Student Debt and the Housing Market: Not As Badly Paired As You’d Think

Zillow finds student debt only affects the odds of homeownership in certain cases.
Photo credit: Julia Rowe | Flickr

Photo credit: Julia Rowe | Flickr

This just in from the Department of Misconception Debunking: student loan debt in and of itself does not, we repeat, does not prevent young would-be homebuyers from purchasing a house. Of course, you try telling that to a money-strapped millennial frantically searching for a job that’ll help them pay off their loans quicker, let alone a house. Go on. We dare you.

Obviously, we’ve wholly accepted the idea that massive student loan debt is one of the major factors contributing to a still laggy housing market. But as we’ve just said, this is not necessarily the case. According to a new report from Zillow, it’s only certain kinds of student loan debt situations that hold people back from buying. In some cases, it really just delays the process. To be sure, the shades of grey are somewhat distinct, plus there are other life variables to consider. Here’s what Zillow Chief Economist Dr. Svenja Gudell says about it in a press release:

“Student debt isn’t the evil-doer it’s made out to be, at least not when it comes to homeownership. As long as students stay in school and get a degree, student debt doesn’t deter them from homeownership, although it is possible that student debt could delay homeownership. People in their 20s and 30s are renting longer because they’re delaying marriage, paying a lot in rent, and struggling to qualify for a mortgage when they finally find an affordable home. Add to that list that they are paying off student debt.”

And with that, we present to you what homeownership odds are like as a result of student debt…

  • with a Bachelor’s Degree or higher: There’s a small negative effect on your odds. Case in point, if a married couple with zero student debt wants to buy a house, and at least one of them has a B.A., they have about 69.8 percent chance of owning. If that same couple has $30,000 in student debt, their homeownership chances drops a smidge, to 67.7 percent.
  • without a degree / ever having graduated: There’s almost a 50/50 chance, but things don’t look too hot. Zillow says that if a couple who borrowed more than $30,000 for school, but never graduated, then their chances of homeownership are less than 40 percent

  • with advanced degrees: Even with elephantine debt, this group is most likely to still own a home. For instance, say a couple owes $50,000 in student loans. If one of them has a master’s degree, they have a 75 percent chance of homeownership. Similarly, a household with a Bachelor’s and just $10,000 racked up in school loan debt has a 69 percent chance.

  • with associates’s degrees: Student debt affects this group the most. A couple with AA degrees and zero debt means a 70 percent chance of homeownership. But if the debt is more, say $50,000, the chances decrease. With the $50k example, that means they’d own the house 57 percent of the time.

Zillow’s conclusion? “Getting a bachelor, master’s or doctorate degree – regardless of debt — increases the chances that people will buy a home.”