How Much Do Student Loans Affect Buying A House

One of the biggest financial decisions you’ll make in your life is also one of the most intimidating. Buying a house can be a daunting prospect, but if you’re ready to take the plunge and buy that perfect home, it’s worth doing some research on how student loans affect buying a house.

Student loans are often thought of as just that—student loans. They’re something we take out during school and pay off later, right? That’s certainly true, but what many people don’t realize is that student loan debt can have serious consequences when it comes time to apply for a mortgage.

Student loans can make getting approved for a mortgage more difficult because lenders will consider them as part of your monthly debt-to-income ratio (DTI). This means that if your DTI ratio is too high—and it probably will be if you have accumulated significant student debt—you won’t be eligible for certain programs or may need to put down more equity than others would need in order to obtain financing from the bank or credit union of their choice.

How student loans may affect your ability to buy a home

How Much Do Student Loans Affect Buying A House

With current mortgage rates at historic lows, you may want to consider buying a home soon if you are ready to take that step. But if you have student loan debt, you may be wondering whether it could affect your ability to get a great deal on a mortgage, or even to buy a home at all. While it is true that too much existing debt is likely to affect your interest rate and even whether you qualify for a mortgage, in most cases you can – and should – still consider buying a home if you are ready.

Student loans don’t affect your ability to get a mortgage any differently than other types of debt you may have, including auto loans and credit card debt. When you apply for a mortgage, your lender will assess all of your existing monthly payment obligations, including student loans, to determine whether you would be able to manage the additional monthly payment. Depending on your situation, the lender will decide whether you qualify for the new loan, and if so at what interest rate.[ 

For that reason, you should consider how both your monthly student loan payment and a hypothetical mortgage payment could affect your debt-to-income ratio and overall credit score before you apply for a mortgage. In other words, if you have any existing debt, you need to be careful that you will be able to manage all your monthly payment obligations with your current income.

This calculation varies a bit depending on the type of mortgage loan you choose.

Potential homebuyers can choose between a conventional mortgage from a private lender, like a bank or other financial institution, or an FHA loan, which is a mortgage backed and insured by the Federal Housing Administration for people with limited savings or lower credit scores. This backing enables the lender to offer you a better deal, which typically includes a lower minimum down payment and easier credit qualifying. Recent changes to the way lenders must calculate monthly student loan payments can make the FHA loan a more attractive option for those with student loan debt, particularly first-time homebuyers.

Your student loan debt affects whether you can buy a house, in both direct and indirect ways. Here’s how:

  • Student loan payments make saving for a down payment more difficult and mortgage payments harder to handle once you’re a homeowner.
  • Student loan debt may increase your debt-to-income ratio, affecting your ability to qualify for a mortgage or the rate you are able to get.
  • Missing a student loan payment can lower your credit score, but consistently paying on time can bolster it.

Having student loans, though, doesn’t mean you’ll never be able to get a mortgage. Here’s what you should know as you explore your options.

Student loan payments hinder savings

Sending hundreds of dollars a month to your lender or servicer may feel like the most immediate, and most frustrating, way student loans affect your ability to buy a house.

But saving up 20% of the home’s value for a down payment, traditionally the ideal amount, isn’t always necessary. Look into first-time home buyer programs in your state, which can provide money for the down payment, or low-down-payment mortgage options.

Federal agencies like the Federal Housing Administration and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs also offer mortgages that require smaller down payments — or none at all, in the case of VA loans.

Student loans add to your debt-to-income ratio

When deciding whether to approve you for a mortgage, lenders look at how much debt you already have compared with your pretax income. That’s called your debt-to-income ratio, known as DTI, and it’s calculated based on monthly debt payments.

There are different types of debt-to-income ratios, and not all mortgage lenders calculate them the same way. But in general, car loans, student loans, minimum credit card payments and child support all factor in. The more debt you have — or the lower your income — the higher your DTI will be.

A DTI of 36% or less is ideal, but government-backed mortgages, like FHA loans, may approve you with a DTI of up to 50%.

Consider focusing on paying off student loans, or credit cards if they have higher interest rates, and don’t add to your debt before buying a home. You could aim to get rid of one student loan payment before you apply for a mortgage; paying off the loan with the highest interest rate will save you the most money over time.

Refinancing student loans to a lower monthly payment may also reduce your debt-to-income ratio. But it adds a line of credit to your credit report and may extend your repayment timeline. Make sure you refinance six months to a year before you apply for a mortgage. That lets positive payment history offset the credit score dip that may occur from shopping for a refinance loan.

Student loan payments affect your credit score

A higher credit score means a better chance of getting approved for a mortgage and receiving a favorable interest rate. Payment history makes up 35% of your FICO score, one of the two main credit scoring models, and mortgage lenders want to see a history of on-time debt payments.

Consistently paying student loans on time will strengthen your score. On the flip side, a missed payment or letting your loans default will hurt it.

Credit mix is a smaller component of your score. But using a variety of credit types — such as student loans, car loans and credit cards — can help your score as long as you’re making payments on time.

do student loans affect credit score

Yes, having a student loan will affect your credit score.

Your student loan amount and payment history will go on your credit report. Making payments on time can help you maintain a positive credit score. In contrast, failure to make payments will hurt your score. Establishing a good credit history and credit score now can help you get credit at lower interest rates in the future. If you think you may not be able to make your payments, contact your servicer to find out more options.

Student loans affect your credit in much the same way other loans do — pay as agreed and it’s good for your credit; pay late, and it could hurt it. Student loans, though, may give you extra time to pay before you are reported late.

Student loans are generally installment loans — you pay a specified amount for a certain time period. The lender reports this to credit bureaus, and you begin to establish a track record.

If you pay on time, every time, you’ll begin to establish a solid record of managing credit.

Here’s what you need to know about how student loans can affect your credit score.

If you pay late or skip a payment

Forgetfulness happens, and a brief bout won’t impact your credit. Your score will start to drop only after your lender reports your late payment to one or — more likely — all of the three major credit bureaus.

How long before it’s reported depends on the type of loan you have:

  • Federal student loans: Servicers wait at least 90 days to report late payments.
  • Private student loans: Lenders can report them after 30 days.

However, lenders can charge late fees as soon as you miss a payment.

If your lender does report your late payment, also known as a delinquency, it will stay on your credit report for seven years.

The more overdue your payment, the worse the damage to your credit. For instance, your federal student loan will go into default if you don’t make a payment for 270 days. That will hurt your credit even more than a 30- or 90-day delinquency.

If you cannot pay your student loans

Sometimes money gets tight. In those situations, ask your lender about lowering or pausing your monthly student loan payments. You might be able to:

  • Sign up for an income-driven repayment plan if you have federal loans.
  • Apply for a modified payment plan if you have private loans and your lender offers this option.
  • Enroll in deferment or forbearance to temporarily pause your monthly payments.

Changing the terms of your loan does not hurt your credit. As long as you handle payments as agreed — even if that means paying $0 per month — your credit score shouldn’t suffer.

student loan forgiveness

If you are employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization, you might be eligible for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. Keep reading to see whether you might qualify.

To ensure you’re on the right track, you should submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application (PSLF Form) annually or when you change employers. We’ll use the information you provide on the form to let you know if you are making qualifying PSLF payments. This will help you determine if you’re on the right track as early as possible.

*This provision will be waived through October 31, 2022 as part of the limited PSLF waiver. Learn more.

Suspended Payments Count Toward PSLF and TEPSLF During the COVID-19 Administrative Forbearance

If you have a Direct Loan and work full-time for a qualifying employer during the payment suspension (administrative forbearance), then you will receive credit toward PSLF or TEPSLF for the period of suspension as though you made on-time monthly payments in the correct amount while on a qualifying repayment plan.

To see these qualifying payments reflected in your account, you must submit a PSLF form certifying your employment for the same period of time as the suspension. Your count of qualifying payments toward PSLF is officially updated only when you update your employment certifications.

Digital signatures from you or your employer must be hand-drawn (from a signature pad, mouse, finger, or by taking a picture of a signature drawn on a piece of paper that you then scan and embed on the signature line of the PSLF form) to be accepted. Typed signatures, even if made to mimic a hand-drawn signature, or security certificate-based signatures are not accepted.

Note: In-grace, in-school, and certain deferment, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses are not eligible for credit toward PSLF.

Have questions? Find out what loans qualify and get additional information about student loan flexibilities due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Qualifying Employer

Qualifying employment for the PSLF Program isn’t about the specific job that you do for your employer. Instead, it’s about who your employer is. Employment with the following types of organizations qualifies for PSLF:

  • Government organizations at any level (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal) – this includes the U.S. military
  • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

Serving as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer also counts as qualifying employment for the PSLF Program.

The following types of employers don’t qualify for PSLF:

  • Labor unions
  • Partisan political organizations
  • For-profit organizations, including for-profit government contractors

Contractors: You must be directly employed by a qualifying employer for your employment to count toward PSLF. If you’re employed by an organization that is doing work under a contract with a qualifying employer, it is your employer’s status—not the status of the organization that your employer has a contract with—that determines whether your employment qualifies for PSLF. For example, if you’re employed by a for-profit contractor that is doing work for a qualifying employer, your employment does not count toward PSLF.

Other types of not-for-profit organizations: If you work for a not-for-profit organization that is not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, it can still be considered a qualifying employer if it provides certain types of qualifying public services.

Full-time Employment

For PSLF, you’re generally considered to work full-time if you meet your employer’s definition of full-time or work at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater.

If you are employed in more than one qualifying part-time job at the same time, you will be considered full-time if you work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week with your employers.

If you are employed by a not-for-profit organization, time spent on religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing as a part of your job responsibilities may be counted toward meeting the full-time employment requirement.

Eligible Loans

Any loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program qualifies for PSLF.

Loans from these federal student loan programs don’t qualify for PSLF: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program. However, they may become eligible if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Student loans from private lenders do not qualify for PSLF.

Under normal PSLF Program rules, if you consolidate your loans, only qualifying payments that you make on the new Direct Consolidation Loan can be counted toward the 120 payments required for PSLF. Any payments you made on the loans before you consolidated them don’t count. However, if you consolidate these loans into a Direct Loan before October 31, 2022, you may be able to receive qualifying credit for payments made on those loans through the limited PSLF waiver. 

student loan forgiveness program

In certain situations, you can have your federal student loans forgiven, canceled, or discharged. Learn more about the types of forgiveness and whether you qualify due to your job or other circumstances.

Types of Forgiveness, Cancellation, and Discharge

The summaries below offer a quick view of the types of forgiveness, cancellation, and discharge available for the different types of federal student loans.

The PSLF Program forgives the remaining balance on your Direct Loans after you have made 120 qualifying monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.

PSLF Resources

  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Help Tool
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application
  • Limited PSLF Waiver Information
  • Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program FAQ
  • Submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness Reconsideration Request

Qualifying for PSLF

To qualify for PSLF, you must

  • be employed by a U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal government or not-for-profit organization (federal service includes U.S. military service);
  • work full-time for that agency or organization;
  • have Direct Loans (or consolidate other federal student loans into a Direct Loan);
  • repay your loans under an income-driven repayment plan*; and
  • make 120 qualifying payments.

To ensure you’re on the right track, you should submit a Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) & Temporary Expanded PSLF (TEPSLF) Certification & Application (PSLF Form) annually or when you change employers. We’ll use the information you provide on the form to let you know if you are making qualifying PSLF payments. This will help you determine if you’re on the right track as early as possible.

*This provision will be waived through October 31, 2022 as part of the limited PSLF waiver. 

Suspended Payments Count Toward PSLF and TEPSLF During the COVID-19 Administrative Forbearance

If you have a Direct Loan and work full-time for a qualifying employer during the payment suspension (administrative forbearance), then you will receive credit toward PSLF or TEPSLF for the period of suspension as though you made on-time monthly payments in the correct amount while on a qualifying repayment plan.

To see these qualifying payments reflected in your account, you must submit a PSLF form certifying your employment for the same period of time as the suspension. Your count of qualifying payments toward PSLF is officially updated only when you update your employment certifications.

Digital signatures from you or your employer must be hand-drawn (from a signature pad, mouse, finger, or by taking a picture of a signature drawn on a piece of paper that you then scan and embed on the signature line of the PSLF form) to be accepted. Typed signatures, even if made to mimic a hand-drawn signature, or security certificate-based signatures are not accepted.

Note: In-grace, in-school, and certain deferment, forbearance, and bankruptcy statuses are not eligible for credit toward PSLF.

Have questions? Find out what loans qualify and get additional information about student loan flexibilities due to the COVID-19 emergency.

Qualifying Employer

Qualifying employment for the PSLF Program isn’t about the specific job that you do for your employer. Instead, it’s about who your employer is. Employment with the following types of organizations qualifies for PSLF:

  • Government organizations at any level (U.S. federal, state, local, or tribal) – this includes the U.S. military
  • Not-for-profit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code

Serving as a full-time AmeriCorps or Peace Corps volunteer also counts as qualifying employment for the PSLF Program.

The following types of employers don’t qualify for PSLF:

  • Labor unions
  • Partisan political organizations
  • For-profit organizations, including for-profit government contractors

Contractors: You must be directly employed by a qualifying employer for your employment to count toward PSLF. If you’re employed by an organization that is doing work under a contract with a qualifying employer, it is your employer’s status—not the status of the organization that your employer has a contract with—that determines whether your employment qualifies for PSLF. For example, if you’re employed by a for-profit contractor that is doing work for a qualifying employer, your employment does not count toward PSLF.

Other types of not-for-profit organizations: If you work for a not-for-profit organization that is not tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, it can still be considered a qualifying employer if it provides certain types of qualifying public services.

Full-time Employment

For PSLF, you’re generally considered to work full-time if you meet your employer’s definition of full-time or work at least 30 hours per week, whichever is greater.

If you are employed in more than one qualifying part-time job at the same time, you will be considered full-time if you work a combined average of at least 30 hours per week with your employers.

If you are employed by a not-for-profit organization, time spent on religious instruction, worship services, or any form of proselytizing as a part of your job responsibilities may be counted toward meeting the full-time employment requirement.

Eligible Loans

Any loan received under the William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program qualifies for PSLF.

Loans from these federal student loan programs don’t qualify for PSLF: the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program and the Federal Perkins Loan (Perkins Loan) Program. However, they may become eligible if you consolidate them into a Direct Consolidation Loan.

Student loans from private lenders do not qualify for PSLF.

Under normal PSLF Program rules, if you consolidate your loans, only qualifying payments that you make on the new Direct Consolidation Loan can be counted toward the 120 payments required for PSLF. Any payments you made on the loans before you consolidated them don’t count. However, if you consolidate these loans into a Direct Loan before October 31, 2022, you may be able to receive qualifying credit for payments made on those loans through the limited PSLF waiver. 

Qualifying Payments

A qualifying monthly payment is a payment that you make

  • after Oct. 1, 2007;
  • under a qualifying repayment plan;
  • for the full amount due as shown on your bill;
  • no later than 15 days after your due date; and
  • while you are employed full-time by a qualifying employer.

Most of the PSLF qualifying payment rules have been suspended through October 31, 2022. Under this temporary waiver, you may get credit for payments you’ve made on loans that would not normally qualify for PSLF. These payments will count even if you didn’t pay the full amount or on-time. However, only payments made after Oct. 1, 2007 can count as qualifying payments. For more information, visit the limited PSLF waiver page.

You can make qualifying monthly payments only during periods when you’re required to make a payment. Therefore, you can’t make a qualifying monthly payment while your loans are in

  • an in-school status,
  • the grace period,
  • a deferment, or
  • a forbearance.

If you want to make qualifying payments, but you’re in a deferment or forbearance, contact your federal student loan servicer to waive the deferment or forbearance. However, you can still receive credit toward PSLF during the COVID-19 payment pause.

Your 120 qualifying monthly payments don’t need to be consecutive. For example, if you have a period of employment with a nonqualifying employer, you will not lose credit for prior qualifying payments you made.

The best way to ensure that you are making on-time, complete payments is to sign up for automatic debit with your loan servicer.

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