You’re carrying a lot of student debt, but you want to buy a house? Read on for eight protips you can use to improve your chances of qualifying for a home mortgage.
Let’s not sugar-coat what you already know: student loan debt makes a lot of things more difficult than if you were debt free.
But “difficult” is a far cry from “impossible.” Qualifying for low-interest home mortgages may take a bit more work, but they’re not entirely out of reach.
Below are eight strategies (plus two bonus tips) for buying a house even when you’re carrying student-loan debt.
1. Go for a High (Credit) Score
Your credit score is one of the major determinants of your eligibility for a mortgage you can afford.
Even if you’re already rocking a 720+ score, get a copy of your free yearly credit report and make sure there are no errors in it, and if there are, get them fixed right away.
Then follow up on the tips below, and you’ll not only help raise your credit score but make your entire credit report that much more appealing to lenders.
Bonus tip: Keep old credit card accounts that are in good standing open even if you have a zero-dollar balance (as long as they don’t charge you a yearly fee). They help stretch the age of your credit history and credit; and like wine, credit is better when it’s older.
2. Reduce Your Current Debt Load
It’s a simple math equation, the more you owe, the more you have to pay every month which means the less you have for a mortgage payment.
Consider using the “snowball method” to pay off the smallest debts you have as soon as possible, and then use that freed up that money for the next largest debt and so on. Alternatively, you can pay off the debts with the highest interest rate first to save in the longer term.
On the other side, starting a “side gig,” moving to a better-paying job, or securing a promotion can decrease your debt-to-income ratio, making you more attractive to lenders.
3. Don’t Miss a Payment
A mortgage is a significant, decades-long commitment. As such, lenders want to make sure you’re the sort who won’t fail to meet your obligation month after month.
Make sure to make every payment on time (recent payment history is more heavily weighted than past payments). An auto-payment system is a simple, effective means to keep your payment history spotless.
4. Cut Back On Credit Card Spending
If you’ve got a $5000 limit and you spend $3000 of that every month—even if you pay it all off—you’re utilizing 60% of your limit, which is a red flag to lenders.
Ideally, you want to keep your credit utilization under 30%, and under 10% would be best of all.
5. Consolidate Your Debt
If you combine your non-student loan debt into one personal loan at a lower interest rate, you’ll not only save money on interest in the long run, but you’ll help improve your credit rating.
6. Refinance Your Debt
Many student loan refinancing lenders offer rates significantly lower than federal student loan providers, allowing you to save thousands of dollars over the life of the loan and lower your debt-to-income ratio at the same time.
Bonus tip: Federal student loans can be paid off with an income-driven repayment plan that allows your payments to be based on a percentage of your discretionary income. This can significantly reduce your total monthly debt payments which will free up more money for a mortgage payment.
7. Start with a “Yes”
Looking for a home before you’ve been approved is putting the cart before the horse.
Getting a letter of pre-approval from a lender first allows you to do two things: 1) You’ll know how much you can afford before you go looking which saves time, and 2) You’ll be able to move faster than other homebuyers who haven’t gotten pre-approved.
8. Take Advantage of Government Programs
The FHA, USDA, and VA are just three federal agencies—there are state and local options, too—that offer low-interest loans and down-payment assistance programs for qualified applicants.
Homeownership is possible even if you’re carrying student debt, and by following the tips listed above, you can not only increase your chances of qualifying for a home loan, you might even reduce your overall debt.
Want to know more about how to buy a house even when you’ve got debt? Answer a few questions here, and a home lending expert will contact you.