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Investing in Real Estate for Your Adult Children in San Francisco

September 7, 2023

Investing in San Francisco real estate for your adult children is a great way to help them get ahead. Here's everything you need to know.

How To Invest in San Francisco Real Estate for Your Children

So, you've reached that stage in life where your kids are all grown up, and you're thinking about how to help them secure their future. You’d like to transfer wealth and create long-lasting financial freedom for your children and/or grandchildren. The obvious choice is to help them buy a home where they live in San Francisco. 

In our experience as San Francisco Realtors, the two most common sources of down payment are tech stock options and “the Bank of Mom and Dad”. Right now, we are seeing more and more parents help their children (and grandchildren) buy their first home. Some of them are simply helping with the down payment. Others are investing in real estate for themselves and having their adult children live in the house (or condo) and pay them rent. In the future, they’ll transfer ownership to their children. 

However, buying a home or investment in San Francisco can be challenging. Even in today’s market, SF real estate marches to the beat of its own drum. If you live outside of the Bay Area, it can seem absolutely insane here: multiple offers, non-contingent offers, rent control, the fog(!), and so much more. 

So, how can you help your adult children buy a home in San Francisco while making sure that you make a smart investment for your portfolio? Let's dive in!

+ Ready to help your adult children make one of the most significant financial decisions of their lives? We’re here to help you make the most of it. Please feel free to contact us with questions.

Why Invest in SF Bay Area Real Estate for Your Adult Children?

Here in the SF Bay Area, we may be as famous for our sky-high real estate prices as we are for our world-leading tech industry. So, why might you consider helping your adult children invest in property here? The reasons are as compelling as a fresh loaf of sourdough from Tartine Bakery. 🥖

First off, let's talk about the elephant in the room: affordability. Your children might be earning decent salaries, especially if they're in tech, but the SF Bay Area's cost of living is still a challenge. Helping your child invest in a property not only gives them a sense of stability but also offers them a financial foothold in one of the most competitive real estate markets in the country. 

Secondly, real estate is a long-term game. We are not talking about flipping houses; we're talking about building a legacy. A property in the Bay Area is an investment that can—and historically, over the long-term, always does—appreciate over time, especially in sought-after neighborhoods. Imagine your kids owning a piece of San Francisco, Palo Alto or Berkeley. That's not just a home; that's inter-generational wealth.

Lastly, let's not forget the emotional aspect. Owning a home gives your children a sense of accomplishment and independence. It's like watching them ride a bike for the first time—but this time, the bike is a two-bedroom condo with a view of the Bay Bridge.

Question to Ponder: What's more important to you—helping your children achieve financial stability, building a family legacy, or giving them the emotional satisfaction of homeownership? Or is it a mix of all three?

So, are you convinced yet that investing in Bay Area real estate for your adult children is the way to go? Ready to dive into the how-to's?

san francisco home real estate investment for your children
Investing in San Francisco Bay Area real estate for your adult children can help set them on the path to financial independence and success.

Different Ways to Help Your Children Buy a Home in SF

Let's get down to the nitty-gritty of investing in real estate for your children. You're sold on the idea, but how do you actually make this dream a reality without turning into the Bank of Mom and Dad (or should we say, the Bank of "Oh My God, What Have I Done?")? Here are some options:

  1. Buy the Property Outright: If you have the cash on hand, this is the most straightforward option. You buy the property, and your kids live in it. Simple, right? Just remember, you'll be the landlord until you decide to transfer ownership. (And no, you can't evict them for not doing their laundry!)
  2. Provide the Down Payment: The down payment is most first-time buyers’ biggest hurdle in Bay Area real estate. Helping your kids clear this obstacle can set them well ahead on the path to homeownership. Just make sure you're aware of any gift tax implications. (More on that later!)
  3. Co-Own the Property: Think of this as a joint venture. You contribute to the down payment or mortgage, and in return you get equity in the property. It's like going halfsies on a pizza, but way more expensive and without the extra cheese.
  4. Finance the Home Purchase: If you're not keen on handing over a lump sum, why not act as the lender? You can set the interest rates and payment terms at what makes sense for you and your family.
  5. Rent-to-Own: Here's a creative one for you. Buy the property and rent it to your kids with the option for them to purchase it later at a predetermined price. It's a win-win; they get to live in the house and try it on for size, and you get rental income.

Question to Ponder: Which of these options best suits your financial situation and your willingness to be involved in the property? Are you looking for a hands-off investment or something that keeps you engaged?

What do you think? Are any of these options ringing a bell, or are they setting off alarm bells? Either way, let's keep this train moving and delve into the tax implications next.

Tax Implications of Helping Your Child Buy an SF Bay Area Home

Let's talk about everyone's favorite topic—taxes! Navigating the tax landscape is crucial when you're investing in real estate for your adult children, especially in the San Francisco Bay Area where every penny counts. We are not qualified to give tax advice. Please consult with a tax professional. But here’s what a Google search came up with as to the tax advantages of real estate and wealth transfer. (Half-joking!) 

