How to Buy a House with Student Loan Debt ($100k+)

Author
Grace Lemire
Grace Lemire
author

Grace Lemire is a freelance writer and editor with over five years of experience in the personal finance industry. She has been featured on a variety of publications, including NPR, CNN, FinanceBuzz, Dollar Geek, Pangea, and True Finance. Her work focuses on the intersection of personal finance and technology. In 2023, Grace was nominated for the Best Personal Finance Advice award in Debt.com’s FinTok Awards.

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Edited by
Emma Östlund
Emma Östlund
editor

Emma Östlund works as a business operations analyst at Sparrow. Emma studied Psychology, Computer Science, and Markets & Management at Duke University. With a well-rounded background in business and analytics, Emma strives to deliver data-driven conclusions and insights.

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Reviewed by
Camden Ford
Camden Ford
reviewer

Camden leads Sparrow’s business operations – everything from product management to business analytics. After graduating Cum Laude from Duke University where he studied Civil Engineering, Camden worked as a Consultant for A.T. Kearney where he worked in their Strategic Operations practice. With a strong background in analytics, Camden strives to deliver data-driven conclusions and insights.

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Updated
December 26, 2023

If you’re concerned about your student loan debt affecting your chances of buying a home, you’re not alone. In fact, over a quarter of student debt holders say their debt has impacted their decision or their ability to purchase a home. Here’s what you need to know about buying a house with $100k student loan debt:

The good news: around 40% of first-time homebuyers have student loan debt. So, while it may make qualifying for a mortgage loan a bit more challenging, buying a house with student loan debt is completely possible.

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Can I Buy a House with Student Loan Debt?

When people say, “buying a house with student loan debt is hard,” what they’re often referring to is the mortgage loan process. Like private student loans, you must be a creditworthy borrower to secure a mortgage loan with a competitive interest rate.

Unfortunately, student debt can impact how creditworthy you appear to a lender. That said, there are several things you can do to appear more creditworthy, and thus improve your chances of getting approved for a mortgage loan.

Work on Improving Your Credit Score

One of the most important factors in securing a mortgage loan is your credit score. Simply put, lenders want to be confident you’re a trustworthy borrower prior to lending to you. So, by examining your credit score, they can typically get an idea of whether or not you are.

>> MORE: What credit score is needed for a student loan?

Luckily for you, student loan debt typically won’t drag down your credit score too much, unless you’ve been missing payments.

If there are other aspects of your financial background that are bringing your credit score down, however, taking the time to improve it can help you qualify for a competitive rate.

Here are a few things you can do to improve your credit score:

  • Pay all your bills on time. Payment history makes up roughly 35% of your credit score. So, as you can imagine, late payments can take a serious toll on your score. Therefore, if you’re struggling to pay your credit card bill on time, consider opting in to automatic payments. Rather than making your payments manually, your credit card company will pull the payment directly from your checking account. This will ensure payments are always made on time.
  • Limit new credit accounts. Applying for a new line of credit will result in a hard inquiry, which will temporarily hurt your credit score. Therefore, if you plan on applying for a mortgage loan in the near future, hold off on applying for any other new lines of credit.
  • Keep old credit card accounts open. Credit history is another important factor in determining your credit score. Each time you open a new line of credit, it adds to the length of your credit history. If you have a credit card you opened a while ago that you no longer use, keep it open. Closing it will shorten the length of your credit history which, in turn, can reduce your overall credit score.
  • Check your credit report. Several credit card companies, banks, and other financial institutions offer free credit reports. If yours don’t, consider using the Annual Credit Report to get a free copy of yours. By viewing your full credit report, you can check for unknown errors, fraud, or potential identity theft that could be impacting your score.

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Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

When mortgage lenders evaluate you as a potential borrower, they’ll examine your debt-to-income ratio (DTI). Your debt-to-income ratio compares how much you owe to how much you earn each month. Your DTI is used to assess your ability to make a mortgage payment on top of other debts.

