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Student Loan Debt Hampering Home Buying: A Regional Perspective

In the 2015 Profile of Home Buyers and Sellers survey, we asked additional questions this year regarding the adversity to saving for a down payment to buy a home and whether student loans were an impediment. In years past, the down payment had been cited as one of the most problematic steps in the home buying process. In 2014, 12 percent of people said that saving for the down payment was the most difficult step and, among those, 46 percent reported having student loan debt.

In 2015, the number grew slightly to 13 percent of buyers that had difficulty saving for the down payment and, of those, jumped to 51 percent that reported student loan debt made saving the most strenuous step in the buying process. For first-time buyers in 2015 who are predominantly Millennials under the age of 34 year old, 25 percent said saving for the down payment was the more arduous step in the process and, of those, 58 percent stated that student loan debt delayed them from buying a home.

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For all buyers this year, a quarter reported having student loans. For first-time buyers, 41 percent cited still having student loans with a median amount of $25,000 in debt.

What’s more interesting is the amount of student loan debt that respondents cited around the country by sub-region. The median student debt was the lowest at $15,000 in the South Atlantic states of Delaware, Maryland, Washington, DC, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida. The median student loan debt was highest at $70,000 in East South Central region of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Alabama.

A majority of the regions reported student loan debt delaying buyers from purchasing a home of a median of three years except for in the New England and West South Central, which reported a delay of five years, and the Middle Atlantic region, which was delayed four years.

It begs speculations whether jobs in the South Atlantic near the nation’s capital could be more abundant and that salaries are likely higher than other regions of the country. Thus, the amount of student loan debt reported is lowest in these states. In the East South Central region, jobs and wages are suppressed and thus the amount of student loan debt reported is nearly five times that of the South Atlantic. It also warrants further research into how the number of jobs and salaries on the market affect student loan debt thus delaying younger buyers from purchasing a home for three to five years.

Additional research shows that debt is lower where income is higher. For instance, a USA Today article that tracked the 10 states with the highest rate of student loan debt in 2014 and found that states student loan debt was higher in the Northeast where private schools are more expensive. The article further draws the conclusion that having higher debt due to student loans can dissuade people from purchasing homes, cars, and other goods that stimulate the economy. More research correlating student loan debt by state and incomes seems to be warranted in the near future.

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