You’ve probably heard about the helicopter boomer parents accompanying their Millennial kids on their first job interviews. Maybe you’re guilty of this. Well, now that the young adults are buying homes, helicopter parents are hovering over house hunts, too.
That can wind up being a bad idea for moms and dads, as well as their sons and daughters.
According to a recent Time article, 17% of parents of Millennials are helping their offspring purchase homes. Most are offering financial assistance, which is where the problems start. Like parents who contribute to their child’s wedding and want a say in the guest list, the helicopterers providing a portion — or all — of a down payment frequently want in on the house hunt, too.
Bill Golden, a longtime Realtor with RE/MAX Metro Atlanta Cityside, says parents started showing up for showings when the economy began declining a few years ago. “Part of it is parents were worried the kids would make a bad financial decision,” he says.
While those are good intentions, the road to hell… (you know the rest).
Many times, the parents insist they know more about real estate than the real estate agent their child has hired, which can irritate Realtors. “I might have spent months educating them [prospective Millennial buyers] about the market and what’s a good value and what’s not,” says Golden, “and then the parents come in, and it is hard for them to believe that kids will spend $300,000 on a 600-square-foot place.”
In addition to not understanding local market values, parents risk ruining a deal because they don’t understand the “custom” of buying a home there.
Daniel Pierson of McEnearney Associates in Arlington, Va., recalls a couple whose parents from Ohio insisted they offer only 80% of asking price, since that was customary where they lived. But in the Washington, D.C. area, Pierson says, homes typically sell for their asking price or above. No one will take a lowball offer seriously.
Sometimes, helicopter parents show up unannounced to look at a house their child is considering or interfere with the home inspection, rankling Realtors and home sellers. This kind of meddling can lead a seller to reject the otherwise worthy buyer’s offer.
“I had a situation recently where a father followed the inspector around and argued with him about everything,” says Golden. The father — no surprise — was not a home inspector.
Mike Ferrante, with Century 21 Homestar in Highland Heights, Ohio, tells a similar inspection tale: “The father was crawling around the house and poking things,” he recalls. “I was so worried he would damage the house and tick off the sellers.”
4 Tips for Millennials’ Parents
So parents, if you want to help your kids purchase a home — either through financial assistance or just moral support — here are four tips from Realtors:
1. Speak with the real estate agent to educate yourself. When Golden has to deal with a buyer’s parents, “I will pull up comps for them and explain what’s going on in the market. Sometimes I just have to share anecdotes about how it’s highly competitive, that most homes have several offers and this is what you have to do to compete,” he explains.
2. Understand that home-buying trends change. At one point, it may have been a buyers’ market, but it isn’t today in most places, says Ferrante. Some parents are acting like it’s 24 months ago and they and their kids are holding all the cards. “We have to explain that you are not in as strong a position as you think you are,” notes Ferrante.
3. Trust the real estate pro. Chances are your children asked friends and colleagues for recommendations for a Realtor; respect their decision to work with this person. “You don’t go to a brain surgeon and tell the doctor where to start cutting,” says Ferrante. “By the same reasoning I wish folks would trust their agents.”
4. Let your kid make mistakes. Buying a house is a big investment, to be sure, and if you’re helping your son or daughter with the purchase, you want to make sure it’s money well spent. But at some point you need to let go. If not, says Ferrante, “your child will second guess [the decision] because it wasn’t their choice.”
Worse, don’t come in and kill the deal on a house your child covets. “I’ve seen this happen multiple times, even though the kids want the house. Then the kids tell me that they have this nagging feeling that they should have bought that house,” notes Ferrante. “Do you really want to be responsible for that kind of remorse?”
Leah Ingram is a lifestyle and frugal-living expert and the author of Suddenly Frugal: How to Live Happier and Healthier on Less. She is also founder of the money-saving blog, Suddenly Frugal, and writes for magazines and websites including Good Housekeeping and Parade.com. This article originally appeared at Forbes.com.