locality may offer. Loan your child a deposit for the purchase. Parents can co-sign for their child on the mortgage loan. Encourage the child to work with an experienced, patient loan officer employed by a reputable lender. The choice of a lender can make the difference between a stressful experience and an exciting, stress-free experience.”

Mark Middendorf, Long & Foster: “I think parents can be helpful. To clarify, they can be a sounding board for sharing a similar experience to what their children may be experiencing. The most help is to let their children work through the process with their Realtor, and the entrusted related parties such as the lender, home inspector, title company, etc., on their own and have their own experience. Too much involvement can be confusing and overwhelming. This is a very new and exciting time for their children, so let them enjoy it and build their own memories.”

Karen Briscoe, Huckaby, Briscoe, Conroy Realty Group, Keller Williams: “It can all start early in life with good instruction making sure their kids have good financial habits, and making sure they have good credit by the time they are ready to buy a property. Most parents have not bought a house in a long time, so the market and how things are done have changed and are done differently from when they bought. So sometimes their advice and experiences are not applicable anymore.”

Craig Burns, The Redux Group: “Only if a child is absolutely asking for a parent’s advice should a parent get involved. Unsolicited advice is likely not to go over well and could cripple the child from ever making an adult decision. If a parent circumvents what a professionally trained Realtor is advising, by giving advice that may have worked when they bought a home, it seldom goes well. I once had a parent that was so anxious about her daughter moving out of her home and her control that she did everything in her power to keep the daughter from continuing with the purchase, even after a ratified contract and an almost perfect home inspection. That particular parent was unwilling for her daughter to mature into adulthood.”

Casey Samson, Samson Properties: “Stay out of the transaction. Listen to a professional Realtor who knows how to build a winning contract.”

Jack Shafran, Yeonas and Shafran Real Estate: “They should help their kids prepare short- and long-term maintenance budgets, and plans for those things that need to be done after buying, like cutting the grass and cleaning the gutters and windows. For the long term, a new roof. All of that often isn’t planned for by new young buyers.”

Eli Tucker, Eli Residential Group: “I think that parents can help by providing perspective on how their child’s housing needs will change over time to help them figure out likely length of ownership and prioritize the right criteria.”

Natalie Roy, Keller Williams: “Parents can offer a wide range of valuable non-monetary help. Their assistance could include providing advice based on their own home-buying experiences and lessons learned during the process. First-time home buyers can also tap into the expertise of parents, who might have relevant construction/renovation and real-estate experience. For example, when my husband and I purchased our Lyon Park home decades ago, my Dad, an engineer and owner of a home-inspection business, did the inspection. As a parent myself, I have helped all three of my daughters on the real-estate front. Do they take my advice all of the time? No, of course not. But almost. ”

Dawn Wilson, TTR Sotheby’s International: “A way to be helpful is to encourage children to find a good lender and Realtor in the location where they will be buying. Sometimes parents try to advise their children about the process when the parents purchased 20, 30, or 40 years ago. That information is no longer applicable. This advice can derail the process for the children and cause them to lose a home. Good local advice for the current time period of the purchase is the most valuable help for a first-time home buyer.”

Craig Mastrangelo, Compass: “Parents can help their children by trying to assist in setting them up for success to be competitive. Parents need to become the teachers again, either through their own knowledge or connecting them to lenders and Realtors who can approach the desire to purchase a home months in advance of their desired purchase date. First-time home buyers can be competitive if they are prepared for the real estate market for which they wish to become homeowners.”

Dee Murphy, Compass: “If the kids are trying to purchase a first home that is out of reach, the parents can buy it with them 50/50 – putting down half the down payment and paying half the mortgage each month. When it is time to sell, this becomes a win/win. The parents are rewarded for helping out by recouping their initial investment and enjoying the profit gained from the equity. The kids are set up to buy their next home without parental assistance because they have the money from their half of the home sale proceeds.”

Dave Adams, Coldwell Banker: “The parents can co-sign on the loan, or co-sign on the loan as a non-occupant owner. They also can provide advice from their years of experience of being homeowners themselves. And, of course, providing moral support to their children on what probably will be the largest investment of their lives.”

Diane Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “The best thing parents can do is help their children find an experienced real estate agent and mortgage banker they trust, and then let them learn the process from them.”
Marybeth Fraser, Keller Williams: “One approach is to help your child prepare to buy a home by teaching them financial skills and responsibilities early on. Going out to look at homes in their budget and discuss the responsibilities associated with owning a home is another means to teach our children about home ownership. An added tool is a book I highly recommend, “Make Your Kid a Money Genius, Even if You’re Not.” Her strategies to get kids thinking about money in a smart way are magnificent.”

Carol Ellickson, TTR Sotheby’s International: “Suggest they find a good realtor who knows the market where they are looking. That agent should have names of several good lenders – who are the key ingredient in the buying process and who can provide a pre-approval letter after determining what they can comfortably afford. Personally, I did not help my son financially to buy his first place, but I made sure he understood the sales contract when he was agreeing to buy his new home, as well as all the contingencies. Finally, keep in mind you want them to make sure they buy a home that will not be difficult to sell later.”

Barbara Lewis, Washington Fine Properties: “Parents need to remember that there is no such thing as the perfect house. Being supportive of a child’s decision would be most appreciated. Parents can then help with items that will enhance the house for the first-time home buyer.”

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