If someone has the financial means to afford it, they may choose to give a home—paid in full—as a gift. Or, perhaps, they are in possession of a second home that they could sell or rent out but decide to make it a gift to someone instead. All the owner needs to do is sign over the deed of a house to the parent, child, or whomever they wish.
Once the house is in the occupant’s name, it belongs to them completely. They take on all of the tax liability, upkeep, and legal responsibility that comes along with the property. They can also do whatever they wish with the home, even sell it.
Someone who decides to gift a house in this way needs to understand this. The new owners could make changes that the purchaser does not approve of or allow the property to fall into disrepair, and have every right to do so. If the giver wants to maintain some control of the property, making an outright gift may not be the wisest choice.
There are also tax implications for the giver of this type of gift. Individuals are allowed to give gifts of up to $15,000 to as many people as they want. A married couple can give $30,000. Since a house will exceed that amount, the giver will need to file an additional form (Form 709) with their income tax return. Taxes won’t be due on the gift unless a lifetime exclusion of $11.58 million (doubled for married couples) is reached. (These are the current rates for 2020.)
Most people will not reach the lifetime exclusion amount unless they can afford to gift several grandchildren with cars, college tuition, and houses. But filing additional tax returns can be a nuisance and is something they need to know about and be prepared to do.