There are two types of debt-to-income ratios to be aware of: front-end ratio and back end-ratio.

A front-end ratio is all of your housing expenses divided by your pre-tax income. When applying for a mortgage loan, lenders will consider your future monthly mortgage payment, including expenses such as property taxes and homeowners insurance, to calculate your housing expenses.

For example, if you make $8,000 pre-tax per month, and your future housing expenses are $3,000 per month, your front-end debt-to-income ratio would be 37.5%.

[3000 ÷ 8000 = 0.375 → 37.5%]

A back-end ratio is all of your monthly debt payments divided by your pre-tax income. In addition to the monthly housing-related expenses, a back-end debt-to-income ratio will factor in debt payments such as student loans, credit cards, and auto loans.

For example, if you make $8,000 pre-tax per month, and your future housing expenses are $3,000 per month, but you have an additional $250 student loan payment and $400 auto loan payment, your back-end debt-to-income ratio would be 45.6%.

[3650 ÷ 8000 = 0.456 → 45.6%]

When applying for a mortgage loan, lenders will pay closer attention to your back-end ratio as it provides a more holistic view of monthly expenses.

What Debt-to-Income Ratio is Needed to Buy a House?

Many mortgage lenders follow what is referred to as the “28/36 rule,” also called the “28/36 qualifying ratio.” The rule suggests that you should spend no more than 28% of your monthly gross income on housing expenses, and no more than 36% on all of your debt expenses, including debt like student loans and credit cards.

That means your front-end ratio should be no more than 28%, and your back-end ratio should be no more than 36%. However, some mortgage lenders work with borrowers with higher DTIs. In fact, Rocket Mortgage recommends aiming for a DTI of 50% or less to qualify for a conventional mortgage loan. That said, the lower your DTI, the better.

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Tips to Lower Your Debt-to-Income Ratio

If you have a high student loan balance relative to your income, or vice versa, consider increasing your income or refinancing your student loan.

>> MORE: Should I Refinance my Student Loan.

Use Sparrow to help you find the best refinance rates. The Sparrow form shows you personalized rates from our 17+ partnering lenders. You can then compare refinance rates side-by-side, helping you narrow down your options to see which is best for you.

By increasing your income, say, through taking on a side hustle or asking for a raise, you can reduce your overall debt-to-income ratio.

In this example, increasing your income by just $1,000 per month would lower your front-end ratio by around 4 percentage points and your back-end ratio by around 5 percentage points.

Before

After Increasing Your Monthly Income

Monthly Pre-Tax Income

$8,000

$9,000

Monthly Housing Expenses

$3,000

$3,000

Total Monthly Debt Expenses

$650

$650

Front-End Ratio

37.5%

33%

Back-End Ratio

45.6%

40.5%

If increasing your income isn’t possible at this time, consider refinancing your student loan debt. Refinancing to a longer repayment period will decrease your monthly payment. Accordingly, it will lower your total monthly debt payments. In doing so, your debt-to-income ratio will drop.

For example, let’s say you were able to decrease your $250 monthly student loan payment to $100, making your overall monthly debt expenses $500 instead of $650. Even with the same income, your back-end DTI would drop around 2 percentage points.

Now, if you are able to increase your income and reduce your monthly debt payments, you may see a greater drop in your DTI. In this example, you would drop nearly 7 percentage points by increasing your income by $1,000 per month and reducing your debt payments by $150 per month.

After Only Refinancing

After Refinancing and Increasing Income

Monthly Pre-Tax Income

$8,000

$9,000

Monthly Housing Expenses

$3,000

$3,000

Total Monthly Debt Expenses

$500

$500

Front-End Ratio

37.5%

33%

Back-End Ratio

43.75%

38.8%

It’s important to note that lenders care far more about your debt-to-income ratio than they do your total debt expenses. So, even if you have $100k in student loan debt, if your overall DTI is still within the ideal range, you’re in the green.

