Help! Our Family is Breaking Apart

Beginners

Hey Scott,

Six years ago my partner purchased his first home for $340,000, with his two brothers. He pitched in $26,000 along with his first homebuyer’s perks. His brothers put in $15,000 and $3,000. Since then, they have all paid the same amount each week to pay down the mortgage quicker. The house is now worth a (conservative) $800,000. The area where the house is located is on the rise, so my partner doesn’t want to sell anytime soon.

However, the brother who put in $3,000 is annoyed and wants to sell up, and thinks he is entitled to a third, despite it being obvious he isn’t. (At one stage he didn’t even make his share of the mortgage repayments for a whole year.) The whole situation is messy and stressful, and it may be what breaks the family apart. I think my partner should cut him loose and buy out his share, but what is he really entitled to?

Sharon
Hi Sharon,

What a mess!

You’ve just described the reason I strongly advise against going into debt with family members. Even though the investment has done great, everyone is miserable!

At the very least you need to have a written agreement right from the start.

For me, it’s ‘Bros over Ho(me)s’.

If I were in your shoes, I’d do the following:

First, I’d suggest that it’s time everyone went their separate ways with this investment.

Second, I’d commit to selling the property. I don’t care if you think it’s going higher, the fact is it’s got bad family ju-ju (a non-financial term), and if you keep it (and buy out the others) it’ll serve as a constant reminder to them of the deal. If it goes well and the property goes up, they’ll feel they’ve missed out. And even if it goes down, they’ll still hold a grudge.

Third, I’d appoint someone independent, perhaps your parent’s accountant or a conveyancer, to broker a deal (which would include dealing gently but firmly with the entitled brother).

Lastly, don’t take your eyes off the prize: the most important asset here that needs to be protected above all else is the family relationship, not the property.

Scott.

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