How to Buy a House from a Family Member?

This comprehensive guide delves into the process of buying a house from a family member, covering the legal framework, advantages and disadvantages, property valuation, sale structure, and financial considerations. 

Happy family of three lying down with heads touching, illustrating a non arm's length transaction when buying a primary residence from a family member, involving equity gift, real estate agent, down payment, and self interest in investment property

With tips and professional advice, you’ll be well-equipped to navigate this unique type of real estate transaction.

Non-Arm’s Length Transactions

When learning how to buy a house from a family member, it’s essential to understand the concept of non-arm’s length transactions. 

These are transactions between parties that share a professional or personal relationship. Because the parties involved have more than their own self-interest in mind, they may not act independently, as they would in an arm’s length transaction.

What is a Non-Arm’s Length Transaction?

A non-arm’s length transaction is a real estate deal between people with a prior relationship: family members, friends, or business partners. In these cases, the sales price may not accurately represent the fair price of the property.

Yes, non-arm’s length transactions are legal in Illinois, but they must follow specific guidelines to ensure compliance with state and federal tax laws. It’s essential to consult with a real estate attorney and a tax professional to avoid any potential legal or financial pitfalls.

Real Estate Laws in Illinois

In Illinois, real estate transactions normally follow specific procedures, including the use of a real estate agent and/or attorney, completing a title search, and preparing the necessary legal documents. 

Chicago skyline featuring skyscrapers, representing non arm's length transactions in a family home purchase, with assistance from a real estate agent, down payment, equity gift, and FHA loan, all while adhering to the arm's length principle and arm's length affidavit requirements

Additionally, the Illinois Residential Real Property Disclosure Act requires sellers to disclose any known defects or issues with the property.

Evaluating the Advantages and Disadvantages

Pros of Purchasing a Home from a Family Member

  1. Familiarity with the property: As a family member, you likely have intimate knowledge of the home’s history, condition, and any potential issues.
  2. Easier negotiations: Negotiating the terms and conditions of the sale may be simpler with a family member than with a stranger.
  3. Potential savings: Family members may offer a discounted price or other favorable terms, such as lower earnest money or down payment assistance.

What are the pros of buying a house from family?

Some of the main advantages include a simpler negotiation process, potential savings, and a more thorough understanding of the property’s history and condition.

Potential Risks and Challenges

  1. Emotional involvement: The personal relationship between the buyer and seller can make the transaction more emotionally charged, potentially leading to disagreements or strained relationships.
  2. Less objectivity: Because of the personal connection, both parties may be less objective in their decision-making, which could lead to financial or legal issues.

Establishing the Property Value

When buying a house from a family member, it’s essential to determine a fair purchase price that accurately reflects the property’s market value.

Toy houses on ascending stacks of coins and currency notes, illustrating a non arm's length transaction in a family member selling property, while considering mortgage broker and fha loan options for a smooth real estate transaction

What is the best way to buy property from your parents?

The best way to buy property from your parents is to follow these steps:

  1. Determine a fair purchase price based on the home’s market value.
  2. Consult with a real estate attorney and tax professional to understand any potential legal and tax implications.
  3. Obtain a mortgage pre-approval if you plan to finance the purchase.
  4. Have the property appraised and order a title search to ensure a clear title.
  5. Prepare the necessary legal documents, such as the purchase agreement and deed, with the help of an experienced real estate attorney.
  6. Close the transaction and transfer ownership.

Appraisals and Market Analysis

To determine a fair purchase price, it’s essential to conduct a thorough market analysis and obtain an appraisal. 

White toy houses representing a family house purchase with a blurred price chart in the background, illustrating non arm's length transaction, down payment considerations, and the importance of debt to income ratio and minimum credit score in the house hunting process.

An appraisal will provide an unbiased assessment of the home’s fair price, while a market analysis will help you understand the local market conditions and comparable sales in the area.

Structuring the Sale

Seller Financing Options

Seller financing can be an attractive option for buyers who want to purchase a home from a family member without obtaining a traditional mortgage.

Can I buy a house from my parents without a mortgage?

Yes, you can buy a house from your parents without a mortgage through seller financing. In this arrangement, your parents would act as the lender, and you would make mortgage payments directly to them.

Can my parents sell me their house for $1?

While it is technically possible for your parents to sell you their house for a dollar, doing so may have significant tax implications, so consult with a tax professional before proceeding with such a transaction.

Traditional Mortgage Financing

Obtaining a traditional mortgage or home loan from a bank or mortgage lender can be another option for financing the purchase of a home from a family member. However, it’s essential to understand the lender’s requirements and ensure that the transaction meets their guidelines.

Cash Transactions

Can I buy my parents’ home in cash?