See What You Pre-qualify For

Prequalifying with a mortgage lender can help you see what you may qualify for, and thus, where you need to make adjustments to qualify for your desired mortgage loan. For example, if you’re only approved for a fraction of the amount you expected to qualify for, you can ask the lender how you could improve your application to prequalify for higher.

>> MORE: What student loan rates do I prequalify for?

When seeking a preapproval for a home, remember to consider the following:

  • Lenders will evaluate your entire short-term financial history. If questioned, you will need to be able to explain where all of your income has come from.
  • If you’re self-employed, your income will be under greater scrutiny. Accordingly, you may need to provide additional documents for income verification.

Once you have a preapproval, sellers are also more likely to take you seriously as a potential homebuyer. This can increase the likelihood of your offers being accepted.

Explore Down Payment Assistance Options

If your student debt is preventing you from having enough to save for a down payment, consider down payment assistance programs. These programs will help you cover the cost of your down payment if you are a first-time homebuyer.

There are a few types of down payment assistance programs to look out for:

  • Grants. Grants are considered a gift, meaning you never have to pay it back. (Yup! Free money.) 
  • Forgivable loans. Similar to some federal student loan forgiveness programs, some mortgage loans are forgivable after remaining in the home for a set number of years.
  • Matched savings programs. Some banks, government agencies, and community organizations offer matched savings programs, allowing buyers to have their down payment savings matched. For example, if a buyer deposited $10,000 into an account, the partnering organization would add another $10,000 in to match it. Then, you can use that $20,000 toward your down payment.

Consider Your Budget

Before adding a mortgage loan into the mix, make sure you have a deep understanding of your current expenses. If you aren’t already tracking your spending, consider doing so.

You may find that you spend unnecessarily in certain areas. Therefore, by cutting those areas back even just a little bit, you could find more money to put toward paying off your debt or toward a down payment.

Be Willing to Make Compromises

If buying a house despite having student loan debt is a top priority for you, consider holding off on other “wants” for a bit. For example, rather than upgrading your cell phone, hold onto your current phone for another year, and direct what you would’ve spent on a phone toward paying off your student loan debt.

Likewise, if you don’t qualify for as much of a mortgage loan as you expected due to your debt, consider lowering your expectations for your first home. While a move-in ready home in the perfect location may be ideal, it may not be in budget. Be open to compromising on certain elements of the home to find something you like that also suits your current financial situation.

Student loan rates from our partners
lender Ascent logo
Ascent
Minimum credit score
Varies
Fixed APR
Fixed APR

Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 6/3/2024 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest rates require full
principal and interest payments, the shortest loan term, a cosigner, and are only available for our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores. Actual APR offered may be higher or lower than the repayment examples above, based on the amount of time you spend in school and any grace period you have before repayment begins.

4.29 - 15.96%
Variable APR
Variable APR

Ascent’s undergraduate and graduate student loans are funded by Bank of Lake Mills, or DR Bank, each Member FDIC. Loan products may not be available in certain jurisdictions. Certain restrictions, limitations; and terms and conditions may apply. For Ascent Terms and Conditions please visit: www.AscentFunding.com/Ts&Cs. Rates are effective as of 6/3/2024 and reflect an automatic payment discount of either 0.25% (for credit-based loans) OR 1.00% (for undergraduate outcomes-based loans). Automatic Payment Discount is available if the borrower is enrolled in automatic payments from their personal checking account and the amount is successfully withdrawn from the authorized bank account each month. For Ascent rates and repayment examples please visit: AscentFunding.com/Rates. 1% Cash Back Graduation Reward subject to terms and conditions. Cosigned Credit-Based Loan student must meet certain minimum credit criteria. The minimum score required is subject to change and may depend on the credit score of your cosigner. Lowest rates require full
principal and interest payments, the shortest loan term, a cosigner, and are only available for our most creditworthy applicants and cosigners with the highest average credit scores. Actual APR offered may be higher or lower than the repayment examples above, based on the amount of time you spend in school and any grace period you have before repayment begins.

