Parents Can Be a Pain in the Neck when Helping Their Adult Children Buy a Home (but they don't have to be)

Boomer Dads Can Be a Pain in the Neck When They Help You Buy a House (But They Don’t Need to Be…)


According to a recent poll, more than a third of Americans who’ve ever owned a home received financial help from their parents to purchase it, but that number is even higher (at 79%) for younger buyers today. So the chances are, if you have a Boomer dad, he’s going to be chipping in some money—and probably his two cents along with it—when you buy a house.

Getting some dough from dad is a double-edged sword. As much as the money is welcome, it often comes with some invisible strings that give him the right to have a say in your home search, which house you buy, and how much you should offer to pay for it.

It’s not just dads; you can add moms to the list, too. Many parents have a tendency to want some say in their child’s home purchase, especially when they’re chipping in to help make it possible. But this Curbed article called out Boomer dads in particular, saying that they’re driving real estate agents (and their children) nuts by giving their opinions and advice. And it’s often bad advice…

The advice they give is often based upon their own limited past experience buying a house, which was likely in a different real estate market. So their experience, opinions, and advice can actually get in the way of you making a solid, well-informed decision when they insist on giving it, and expect you to listen.

Here are few common examples of well-intentioned, but bad advice from parents:

  • They base their opinion on the prices of homes on how much they were worth years (if not decades) ago.
  • They give advice on how to negotiate, which often boils down to coming in with a lower offer than they should.
  • They say that a place needs too much work, or is even a tear-down, even if it just needs some cosmetic updates and is priced appropriately considering the needed work.
  • They’ll say it’s too small…or too big.
  • They’ll say it’s not a good location.
  • And sometimes it’s just a vibe or feeling that they can’t specify, so they’ll just say that you should keep looking and maybe something better will come on the market.

Here’s the thing: they can’t be blamed or feel bad or guilty if you don’t buy a particular house. There’s no way to look back and say it’s a mistake then. So, deep down, it’s often easier (or safer) for them to just tell you not to buy something than it is to give a place their approval. But that can get in the way of you buying a place you truly love, lead to buying a house you don’t love, and drag out the process for way longer than it needs to be.

Unfortunately, real estate agents aren’t in the best position to tell a parent they’re wrong, let alone to mind their own business and butt out. Nothing good is coming out of your agent telling your dad (or mom) that they’re wrong. That’s something you have to do as their child, but that’s kind of difficult to do when they’re giving you some help.

Most of the time it’s coming from a good place. Parents just don’t want to see their child make a bad decision, and see it as being protective of their child…and their money. But if they truly want to be helpful, here are a few things you should do to avoid the issues that parents can unwittingly cause:

  • Go over these potential issues with your parents before even starting the process…or at least as soon as you read this article if you’ve already begun your home search.
  • Set expectations about the entire process, not just about how much money they’ll give you. Come to an agreement about how much “say” your parents get in return for the money. Ideally, get them to simply respect that while it is their money, it’s going to be your home, and it’s ultimately your decision. (Be all the more firm if they’re not giving you any money.)
  • That said, tell them that you welcome their input and advice, based upon their experience and concern, as long as they understand you may not take some of their advice.
  • Make sure that while you appreciate their past experience, you also need to trust the perspective and advice your agent brings to the table, considering they have more recent and overall experience in the market.
  • Establish that your agent has some input and say and encourage them to make any of their thoughts and concerns a group discussion that involves your agent.
  • Have them involved throughout the process. They can’t just swoop in with input and ultimatums based upon the pictures they can see online, or coming to check out a house or two right before you’re going to make an offer and be able to have a fully informed opinion. They need to see all of the other houses you aren’t making an offer on, in order to understand why you love the one you are making an offer on.

Doing those things should go a long way in making it a smoother, more enjoyable process for you, your parents…and your real estate agent!

The Takeaway:

Parents often help their adult children buy a house by giving them money for a down payment. But whether they give some financial help or not, they also often like to add their two cents by giving their opinions and advice about which house you buy, and how much you should offer to pay for it.

While it’s probably well-meaning, it can get in the way of you buying the house you love, and make the process longer and more stressful than it has to be. In order to avoid this, set some ground rules about their involvement in your decision before you even start looking for a home, or as early in the process as possible.


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