Student loan debt is one of the biggest factors impacting millennials’ ability to purchase a home. According to the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR), 80 percent of millennials do not own a home, and, of that, 83 percent say student loan debt is impacting their ability to buy. Millennials expect to be delayed from home-buying for a median of seven years, the NAR research shows.
There are alternatives, however, that millennials may not know about. In fact, according to a 2016 ATTOM Data Solutions survey, few buyers and real estate agents know about the close to 2,500—mostly local—down payment assistance programs. Across the 513 counties surveyed in the ATTOM Data Solutions report, buyers that used these programs saved, on average, $17,766 over the life of their loan.
From offerings that benefit first-time homebuyers to options for refinancing costly student loan interest rates, it’s important that today’s homebuyer is aware of all the viable options for purchasing a home.
What’s Out There?
For consumers who are having trouble saving for a large enough down payment, there are plenty of options that offer grants or down payment assistance. The National Homebuyers Fund (NHF), for example, has multi-state Down Payment Assistance (DPA) programs that offer closing assistance or down payment grants for up to 5 percent of the loan amount.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) also has low- and no-down payment options via its Single Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program, which assists lenders in offering low- and moderate-income households with purchasing opportunities in rural areas, for which closing costs and other related expenses can be rolled into the loan.
Additionally, there are more localized options available on a state-by-state basis. Here are a few examples:
Baltimore, Md./Washington, D.C. – The Maryland Mortgage Program offers a discounted mortgage rate and up to $5,000 in down payment assistance when consumers purchase in a sustainable community.
Ohio – Grants for Grads offers reduced-rate mortgages for first-time homebuyers who’ve earned their associate, bachelor, master or doctorate degrees within the last four years.
Rhode Island – The First Down Program allows first-time homebuyers to purchase a one- to four-family home or condominium with down payment assistance of $7,500, forgivable after five years of owning the home as a primary residence.
More and more companies are introducing homebuyer assistance programs to tackle the student loan debt challenge that many of today’s buyers are facing, as well; however, buyers and agents should first consult a financial expert before participating in or recommending these programs. For example, the student loan cash-out refinance that multiple lenders offer, which allows homebuyers to use their equity to pay off high-interest student loans, may not make as much financial sense with the introduction of the new tax bill. as home equity financing is no longer tax-deductible.
With other incentive programs, such as the Eagle Home Mortgage’s Student Loan Debt Mortgage Program, homeowners can pay off outstanding student loan debt (up to $13,000 for this specific program) by redirecting 3 percent of their purchase price to student debt payoff when buying a new home from the home builder. Buyers should carefully assess whether these programs are financially worthwhile.
These are just a sampling of the available down payment assistance and grant programs that can help consumers with high student loan debt achieve their homeownership dream. It’s imperative that real estate agents research these offerings in order to assist consumers who believe homeownership is still out of reach.