Student debt casts doubts on home-buying

A majority of households surveyed by the National Association of Realtors believe now is a good time to buy a home, but some key findings were that those under 35 were the least optimistic, and that about half of those surveyed who also have student debt said they were uncomfortable also carrying a mortgage.

Student debt has risen dramatically across the U.S. in the last two decades, and economists have cited it as an anchor on the economy.

In NAR's second quarter HOME consumer survey, respondents were asked about their confidence in the U.S. economy and various questions about their housing expectations, including questions on if carrying student debt is tempering their ability and appetite to take on mortgage debt.

Eighty percent of homeowners (82 percent in March) and 62 percent of renters (unchanged from last quarter) say it’s a good time to buy. However, the share of renters who think so is down from 68 percent in December 2015, and those under 35 were the least confident that now is a good time to buy.

Lawrence Yun, NAR chief economist, says the survey brings to focus the ongoing disparity in buyer confidence between current homeowners and renters. “Existing-home prices surpassed their all-time peak this spring and have climbed on average over 5 percent nationally through the first five months of the year and even faster in areas with severe supply shortages,” he said. “Most homeowners appear to realize that if they’re ready to sell, they’ll likely find a buyer rather quickly and be able to use the sizable equity they’ve accumulated in recent years towards their next home purchase. Meanwhile, renters interested in buying continue to face minimal choices, strong competition and home prices growing faster than their incomes.”