6 Ways To Buy A Home Without Paying Off Your Student Loans

August 21, 2018 - 4 min read

Don’t Overlook Ways In Which You Might Be Approved

You’ve earned your degree and are working to build your career.

You feel your next step is to buy a home.

There’s just one challenge. The student loans that helped you get here might make it more difficult to qualify for a mortgage.

Difficult, maybe, but not impossible.

All mortgage programs today have built-in provisions for applicants with deferred student loans as well as loans in repayment.

Recent, and not-so-recent, graduates with student debt can follow a set of guidelines to improve their chances mortgage approval at low interest rates.

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Are You Underestimating Your Home Buying Ability?

A recent study by the National Association of REALTORS® and the nonprofit organization American Student Assistance revealed that 71% of student loan holders say their student debt will delay homeownership.

More than half said it would sideline home-buying efforts for more than five years.

The perception is real. But are these self-assessments accurate? Maybe not.

Student loans can impact your loan approval status, but perhaps not in the way you think.

The amount you owe isn’t as important as your total monthly student loan payment, or the estimate thereof.

That’s because lenders will use your debt-to-income (DTI), in part, to determine your worthiness as a borrower.

DTI is a comparison between your income and your debt payments. Lenders prefer this number to be lower than 43%, although they can make exceptions in some cases.

Lenders determine your DTI using the following method.

  1. Add all debt payments like student loans, auto loans, and the future house payment
  2. Divide monthly debt payment by your income before any taxes and deductions

For instance, an applicant with a gross income of $5,000 and total debt of $2,000 would have a DTI of 40% and would be eligible for approval.

“If the final DTI number is high, such as 50 percent, you probably will not be given a mortgage because half of your gross income will be used to pay down debt,” says Michael Blattman, senior vice president of Tampa, Fla.-based Collegiate Consolidation Services. “This leaves you with very little income to pay for taxes, food, gas, utilities and other monthly expenses.”

But how do lenders calculate your student loan payments?

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What To Know About Income-Based Repayment And Deferred Student Loans

Getting turned down or approved for a lesser amount also happen even if your monthly student loan payments are relatively low but your outstanding balance is high.

This is often the case with borrowers who, because they have a lot of student loan debt, consolidate their loans and shift to income-based repayment (IBR) plans that extend the loan’s term in exchange for lower monthly payments.

“These IBR plans are great for making your monthly payments more affordable, but in this case lenders don’t look at the IBR monthly payment amount. Instead, lenders will only consider the 10-year standard repayment plan amount you were initially given,” says Robert Farrington, a San Diego-based expert on student loans and Millennial money matters.

Deferred student loans present the same problem. While you don’t owe money now, the lender will determine the future actual payment, or a payment based on the balance.

Loans provided by the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans, for instance, estimate a payment of 1% of the loan balance for student loans that are not yet due.

6 Action Steps To Get Mortgage-Approved With Student Loans

High student loans don’t have to be the end of your home-buying endeavors.

You worked your way to a degree. Working your way to homeownership is significantly less difficult. Here are practical steps to do just that.

1. Pursue an FHA mortgage loan

FHA loans are more lenient than conventional loans when it comes to DTI and credit. Even home buyers with minimal credit history can be approved with alternative credit based on rent, cell phone, and utility payments.

2. Ask for a downpayment gift

Most recent college grads do not have the cash to make a 20 percent downpayment, but a relative might.

All loan programs allow relatives and even long-standing friends to make all or part of the downpayment for the home buyer. Get into a house sooner by asking for a financial downpayment gift.

3. Lower your student loan interest rate

Discuss your options for reducing monthly payments with your student loan provider. “Also, it can make sense to refinance your student loans into a longer private loan with a lower interest rate—which could reduce your monthly payment to a point where the DTI works more in your favor,” Farrington says.

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4. Pay down or reduce payments on your debt

Prior to applying for a mortgage, try to pay off your outstanding credit card, auto loan, and/or student loan debt.

Retiring a $400-per-month auto loan increases your home buying power. If you can’t pay off a large car loan, try refinancing it into a longer term, or lower interest rate.

5. Partner up on the loan

“Adding a co-borrower to the mortgage loan who brings additional income to the equation will help lower your DTI,” Kelly Koklas, vice president and mortgage banker with Atlanta-headquartered PrivatePlus Mortgage, says.

Mortgage guidelines allow you to buy a home with anyone you choose.

6. Apply for a deferment or forbearance

Your lender will estimate your future payments and add them to your DTI, even if your loan is in the deferment period or in forbearance. However, deferring payments could help you better manage your first few years of homeownership, assuming you qualify with your estimated student loan payments.

What Are Today’s Rates?

Mortgage rates are low for all applicants, and home buyers with student loans are no exception.

Get a live rate quote now, before rates rise from multi-year lows. All quotes come with your live credit scores, and it takes just minutes to get started.

Time to make a move? Let us find the right mortgage for you

Erik J. Martin
Authored By: Erik J. Martin
The Mortgage Reports contributor
Erik J. Martin has written on real estate, business, tech and other topics for Reader's Digest, AARP The Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune.