Dan Green

Dan Green

Since 2003, Dan Green has been a leading mortgage lender and respected industry authority. His unwavering commitment to first-time home buyers and home buyer education has established him as a trusted voice among his colleagues, his peers, and the media. Dan founded Homebuyer.com to expand the American Dream of Homeownership to all who want it. .

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What Is an Arms-Length Transaction?

An arms-length transaction in real estate is a purchase in which the home buyer and seller are unrelated in their business and personal lives, which ensures a fair market value for the home.

A Longer Definition: Arms-Length Transaction

What is an Arm's-Length Transaction?

An arms-length transaction in real estate is when a home buyer and a seller agree on a deal and have neither a business nor a personal relationship.

Because the buyer and seller don’t know each other, it signals to the mortgage lender and other parties that the home’s sale price reflects current market conditions.

As an illustration, let’s consider two scenarios.

In the first scenario, a first-time home buyer purchases their childhood home from a parent at a reduced price as a favor. This purchase would fail the arm’s-length transaction test because the buyer’s and seller’s relationship likely influenced the property’s sale price.

In the second scenario, a first-time home buyer purchases a move-in ready home from a builder building homes in a desirable neighborhood. This purchase would be expected to pass the arm’s-length transaction test because the sale price is based on the home’s condition, location, and comparable home sale prices in the area.

Arm’s-length transactions are more likely to be mortgage-approved because non-arm’s-length transactions introduce lending risk. Lenders can’t know a property’s fair market value when a child buys a home from a parent or a cousin buys a home from a cousin.

Non-arm’s-length transactions are mortgage red flags. Only an arms-length sale gives lenders confidence that a fair market valuation supports their mortgaged amount.

Questions Home Buyers Ask About About Arm’s-Length Transactions

Why do lenders care whether my purchase is an arm’s-length transaction or not?

Lenders care about arms-length transactions to ensure the property’s value is market-driven and unbiased. Personal ties can distort property values, increasing lending risks.

Can any transaction between family members be considered arm’s length?

Transactions between family members are typically not considered arms-length because personal relationships can influence terms and pricing, leading to potential biases. An arms-length transaction requires both parties to have no personal ties, ensuring decisions are purely market-driven.

How can I prove my home purchase transaction is an arm’s-length transaction?

To prove an arms-length transaction, demonstrate no personal ties between buyer and seller, use appraisals and market analyses to validate terms and pricing, and negotiate via an impartial third-party, such as a REALTOR® or attorney.

Can a non-arm’s-length transaction impact mortgage approval?

Yes, mortgage lenders scrutinize non-arm’s-length transactions, which may affect loan terms, property valuation, and approval due to potential conflicts of interest.

What are some examples of relationships that are non-arm’s length transactions?

A few non-obvious examples of non-arm’s length transactions in real estate include a property manager buying from a landlord they represent, a real estate developer buying a home from a contractor they frequently employ, a landlord selling to their tenant, a neighbor selling a home without an impartial intermediary, and a real estate agent buying from a client they’ve previously advised or represented.

Additional Resources on Arm’s-Length Transaction

Related terms:

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