Home buyers are increasingly being held back by student debt, according to a new report by the National Association of Realtors and Morning Consult.
The report delivers the alarming finding that half of all potential home buyers surveyed this year said they didn’t buy a home due to their mounting student debts. And it’s mostly affecting younger people, with millennials the most likely demographic to cite student debt as a reason for delaying homeownership.
NAR President Charlie Oppler told CNBC it’s a concerning problem. “Housing affordability is worsening, leaving future home buyers with student debt at a severe disadvantage,” he said.
Buyers with student debts can struggle to obtain a mortgage, as their payment history can affect their credit score. Any defaults on that debt will make it more difficult to get approval for a mortgage. Of course, just having that debt makes it more difficult too, as lenders weigh up each applicant’s income versus their outgoings to decide if they’re able to repay the loan or not.
Some more determined buyers who are loaded with student debt have found ways to get around the disadvantage they face. For instance, some buyers have applied for the mortgage with a co-signer such as a parent or a friend to improve their credit rating.
Mark Kantrowitz, a higher education expert, told CNBC it’s absolutely crucial for those with student debt to stay current on their loan repayments. They should also avoid deferments or forbearances in the 12 months prior to applying for a mortgage, as they can also have negative impact.
There is one exception though, Kantrowitz noted. The current option to pause payments without accruing interest that was enabled by the U.S. Department of Education at the beginning of the pandemic, though that option will expire in January 2022.
“The eligible federal student loans are reported as current to the three national credit reporting bureaus, so there shouldn’t be an impact on applying for a mortgage,” he said.
Another option for borrowers is to switch to a plan that will reduce their student loan repayments prior to applying for a mortgage. Lenders have been allowed to consider so-called income-driven repayment plans since 2017.
Kantrowitz said borrowers should change their repayment plan at least one year before they apply for a mortgage for the full impacts to be taken under consideration.