  1. Gift Tax Exclusions: If you're generously providing the down payment or even buying the property outright, you'll want to be aware of gift tax exclusions. As of 2023, you can gift up to $17,000 per person without triggering any gift tax. That's a decent chunk of change, but in the Bay Area that's probably not going to cover the entire down payment.
  2. IRS Form 709: If your generosity knows no bounds and you exceed the annual gift tax exclusion, you'll need to file IRS Form 709. Don't worry; it's not the end of the world. It's just a way to keep Uncle Sam in the loop.
  3. Mortgage Interest Deductions: If you co-sign the mortgage or finance the home purchase yourself, you might be eligible for mortgage interest deductions.
  4. Rental Income and Deductions: Going the rent-to-own route? You'll have to report the rental income, but the good news is you can also deduct property-related expenses.

Question to Ponder: Have you consulted a tax advisor to fully understand the implications of investing in real estate for your children? It's always a good idea to get professional advice, especially when large sums of money and family are involved. As top San Francisco Realtors since 2002, we’ve helped many parents to buy a home for their kids—but we are NOT qualified attorneys or accountants. If you have tax or legal questions, please seek a qualified professional.

Understanding the tax implications can save you a lot of headaches (and money) down the line. We’ll talk about co-signing next.

cosigning mortgage with adult children to invest in sf bay area real estate
Co-signing the mortgage is one way to invest in SF Bay Area real estate to help your adult children get ahead.

The Pros and Cons of Co-Signing a Mortgage

What if you're thinking about co-signing a mortgage with your adult child? That's a big step, so before you put pen to paper, let's weigh the pros and cons.

Co-Signing Pros

  • Easier Loan Approval: With your financial backing, your child is more likely to get approved for a mortgage.
  • Better Interest Rates: Two incomes are better than one, at least in the eyes of mortgage lenders. You could help your child secure a loan with a lower interest rate, saving them (and possibly you) money in the long run.
  • Building Credit: If all goes well, co-signing can help boost your child's credit score. It's like giving them a head start in the adulting race.

Co-Signing Cons

  • Financial Risk: If your child misses a payment or, heaven forbid, defaults on the loan, your credit score could take a hit. It's a financial risk that could have ripple effects on your own future borrowing ability.
  • Reduced Borrowing Capacity: Co-signing a mortgage could affect your ability to take out loans for yourself. Planning to buy a new car or invest in another property? This could complicate things.
  • Family Dynamics: Money matters can strain even the closest of family relationships. Make sure everyone understands the terms and responsibilities to avoid turning Thanksgiving dinner into a courtroom drama. (We've all seen enough episodes of Judge Judy, haven't we?)

Question to Ponder: Are you prepared for both the financial and emotional commitments that come with co-signing a mortgage? It's not just about helping your child secure a loan; it's about being willing to share the responsibilities and risks.

So, what's the verdict? Does co-signing sound like a good fit for your family, or is it a hard pass? Either way, it's crucial to consider all angles before making such a significant financial decision.

Rental-Related Tax Deductions and Complications of investing in Real Estate for your Children

Alright, let's switch gears and talk about the rental route. Maybe you're considering buying a San Francisco Bay Area property and then renting it to your adult child. It sounds like a win-win: they get a place to live, and you get some rental income. But hold your horses! The tax implications can be tricky.

Tax Deductions

  • Property Taxes and Mortgage Interest: Good news! If you're renting out the property, you can deduct property taxes and mortgage interest. It's like the universe giving you a little "thank you" note for your investment.
  • Maintenance and Repairs: Need to fix a leaky faucet or repaint the walls? You can deduct these costs too. Just keep those receipts—you'll need them come tax time.
  • Depreciation: Over time, you can also deduct the property's depreciation. It's a bit complicated, but a tax advisor can guide you through it. (Yes, back to recommending professional advice. Trust us, the peace of mind is worth it.)


  • Renting Below Market Rate: If you're giving your child a "family discount" on the rent, the IRS might not let you deduct all your rental expenses.
  • Rent-Free Living: If your child is living rent-free, you can say goodbye to those lovely tax deductions. The IRS considers it a personal residence in this case, not a rental property.
  • Gift Tax: If you're not charging rent or charging below market rate, the IRS might consider it a gift. And yes, that could have gift tax implications. (The taxman giveth, and the taxman taketh away. Mostly he taketh.)

Question to Ponder: Have you considered the pros and cons of renting the property to your adult child? It may be the smart way of providing a roof over their head, but it’s important to understand the tax implications that come with it.

We know taxes and rentals can be a complicated mix, but understanding these nuances can help you make a more informed decision. Next, we’ll talk about the emotional and financial consequences of your choice—whatever you choose.

family real estate investment problems
Nothing brings stress to a family like big sums of money. Before you invest in San Francisco real estate for your child, make sure to set clear expectations and boundaries.

