Should You Buy a Home if You Still Have Student Loans?

What to consider before adding a mortgage to your educational debt

Becoming a homeowner is a hugeCHomeStudentDebt_Featured life step, especially on the financial front, and it should not be taken lightly.

And if you are one of the 43.3 million Americans still with student loan debt, according to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, it’s an even bigger decision. There are many factors to take into account before taking the plunge and adding a mortgage to your educational debt.

Here are a few of the main points to consider:

Debt-to-income ratio – The biggest hurdle you may face if you try to buy a home while maintaining a balance on your student loans is what is known as the debt-to-income ratio. The DTI ratio is how lenders judge your likelihood of defaulting on a mortgage. It compares your total household monthly debt payments to your total income. Lenders generally prefer that number to be less than 43 percent, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

As Real Estate Columnist Kenneth Harney of the Washington Post reported, new rules from the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) could make it tougher to qualify for a low-down-payment mortgage through the FHA, as well as restrict down payment gifts. Previously, student loan debt was not taken into account in the DTI ratio, but now lenders are required to include 2 percent of student loan debt when computing the number. Considering the average class of 2016 graduate has a student loan debt of $37,172 according to Student Loan Hero, that 2 percent could drastically change the chances of getting approved for the FHA loan.

FHA Spokesman Brian Sullivan explains why the new requirements, though tougher, make more sense.

“Deferred student debt is debt all the same and really must be counted when determining a borrower’s ability to sustain both student debt payments and a mortgage over the long haul,” he says. Sullivan also adds that the agency’s primary goal is to put first-time home buyers “on a path of sustainable homeownership rather than being placed into a financial situation they can no longer afford once their student debt deferment expires.”

Down payment woes – With down payments as low as 3.5 percent, according to an article on CNN Money, whether or not you qualify for the FHA loan will determine how much of your saved money will have to be used up front. This is important because higher down payments lower your monthly payments as well as your interest rate. At the same time, you can’t put all your savings toward the down payment because you have other home-buying needs such as closing costs, moving expenses, homeowners insurance and home furnishings.

Renting vs. buying – Some renters feel as though they are “throwing away money” by paying a landlord each month rather than investing that money in an asset all their own. However, rushing into buying a home for that reason alone is a mistake, especially if you still have student loan debt, as a mortgage would just add to your debt, possibly to the point that it cannot be surmounted.

Furthermore, you have to think about non-monetary aspects as well. For example, are you in a place in your life where you want to put down roots in one particular area?

“Low mortgage rates and high rents make buying an attractive option, but you should be ready to put some roots down,” says CNN Money. “If you’re planning to stay in a home for at least two years, buying is more financially advantageous than renting in 70 percent of housing markets, according to a recent report from Zillow.”

Homeowners’ responsibilities – Another aspect that differentiates buying a home from renting is the fact that with a home all the responsibilities are your own. You’ll likely need a lawn mower, and other landscaping tools. If the dishwasher breaks, you will have to contact a professional and pay for their services. You have to be ready, willing and able to take on those responsibilities — which all come with costs up front. Will you have the funds for that?

If you are set on buying a home despite your student loan debt, you do have some options to make it more manageable financially. Come talk to us today to find out if you can afford purchasing a home.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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