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Students making dinner together in new home

Buying a house when you have student loan debt

More than half of all college students have taken on some form of debt in order to pay for their education – mostly through student loans. The average outstanding amount owed? Between $20,000 and $24,999. If you’re among those that have student loan debt, what are your options for getting a home loan? 

Do lenders look at debt?


When issuing credit, lenders biggest concern is whether a borrower will be able to pay the loan back. They use a lot of calculations to figure it out. One of the major ones is to divide the borrowers’ monthly debts by their monthly gross income. This is called a borrower’s debt-to-income ratio.  

To get an idea of your debt-to-income ratio, consider the amount you pay each month for your minimum credit card payments, auto loan, rent, mortgage, student loan, and other monthly payments. Keep in mind that lenders will look at what you pay each month, not the total amount you owe. If you have $20,000 in student loan debt and make $200 monthly payments, your lender will use the $200 monthly payments in the calculation. Now, divide the amount you pay each month by your gross monthly income (before taxes and other deductions). This is your debt-to-income ratio. 

Generally, lenders want to see, at a minimum, a ratio of 50% or less. 

Pay down your student loans before getting a house?


Thinking about waiting to purchase a home until your student loan debts are paid down can feel like putting your life on hold. Whether you should pay off or down your student debt really depends on your unique financial situation. The price of a home ownership far exceeds just the monthly mortgage bill. There’s insurance, property taxes, utilities, maintenance, and plenty of small expenses. On the flip side, making a wise investment in a home could provide you with financial stability in the right real estate market.  

Speak openly with your home loan officer to decide whether now is the right time for you to invest in a home. They’ll be able to give you expert advice about your real estate market, interest rates, and financial requirements for loans you may qualify for. 

What home loans are available to people with student debt?

Many loan options are available to people regardless of the type of debt they have. Some favorites among young borrowers with student loans are conventional, USDA, VA, and FHA loans. 

Conventional loans
If you have decent credit and can make a down payment of at least 3.5%, a conventional loan will offer you many great benefits including PMI fees that stop once you reach 22% equity in your home. 

USDA loans 
If you’re looking to purchase a primary home in an area defined as “rural” by the USDA, a USDA loan is a great choice. Chief among the benefits for those with student loan debt is a 0% minimum down payment and no private mortgage insurance fees. 

VA loans 
Another great 0% down payment option for those who are former or current members of the U.S. military. VA loans are available to fund the purchase of primary residences only. 

FHA loans 
If your credit has been diminished by student loan payments, consider an FHA loan. They’re available to borrowers with FICO credit scores as low as 500. You’ll have to make a down payment of 3.5 to 10% depending on your credit score, but it may be a good option to start building financial stability with a home. 

Should you buy a home now? 
Depending on your financial goals, taking advantage of the low interest rates might be a great choice. Contact your local loan officer to help you make the decision about whether you’re ready for home ownership or if it would be more advantageous to wait. 

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