Can I convince my in-laws to sell us their cottage?

To find a win-win, spend more time looking at the lake from their point of view

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From the Summer 2014 issue of the magazine.

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Q: My wife’s parents are selling their cottage. We’d like them to sell it to us over a five-year term, but they won’t even entertain the notion. How can I approach them with a realistic “win, win” plan for both of us? — Terry Skyba, Chelsea, Que.

A: I started my career selling Tide laundry detergent to ruthlessly competitive retailers. They had objections to almost any plan I proposed, and my job was to overcome each and every one. When it comes to your in-laws’ cottage, that’s your job too. The reality is that making a deal with a stranger may be simpler for them. A stranger is less likely to take the sale price personally, or inflame family tensions. So my advice is to really understand your in-laws’ objections, especially the ones you may not agree with. Are they worried about fairness among siblings, estate planning, tax implications, short-term access to the capital or something less tangible? Then I would come up with a plan that suits their needs first, not yours. A tax specialist can calculate the capital gains tax under various scenarios and advise you if a trust or demand mortgage is an option. And a mortgage broker can tell you if you could afford to buy the cottage outright instead of over five years. I really hope there is a “win-win” here. To find it, you just need to spend more time looking at the lake from their point of view.

Bruce Sellery is a frequent guest on financial television shows and author of Moolala. Do you have your own personal finance question? Write to us at ask@moneysense.ca

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