There’s a lot to think about when you inherit money. Particularly for those who are younger and have come into money suddenly, it can be a jarring experience. If you’re not used to the responsibilities that accompany having money, or of simply having financial options, it can be intimidating and overwhelming.
In the past I’ve dealt with a few people in this situation and if the inheritance is used wisely it can provide an extraordinary opportunity to help grant financial security and independence. For those of you in this unique situation who are contemplating buying real estate, here are a few points to consider.
Using your inheritance, or part of it, to purchase real estate is probably one of the safer investments you can make. Once again, this is especially true of those whose financial savviness and experience is limited. One thing to keep in mind however, is that unless you are able or prepared to plunk down a very big down payment, you will have the same mortgage qualifications as everyone else. Lenders always want to see some sort of income on the books. If you can manage a down payment of around 50% they will certainly be more likely to provide exceptions than if you put the minimum or even 20% down, but the hard reality is that unless unless your inheritance can cover most of the cost of the house you will need a co-signer in order to obtain a mortgage if your own income does not qualify for it.
Using an inheritance to put down a bulky lump sum is another way of using this financial windfall wisely. A great example comes from Simon and Marielle Boyce who write a blog together called Sustainable Personal Finance. On their blog the couple talk about living a sustainable lifestyle and how this can also be financially sustainable and empowering. In a recent interview with the couple on how they plan to pay off a $300,000 mortgage in less than ten years, they talked a lot about the power of making lump sum payments towards paying off a mortgage. In 2015, an inheritance allowed the couple to put down an additional $29,990 which came off their principal.
This sentiment is echoed by financial guru Gail Vaz-Oxlade, who wrote a poignant article highlighting the benefits of using an inheritance towards a mortgage. Financial expert and award-winning blogger, Jim Yih seems to believe in the same principals. Using a couple who recently came into a $225,000 inheritance and who were encouraged by their bank to invest in a mutual fund, Yih crunched some serious numbers to see what was their best bet. Although the bank showed the couple that a mutual fund at a fixed rate of over 5% compounded over the following 5 years meant their $225k would turn into $315k, Yih points out that this return is completely dependent on the rate of return. After deciding to run the numbers at a lower fixed rate, $225k only grew to $258k in seven years. Paying off their mortgage and investing the $3,000 per month mortgage payment on the other hand turned $225 into $274k over the same number of years. Keep in mind though, the lump sum has to be in line with their prepayment privilege; usually around 15-20% of the total mortgage borrowed.
Yih went on to sum it up like this, “If the return on investment is lower than the interest rate on the mortgage, then the math would tip toward paying off the mortgage.” Regardless of how large the sum, I encourage all my clients to seek out sound financial advice from a reputable advisor so that we have a clear picture of how much money they actually have to contribute and where it will best be served. The lump sum may have a better return on a RRSP to reduce taxes, for example. In addition, it’s often smart to divvy up the funds instead of channel everything towards the mortgage in case of special circumstances where you have to refinance the home in order to obtain equity. Knowing your options and what best suits you at this stage in your life can ensure your inheritance will do what it was meant to: empower you financially and leave you with secure assets to give you peace of mind.