Gordon Powers

Baby boomers, realizing things were easier for them starting out, are used to giving their children a helping hand.

One in five couples have already provided at least one of their kids the means to buy a home - either by coming up with the down payment, co-signing the loan or simply buying it outright, according to a recent survey from Better Homes and Gardens.

And, roughly two-thirds of respondents said they expect to help the rest of their children or grandchildren once they're looking at buying a home.

One couple I know went this route earlier this year, in fact.

Here's their thinking: Although their son was already preapproved for a decent five-year fixed mortgage, lending him most of the money he needed should still produce a better rate of return than the stack of shorter-term GICs they were currently sitting on.

So far, things have worked out, largely because he could have got the money elsewhere without too much trouble and has a solid well-paying job.

But, my friends would be the first to admit that they really didn't think things all the way through.

They weren't, for instance, completely upfront with their other kids, one of whom now feels a bit confused and somewhat slighted. Nor did they realize that their in-laws would have liked to be involved somehow as well.

It's also really a handshake deal, without any contingencies if their son is late with his payments, for instance, or splits with his partner. And, there isn't any actual mortgage document backing things up.

That means problems could also arise if one of them died and the surviving spouse needed the money back to live on.