Emotional and Financial Considerations of Helping Your Children Invest in SF Bay Area Real Estate

Let's take a breather from all the numbers and tax jargon and talk about something equally important—the emotional and financial dynamics within the family. Investing in real estate for your adult children is a financial transaction and an emotional one. Mixing family and finances can be unpredictable.

Emotional Aspects

  • Sense of Independence: While helping your child buy a home can give them a significant leg up, it might also affect their sense of independence. It's a delicate balance between supporting them and letting them stand on their own two feet.
  • Family Harmony: Money matters can bring out the best and worst in families. Clear communication is key to ensuring that everyone's on the same page and that family gatherings don't turn into heated debates. (Because who wants to argue about mortgage payments over Thanksgiving dinner?)

Financial Aspects

  • Long-Term Commitment: Whether you're co-signing a mortgage or providing a down payment, this is a long-term financial commitment. Make sure you're prepared for that journey, and it aligns with your own financial goals.
  • Exit Strategy: What happens if circumstances change? Maybe your child gets a job in another city, or perhaps you need to liquidate the asset for your own reasons. Having a clear exit strategy can save a lot of headaches down the line.

Question to Ponder: Have you had an open and honest discussion with your family about the emotional and financial implications of this investment? It's crucial to set expectations and boundaries from the get-go.

So, how are we feeling? A bit overwhelmed, or are you starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel? Either way, it's essential to consider all the pros and cons before diving headfirst into this significant life decision. Up next, we'll discuss strategic planning for estate taxes. Ready to wrap this up?

Strategic Planning for Estate Taxes When Buying San Francisco Real Estate

We've made it to the final stretch! Let's talk about something that might not be on your immediate radar but is crucial for long-term planning—estate taxes. We know the term "estate taxes" might sound like something only billionaires have to worry about, but if you own property in the San Francisco Bay Area, you're already dealing with a substantial asset. So, let's get strategic.

Estate Tax Benefits

  • Reducing Your Taxable Estate: By gifting property or money to your adult children, you can actually reduce the size of your taxable estate. It's like financial dieting for your future tax bill.
  • Annual Exclusions: Remember those gift tax exclusions we talked about earlier? They also work in your favor here. By gifting within those limits, you can gradually transfer wealth without incurring estate taxes.
  • Unified Credit: The federal estate tax system allows for a unified credit that essentially lets you gift a certain amount during your lifetime or upon death without incurring taxes. Per Investopedia: “The lifetime gift and estate tax exemption for 2023 is $12.92 million for individuals and $25.84 million for married couples filing jointly.”

Planning Strategies

  • Trusts: Ever heard of a living trust or a family trust? These can be excellent tools for passing on property without the hassle of probate court. Plus, they offer more control over how the assets are distributed.
  • Life Insurance: A life insurance policy can provide the funds to cover any estate taxes, ensuring that the property doesn't have to be sold to pay the tax bill.
  • Professional Advice: Estate planning is complex, and laws can vary. Consulting an estate planning attorney can provide tailored advice to fit your family's needs. (Again with the "consult a professional" mantra, but really, it's invaluable—and we’re Realtors, not your lawyer! If you need a trusted referral, we’re happy to help.)

Question to Ponder: Are you taking proactive steps to minimize your future estate tax burden? Think about setting up your family for financial success in the long run.

Strategic planning for estate taxes is the cherry on top of your real estate investment sundae. It ensures that your financial generosity today can benefit your family for generations to come.

san francisco real estate for investment parents
San Francisco wasn't built in a day, nor should your investment strategy be. Start planning early!

Your Guide to Smart Real Estate Investments for Adult Children in the San Francisco Bay Area

We've covered a lot of ground! From the why's and how's of investing in real estate for your adult children in the San Francisco Bay Area, to the nitty-gritty of taxes and emotional dynamics, it's been quite the journey.

What have we learned? Investing in real estate for your adult children is more than just a financial transaction; it's a family affair. It's about providing them with a stepping stone to financial security, all while navigating the complex waters of taxes, mortgages, and family dynamics. And let's not forget the long-term strategic benefits, like reducing your future estate tax burden.

Final Question to Ponder: Are you ready to take this significant step, not just for your immediate family but for the wealth of future generations as well?

Remember that while this guide offers a comprehensive overview, it's always a good idea to consult the proper tax and financial planning professionals for personalized advice. Every family and situation is unique, just like our diverse SF Bay Area communities.

Want to further explore this option or ready to take the plunge? With over two decades of experience in the competitive landscape of San Francisco real estate, our boutique collective of top real estate agents, marketing experts, and transaction-wrangling pros at Danielle Lazier / Vivre Real Estate are committed to providing you with reliable advice, a sound strategy, and optimal results.

Contact us with questions. Also, sign up for our email newsletter to stay up to date on our latest articles, SF Bay Area real estate market insights, as well as hand-selected events, stories and culture around town. We respect your privacy and never share or sell your personal information. Talk soon!

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