6.23 - 16.09%
lender LendKey logo
LendKey
Minimum credit score
660
Fixed APR
Fixed APR

1 – Terms and Conditions Apply

Loan products, terms, and benefits may be modified or discontinued by participating lenders at any time without notice. Rates displayed are reserved for the most creditworthy consumers who enroll to make automatic monthly payments. Your initial rate will be determined after a review of your application and credit profile. Variable rates may increase after consummation. You must be either a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident in an eligible state and from an eligible school, and meet the lender’s credit and income requirements to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account, a minimum share account deposit, and the payment of any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to apply with, and accept a loan offered from, a credit union lender. If you are not a member of the credit union lender, you may apply and become a member during the loan application process if you meet the lender’s eligibility criteria. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may result in a better chance of loan approval and/or lower interest rate. Loans for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not available via LendKey.com.

2 – Cosigner Release

Some lenders participating on LendKey.com may offer the benefit of cosigner release. Cosigner release is subject to lender approval. In order to qualify, the borrower, alone, must meet the following requirements: (1) Make the required number of consecutive, on-time full principal and interest payments as indicated in the borrower’s credit agreement during the repayment period (excluding interest-only payments) immediately prior to the request. Any period of forbearance will reset the repayment clock; (2) The account cannot be in delinquent status; (3) The borrower must provide proof of income indicating that he/she meets the income requirements and pass a credit review demonstrating that he/she has a satisfactory credit history and the ability to assume full responsibility of loan repayment; (4) No bankruptcies or foreclosures in the last sixty months; and (5) No loan defaults.

3 – Autopay Rate Reduction

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments.

4 – AutoPay Discount & Lowest Interest Rate

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised APR is only available for loan terms of 10 years and is reserved for the highest qualified applicants, taking into consideration the applicant’s credit and other factors.

3.99 - 12.61%
Variable APR
Variable APR

1 – Terms and Conditions Apply

Loan products, terms, and benefits may be modified or discontinued by participating lenders at any time without notice. Rates displayed are reserved for the most creditworthy consumers who enroll to make automatic monthly payments. Your initial rate will be determined after a review of your application and credit profile. Variable rates may increase after consummation. You must be either a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident in an eligible state and from an eligible school, and meet the lender’s credit and income requirements to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account, a minimum share account deposit, and the payment of any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to apply with, and accept a loan offered from, a credit union lender. If you are not a member of the credit union lender, you may apply and become a member during the loan application process if you meet the lender’s eligibility criteria. Applying with a creditworthy cosigner may result in a better chance of loan approval and/or lower interest rate. Loans for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not available via LendKey.com.

2 – Cosigner Release

Some lenders participating on LendKey.com may offer the benefit of cosigner release. Cosigner release is subject to lender approval. In order to qualify, the borrower, alone, must meet the following requirements: (1) Make the required number of consecutive, on-time full principal and interest payments as indicated in the borrower’s credit agreement during the repayment period (excluding interest-only payments) immediately prior to the request. Any period of forbearance will reset the repayment clock; (2) The account cannot be in delinquent status; (3) The borrower must provide proof of income indicating that he/she meets the income requirements and pass a credit review demonstrating that he/she has a satisfactory credit history and the ability to assume full responsibility of loan repayment; (4) No bankruptcies or foreclosures in the last sixty months; and (5) No loan defaults.

3 – Autopay Rate Reduction

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments.

4 – AutoPay Discount & Lowest Interest Rate

Subject to floor rate and may require the automatic payments be made from a checking or savings account with the lender. The rate reduction will be removed and the rate will be increased by 0.25% upon any cancellation or failed collection attempt of the automatic payment and will be suspended during any period of deferment or forbearance. As a result, during the forbearance or suspension period, and/or if the automatic payment is canceled, any increase will take the form of higher payments. The lowest advertised APR is only available for loan terms of 10 years and is reserved for the highest qualified applicants, taking into consideration the applicant’s credit and other factors.

