How to transfer real estate property during your lifetime

11 October 2023 by National Bank
Mother and daughter hugging each other, looking out of the kitchen window

Are you looking to transfer real estate property during your lifetime to your children? Maybe your rental property or a cottage? First of all, yes, it’s possible but take the time to evaluate all the possible scenarios. There are many solutions available, and they all come with their share of pros, cons, and major tax implications. Here’s an overview of your options. 

Image maison neuve

Getting ready to become a first-time homeowner

Ready to buy a home?
We’re here to help!

Should you transfer your property during your lifetime or after your death? 

There are some advantages to transferring your real estate property during your lifetime to your loved ones, like to your children, for example. By going this route, you can rest knowing that you’ve helped a family member during your lifetime and experience the wonderful feelings that come with doing that. 

But there are some drawbacks. For example, if the money you would have made from selling your real estate property was part of your retirement strategy, you’ll have to review your plan. That’s another reason why you should weigh the pros and cons to make sure you’re in a good position to transfer your real estate property. Here are a few different scenarios. 

How do you transfer real estate property during your lifetime? 

What happens if you gift a real estate property during your lifetime? 

Donating a property is the simplest way to transfer real estate during your lifetime. It’s free. As the donor, you agree to transfer the building to your child – the donee – in return for no financial compensation. As honourable as this is, it’s important to remember that from a tax perspective, the gift will be treated the same as any other transaction or transfer of ownership

That means that the donor and the donee are considered to have made a transaction at the property’s fair market value, even though no money was exchanged. This will immediately impact your taxes (capital gains tax and depreciation recapture), even though you’re gifting the property during your lifetime. 

On the other hand, tax authorities will consider your donees to have acquired the real estate asset at fair market value. 

Therefore, it’s important to do the math and talk to your children to make sure they’ll be able to afford the costs related to this kind of gift. Will they also be able to pay the legal fees and financial costs associated with the property, such as taxes? That’s why it’s important to talk about this with an expert as well as your loved ones. 

Beware of selling real estate property below market value

Let’s discuss the myth of selling real estate property to a loved one for far below its actual market value. Many incorrectly believe that this is a fiscally beneficial strategy for both parties. 

First of all, tax authorities consider sales far below market value to be transactions where the parties do not want to declare the actual selling price. So, you’ll still be taxed on 50% of the capital gain based on the property’s market value

Picto of a house with a dollar sign in front

Here’s an example:  Let’s say you bought a house 40 years ago for $50,000, and it’s now worth $200,000. Even if you sell the property for $60,000, you’ll be taxed 50% of the capital gain, i.e. on $75,000 (50% of $150,000). It’s a considerable amount and you’ll have to pay a lot of tax.

Plus, your loved ones will face the issue of double taxation. Tax authorities will consider your loved ones to have actually purchased the property for $60,000, so whenever they resell the $200,000 property, your children will be taxed on a $140,000 capital gain ($200,000 minus $60,000).  

That being said, there are strategies available to help avoid this issue. Take the time to speak with a real estate expert and your accountant.

What happens if you sell the property at fair market value? 

Many experts believe that the best way to transfer a building during your lifetime is by selling it. Usually, the cost should be paid in full to the seller when it’s sold. 

But what do you do if your child can’t afford it? Don’t panic – this happens all the time. It means you’ll have to handle both the sale and a loan: you could give your children a loan so they can buy your real estate property and keep the balance of the sale even. 

In addition, you’ll be able to spread out your capital gain over up to five years. 

Simply put, these are the pros and cons of this strategy:


  • You’ll have an immediate inflow of cash. However, if you’re giving the buyer a loan, your cash inflow will be progressive. 
  • It’s a simple and inexpensive type of transaction. 
  • If there’s a loan involved, you can use your capital gain reserve to defer your taxes for up to five years. 


  • You will immediately be taxed on the sale: Capital gain is taxable at 50% and depreciation capture is fully taxable.
  • If there’s a loan involved, your taxes will have to be paid using your other assets, as the sale price will not have been paid in full.  

There are also other options

An advisor can also make other suggestions depending on your situation.

For all provinces except Quebec, you can opt for joint property of the asset with the right of survivorship, which allows you to sell 50% of a real estate property to your child so they may co-own it with you until your passing. 

There’s also a tax strategy that you could utilize through a joint-stock company. This is ideal for rental property owners who are planning their estate. 

Although it requires more organization, using a partnership is another option. An expert can work with you to find the best strategy.

How do you set up a transfer of your real estate property? 

Beyond transferring your rental property or your cottage, you may also be wondering how to distribute your assets among your children, if you have more than one. 

How do you make sure everything is distributed equitably? First, keep in mind that “equal” and “equitable” are two different things. Sometimes, it’s better to be equitable rather than equal. For example, one of your children may not be interested in owning 50% of a rental property, while the other may be disappointed to have only inherited half.  

Gifting your building to one and your life insurance and investments to the other may make everyone happy, for example. 

The key to success for a transfer or in estate planning is discussing it beforehand with your loved ones. Get your family together, let your children know about your intentions, and start a conversation. A financial planner can also help you plan your estate. 

Finally, if you want to transfer a real estate property in your lifetime, the important thing to remember is that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution. There are many different strategies you should evaluate depending on your personal and financial situation, and those of your children.

Legal disclaimer


Any reproduction, in whole or in part, is strictly prohibited without the prior written consent of National Bank of Canada.

The articles and information on this website are protected by the copyright laws in effect in Canada or other countries, as applicable. The copyrights on the articles and information belong to the National Bank of Canada or other persons. Any reproduction, redistribution, electronic communication, including indirectly via a hyperlink, in whole or in part, of these articles and information and any other use thereof that is not explicitly authorized is prohibited without the prior written consent of the copyright owner.

The contents of this website must not be interpreted, considered or used as if it were financial, legal, fiscal, or other advice. National Bank and its partners in contents will not be liable for any damages that you may incur from such use.

This article is provided by National Bank, its subsidiaries and group entities for information purposes only, and creates no legal or contractual obligation for National Bank, its subsidiaries and group entities. The details of this service offering and the conditions herein are subject to change.

The hyperlinks in this article may redirect to external websites not administered by National Bank. The Bank cannot be held liable for the content of external websites or any damages caused by their use.

Views expressed in this article are those of the person being interviewed. They do not necessarily reflect the opinions of National Bank or its subsidiaries. For financial or business advice, please consult your National Bank advisor, financial planner or an industry professional (e.g., accountant, tax specialist or lawyer).

Tags :



Image maison neuve

Getting ready to become a first-time homeowner

Ready to buy a home?
We’re here to help!