Family Financing Basics

Sisters looking at a computer and discussing family finances

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The thought of family financing is common when you or one of your relatives needs money. The idea is generally to help somebody close to you and to "keep it in the family" instead of having a borrower pay interest to a bank.

While it might be a great choice for your family, don’t move forward with anything until you understand how to do it right. Setting things up properly can help you avoid unnecessary headaches down the road.

Is Family Financing Risky?

Any lender needs to realize that things can go wrong. Borrowers might not repay a loan, or they may otherwise behave differently than expected. If you hand out money, you might not get it back

When the family is involved (and things are done informally), you face additional risks:

  • Relationships may suffer
  • Poorly set up deals may disqualify relatives from certain benefits

How do you make sure that an intramural loan does not ruin your family? Document and discuss. Talk about every aspect of the deal and use written agreements. Consult with local attorneys to make sure a well-intentioned gesture doesn’t put anybody at risk.

Depending on the circumstances, family financing may be less risky than other solutions available. For example, if you were to co-sign for a loan, your relative can get money and build credit, but your credit can suffer if things go bad.

Where Is Family Financing Used?

Anywhere you want. Any time you can match somebody who has money with somebody who needs money, family financing is an option. Some of the most common uses are below:

Home Loans

Parents and other relatives often provide financing for young folks buying a home. While informal arrangements may work just fine, some families decide to formalize home loans to protect the lender and pursue tax benefits. You want to do this right, but you don't have to do it all yourself. Work with local attorneys to draft agreements, and research online services that can handle everything for you.


Relatives may want to help fund a business. They may make loans, or take an ownership interest. Again, work with professionals familiar with family financing and local laws.

Student Loans

There are several ways to help relatives with higher education expenses. If you want to use a loan and improve the chances of getting repaid, formalize it.

Other Loans

You might use family financing for an infinite number of needs; if you want to be especially flexible, there are generic loan agreements you can customize as needed. Talk to local attorneys and search online for family financing services that meet your needs.

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The Balance uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Social Security Administration. "Spotlight on Loans." Accessed June 8, 2021.

  2. Federal Trade Commission. "Co-Signing a Loan." Accessed June 8, 2021.

  3. Office of the Law Revision Counsel. "26 USC 7872: Treatment of Loans With Below-Market Interest Rates." Accessed June 8, 2021.

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