Student loans are a reality for millions of Americans, many of whom are Millennials with dreams of becoming homeowners. However, contrary to a widely held belief, the two things—student loans and homeownership—are not mutually exclusive. You can afford to have both, even when you use a mortgage to buy your home.
How Student Loans Impact Mortgages
When you apply for a mortgage, the lender will look at your existing debt. That typically includes outstanding credit card balances, car loans and student loans (whether they are deferred or not). We then look at what you are paying toward each on a monthly basis, versus what your make, to determine how much would be left over to make payments on a mortgage.
Generally, lenders are required by the loan programs not to accept an application if your existing debt-to-income (DTI) ratio will exceed a certain level. The last thing we want is to create financial stress by letting you borrow more than you can comfortably afford to repay. However, there are ways to decrease your DTI that can make it easier for you to both afford and qualify for a mortgage.
Manage Your Student Debt
Student loans, especially those that are part of the federal loan programs, tend to have low interest rates and long payback periods. There are also several repayment options available to you to ensure your payments are affordable. Among these is an income-based option, which ties your monthly payment to your income. As your income changes over time, the payment adjusts to what you can afford. For many, this means that they have lower monthly payments in the early part of their careers. That can leave them with enough discretionary income to make mortgage payments while repaying their student loans.
Student loans can also be deferred, which frees up monthly income. Although, when you borrow, we will still consider the loan in our calculations, typically using a figure of 1 percent of the outstanding balance in our analysis of your monthly debt load. However, if you are considering applying for a mortgage through the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) program, your deferment will not be a factor in the DTI calculation.
Other Preventive Measures
Often, the bigger obstacle to qualifying for a mortgage is not how much student debt you have but how well you’ve handled it and how much non-student debt you are carrying. Before applying for a mortgage, it helps to address these factors first.
- Have a year or more of on-time payments. Know what you owe, when it is due and whom you are expected to repay. Missing payments or a history of late payments will come back to haunt you when you apply for a mortgage.
- Manage your debt. Repay credit card balances and establish a pattern of paying them off in full each month. If you are working through an outstanding balance, look for options that might lower your rate and allow you to speed up your payback period.
- Carry only your debt obligations on your record. If you have debt but your parents are repaying it or a portion of it, it should be shifted off your record, where it counts toward your DTI, and into their names. Depending on the circumstances, there are a variety of ways to do this. It’s something your lender can discuss with you.
- Don’t focus so much on the down payment. There are many first-time homebuyer programs that were designed to make monthly payments affordable, using a low down payment. For some student debt holders, therefore, it may make sense to save for a 3 percent down payment and direct the rest of their discretionary income toward paying down their student loans before applying for a mortgage.
- Don’t assume; talk to a lender. We have access to a variety of loan programs and strategies and know which local incentives you may qualify for that would help your cause. As bankers, we are also able to look at your total financial picture for ways to set you up for long-term financial success.
To learn more about your best options for qualifying for a mortgage, whether you have student loans or not, give us a call at 877-866-0202. Let’s sit down and talk about what we can do to help you realize your homeowning goal.