Quitclaiming Property with a Mortgage

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I am currently living with my parents and they wish to deed of gift their house to me but they still have a remaining mortgage on it. Is it possible to do this or do they have to pay off the mortgage first? Thanks

They can gift the house to you without paying off the mortgage. However, the mortgage still has a valid lien on the property, and must be paid or they can and will foreclose.

The mortgage will still be in the names of the people who signed the paperwork (your parents) and therefore any credit benefit or dings will also belong to them. You could find yourself in the unenviable position of being unable to refinance, despite having made the payment for however long, because you're not getting credit for making those payments. Read the contract: it is possible that the loan is assumable. Even if it isn't, it's possible the lender will agree to add you to the list of those responsible (This can only help them; they're not letting your parents off unless/until you do a full refinance. Of course, adding you to the loan doesn't earn anyone a commission, so they might tell you that you need to refinance as it gets them paid, or helps them make a quota)

Quitclaiming is both legal and extremely simple, but has potentially severe tax consequences. Please check with an accountant in your area first. I'd also tell you to check with a lawyer, because each state has its own laws about the effects of how property is held. Nor will quitclaiming the property help if the purpose is to shelter assets from legal action, and if this is to enable your parents to qualify for Medicaid, all fifty states have "lookback" periods of at least thirty months, where the state will recover the value of any assets disposed of in that time frame.

If you are the party quitclaiming a property on which there is a mortgage, be advised that you are still responsible for payment of that mortgage. The lender has your signature on a contract that says, "I agree to pay..." They may or may not have other signatures, but all it means if they do is that other people will join in your misery. This happens all the time. Husband and wife divorce, one keeps the property, the other quitclaims but is still on the mortgage. Time goes by, and the ex-spouse who retained the property and the mortgage fails to make all of the payments on time. Bad consequences ensue for the "innocent" ex-spouse. I have seen this feature used maliciously by vengeful ex-spouses. I would advise requiring a spouse who retains the property to refinance solely in their own name, and if they are unable to qualify, requiring the property be sold. The other spouse is also entitled to a share of equity in many states.

If the property ends up being sold through a Short Payoff, the lender is almost certainly going to drag the "innocent" ex-spouse (whose signature is still on the dotted line) back into the situation. Basically like being an Alabama fieldhand prior to the Civil War or a male whose girlfriend decides not to have an abortion (Admittedly she puts up with nine months of pregnancy, but thereafter puts the child up for adoption and walks away - he gets hit with a lien for child support from the county for 18 years). Despite not having lived in or owned the property for years, they're still tied to that property by that piece of paper they signed. The ex-spouse wasn't the owner, so they had no ability to control or influence the sale, but they're still on the mortgage, so the lender can get their money out of them.

Finally, for as long as you remain on the mortgage, it will hit your debt to income ratio. You are obligated to make those payments, so it's a part of your credit-worthiness. Especially considered in conjunction with likely alimony and child support in the case of a divorce, you may have difficulty qualifying for another property, even ones that would have been well within your means before.

Caveat Emptor

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This page contains a single entry by Dan Melson published on December 28, 2007 7:00 AM.

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