5.98 - 13.74%
lender Earnest logo
Earnest
Minimum credit score
650
Fixed APR
Fixed APR

Student Loan Origination (Private Student Loan) Interest Rate Disclosure:
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 4.54% APR to 16.74% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.87% APR to 17.10% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan origination loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

4.29 - 16.49%
Variable APR
Variable APR

Student Loan Origination (Private Student Loan) Interest Rate Disclosure:
Actual rate and available repayment terms will vary based on your income. Fixed rates range from 4.54% APR to 16.74% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Variable rates range from 5.87% APR to 17.10% APR (excludes 0.25% Auto Pay discount). Earnest variable interest rate student loan origination loans are based on a publicly available index, the 30-day Average Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR) published by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. The variable rate is based on the rate published on the 25th day, or the next business day, of the preceding calendar month, rounded to the nearest hundredth of a percent. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Although the rate will vary after you are approved, it will never exceed 36% (the maximum allowable for this loan). Please note, Earnest Private Student Loans are not available in Nevada. Our lowest rates are only available for our most credit qualified borrowers and contain our .25% auto pay discount from a checking or savings account. It is important to note that the 0.25% Auto Pay discount is not available while loan payments are deferred.

5.62 - 16.85%
lender College Ave logo
College Ave
Minimum credit score
Mid-600s
Fixed APR
Fixed APR

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

*The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. $5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 08/25/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 6/14/2024. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

4.29 - 16.69%
Variable APR
Variable APR

College Ave Student Loans products are made available through Firstrust Bank, member FDIC, First Citizens Community Bank, member FDIC, or M.Y. Safra Bank, FSB, member FDIC. All loans are subject to individual approval and adherence to underwriting guidelines. Program restrictions, other terms, and conditions apply.

*The 0.25% auto-pay interest rate reduction applies as long as the borrower or cosigner, if applicable, enrolls in auto-pay and authorizes our loan servicer to automatically deduct your monthly payments from a valid bank account via Automated Clearing House (“ACH”). The rate reduction applies for as long as the monthly payment amount is successfully deducted from the designated bank account and is suspended during periods of forbearance and certain deferments. Variable rates may increase after consummation. $5,000 is the minimum requirement to refinance. The maximum loan amount is $300,000 for those with medical, dental, pharmacy or veterinary doctorate degrees, and $150,000 for all other undergraduate or graduate degrees. Information advertised valid as of 08/25/2022. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a refi borrower with a Full Principal & Interest Repayment and a 10-year repayment term, has a $40,000 loan and a 5.5% Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $434.11 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $52,092.61. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

This informational repayment example uses typical loan terms for a freshman borrower who selects the Deferred Repayment Option with a 10-year repayment term, has a $10,000 loan that is disbursed in one disbursement and a 8.35% fixed Annual Percentage Rate (“APR”): 120 monthly payments of $179.18 while in the repayment period, for a total amount of payments of $21,501.54. Loans will never have a full principal and interest monthly payment of less than $50. Your actual rates and repayment terms may vary.

Information advertised valid as of 6/14/2024. Variable interest rates may increase after consummation. Approved interest rate will depend on creditworthiness of the applicant(s), lowest advertised rates only available to the most creditworthy applicants and require selection of full principal and interest payments with the shortest available loan term.

5.59 - 16.85%

Final Thoughts from the Nest

Buying a house with student loan debt is entirely possible. However, there may be additional hurdles to overcome along the way, especially if you have a high loan balance in comparison to your income.

Be sure to calculate your debt-to-income ratio prior to beginning the homebuying process. The earlier you understand your broader financial situation, the longer you’ll have to make adjustments before applying for a mortgage loan.

If you do opt to refinance your student loan debt as a tactic for reducing your monthly debt expenses, use Sparrow. By completing the Sparrow form, you’ll be able to see what refinance loans you pre-qualify for and at what rates. Then, you can compare your loan options side-by-side to be sure you’re picking the best one.

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