Yes, you can buy your parents’ home in cash if you have the necessary funds available. A cash transaction can simplify the buying process, eliminate the need for mortgage financing, and potentially expedite the closing process.

Drafting a Purchase Agreement

A purchase agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines the terms and conditions of the sale. It’s essential to have a real estate attorney draft the agreement to ensure compliance with local laws and protect both parties’ interests.

Smiling family members discussing non arm's length transaction over coffee, considering down payment and gift of equity options while planning house hunting sooner together

A title search is an essential step in the home buying process. It helps ensure that the property has a clear title, free of any liens or encumbrances that could affect the transfer of ownership.

Title History and Legal Representation: A title company or a real estate attorney can conduct a title search for you and review the property’s title history. They can also assist with resolving any title issues that are discovered during the process.

Reviewing Property Disclosures

When buying a house from a family member, it’s crucial to review property disclosures to understand the condition of the property and any potential issues. This information can help you make an informed decision about the purchase and avoid potential disputes down the line.

TAX letters on blocks with tax-related icons, laptop, and coins on paper reports, illustrating gift of equity and taxable income considerations in buying a house from a family member with real estate agent assistance, house inspection, and homeowners association fees involved

Navigating Taxes and Other Financial Considerations

Gift Tax Implications: When buying a house from a family member at a price below its fair market value, the difference between the sales price and the fair market value may be considered a gift. 

Capital Gains Tax: The sale may be subject to capital gains tax, depending on the seller’s specific circumstances. 

Potential Impact on Property Taxes: As with any sale, the price at which the property is sold may have an impact on future property taxes. 

It is wise to consult with a tax professional to understand the gift tax implications, capital gains tax implications, and to understand any potential impact on property taxes, when selling or buying a house from a family member.

Preparing for the Closing

As you approach the closing date, it’s essential to complete any necessary paperwork, arrange for the transfer of funds, and ensure that all parties have met their obligations under the purchase agreement.

Continue The Underwriting Process: If you’re obtaining mortgage financing, your lender will need to complete the underwriting process to ensure that you meet their lending guidelines.

Cheaper Closing Costs: Buying a home from a family member may result in cheaper closing costs, as some fees may be reduced or eliminated due to the existing relationship between the parties.

Underwriting and Closing: During the mortgage underwriting and closing process, you’ll need to provide any required documentation, pay closing costs, and finalize the transaction with your lender and the title company.

Hand with nail polish holding keys with house-shaped keychains, symbolizing a family member buying a parents house through an arm's length transaction, involving house inspection and transfer pricing to save money and avoid capital gains taxes

Finalizing the Deal and Transferring Ownership

At the closing, both parties will sign the necessary documents, funds will be transferred, and ownership of the property will officially transfer to the buyer.

Seeking Professional Assistance

The Role of a Real Estate Attorney

A real estate attorney can provide valuable guidance and assistance throughout the home buying process. 

They can help draft legal documents, conduct title searches, and ensure that the transaction complies with all applicable laws and regulations.

Buying a House without a Realtor

Although it’s possible to buy a house from a family member without a realtor, having a real estate professional on your side can sometimes be beneficial. Realtors can provide valuable insights into the market value and purchase and sale process, ensuring a smooth transaction. However, if you decide to proceed without a realtor, you may want to learn more about how to sell a house by owner to better understand the process from both the buyer- and seller’s perspectives.

Consulting with a Financial Advisor

A financial advisor can provide valuable guidance on the financial aspects of buying a home from a family member, including assessing the affordability of the purchase and understanding the tax implications.

Additional Considerations

Family Strife

Buying a home from a family member can sometimes lead to family disputes, particularly if other family members feel they were not treated fairly or if the transaction impacts inheritances. 

It’s essential to communicate openly with all involved parties and consider the potential emotional ramifications of the transaction.

More Work

Buying a home from a family member can require more work and involvement from the buyer, as they may need to coordinate various aspects of the transaction, such as appraisals, title searches, and legal document preparation. 

However, the potential cost savings and other benefits often make the extra work worthwhile.


A handshake over a table bearing a contract and keys, with other office paraphernalia. Buying a house from a family member can be a rewarding experience with a unique set of advantages and challenges.

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, buying a house from a family member can be a rewarding experience with its unique set of advantages and challenges. 

By understanding the legal framework, determining a fair purchase price, and seeking professional assistance when needed, you can successfully navigate the process. 

Remember to carefully weigh the pros and cons and consider the tax implications, while keeping open communication with all parties involved. 

By following these guidelines, you can ensure a smooth transaction and enjoy your new home, knowing that it holds not only financial value but also cherished family memories.

Uri Adler