It is possible to buy a house if you carry student loans. However, those student loans you took out to finance your college degree may make it more difficult. If you are struggling to pay your student loan payments each month, it can be hard to imagine saving up enough money for a down payment, especially if you are getting by on a lower-than-expected salary. Also, too much student loan debt can make it tougher to qualify for a home loan because it can alter your debt-to-income ratio, which lenders use to evaluate your debt load during the application process.
In this article, we’ll explain how student loans can hinder your shot at qualifying for a mortgage if you aren’t careful.
How Student Loans Can Cost You a Mortgage
Too much student loan debt can make it difficult to qualify for a home loan because of its impact on your debt-to-income ratio. Mortgage lenders use your debt-to-income ratio to evaluate your current debt load and to see how much you can responsibly afford to borrow. If a potential lender sees that your current debt level is too burdensome for your income level, you will not be approved for a mortgage.
Other Ways Student Loans Can Affect Mortgage Applications
How well you manage your student loan payments also can impact your ability to qualify for a home loan. That’s because your payment history accounts for about 35% of your credit score, and making on-time payments each month helps build up your credit. If you fall behind on your student loan payments, your credit score could drop significantly, and this can hurt your chances of qualifying for a home loan. This is especially true if you fall below the required minimum credit score for the mortgage you’re seeking.
Rather than fall behind on student loan payments, you can reach out to your lender about two possible loan payoff methods: deferment and forbearance. If you are unemployed, under-employed or suffering a financial hardship, you may qualify to postpone or lower your student loan payments. More importantly, deferment or forbearance may give you the break that you need on your student loan payments without hurting your credit. Student loans in deferment or forbearance are not generally reported in a negative way on your credit reports or counted as a negative by most credit scoring models. (Keep in mind your loans will most likely accrue interest during deferment and forbearance, adding to your debt load.)
If you’re thinking of buying a home at some point in the future, and you’re wondering how your student loans are impacting your credit, checking your credit scores is a good place to start. You can view two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com, or visit AnnualCreditReport.com for a free copy of your annual credit report from each of the three national credit reporting agencies.
This article has been updated. It was originally published August 22, 2014.