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Is Student Debt Holding Back Homeownership?

debtsStudent debt has long been touted as a key factor in homeownership attainment, particularity among young generations.

Now, a recent survey from the National Association of Realtors (NAR) and SALT, a consumer literacy program provided by nonprofit American Student Assistance, gathers the facts of this phenomenon directly from non-homeowners burdened with student debt.

The survey polled student debt holders current in their repayment for varying amounts of debt from mostly a four-year public or private college.

NAR reported that 43 percent of those polled had between $10,001 and $40,000 in student debt, while 38 percent had $50,000 or more. The most common debt amount was $20,000 to $30,000.

Seventy-nine percent of older millennials (ages 26 to 35) hold the highest amount of debt at  $70,000 to $100,000 in total debt, while over half of non-homeowners in each generation report that it's postponing their ability to buy.

According to the data, 71 percent of non-homeowners repaying their student loans on time believe their debt is preventing them from purchasing a home. Meanwhile, over half of respondents said that they expect to be delayed from buying by more than five years. In addition, NAR found that student debt postponed four in 10 borrowers from moving out of a family member's household after graduating college.

Lawrence Yun, NAR Chief Economist, noted that student debt plays an influential role in the housing market, and while getting a higher education is supposed to promote upward mobility, homeownership is often not an option for those paying down their student loans.

"A majority of non-homeowners in the survey earning over $50,000 a year–which is above the median U.S. qualifying income needed to buy a single-family home–reported that student debt is hurting their ability to save for a down payment," Yun said. "Along with rent, a car payment and other large monthly expenses that can squeeze a household's budget, paying a few hundred dollars every month on a student loan equates to thousands of dollars over several years that could otherwise go towards saving for a home purchase."

Saving for a down payment was the top reason that 80 percent of millennial non-homeowners said they are delaying buying a home, the survey found. Another 69 percent indicated that they don't feel financially secure enough to buy, and 63 percent can't qualify for a mortgage because of high debt-to-income ratios.

Young adults are finding it hard to leave their parents' nest, with 46 percent currently living with family, NAR reported. Forty-two percent of survey respondents said that student debt was the main reason for remaining in family members' homes after college.

"Nearly three-quarters of older millennials, many of whom graduated at the peak or immediately after the downturn, said their ability to purchase a home is affected by student debt," Yun said. "Add in the detrimental effects of low inventory as well as rents and home price growth outpacing wages and it's mainly why the share of first-time buyers remains at its lowest point in nearly three decades."

SALT President John Zurick said, "It is imperative to the nation's economy that we find immediate and practical solutions to financially empower the 43 million Americans with student debt. SALT is committed to demystifying the college financing process by giving consumers information, instruction and individualized advice. No one should fail to realize the full potential of their formal education simply because of finances. We invite the higher education community, the U.S. government, the private sector and others to join with us in this movement."

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