Providing National Research & Consulting Services for Our Clients

Skyrocketing Student Loan Debt Will Delay Homeownership

December 9, 2011

Student loan debt now totals $865 billion, which is greater than all credit card debt outstanding, as well as all other types of household debt except for mortgages! College graduates have debt averaging $25,000. Even more troubling is the rise in debts associated with for-profit college and trade schools, whose revenues come primarily from debt available through Federal government programs. The debt load is so high, and the job outlook so bleak, that student loan default rates have almost doubled. With the economy little improved since 2009 (two-year lag on data), default rates are bound to rise further.

Student loans are going to be yet another hurdle for the housing market to overcome. Faced with mounting student loan debt, poor job prospects and stagnant wages, an increasing amount of 25 to 34 year olds (a prized demographic for the housing sector) have moved back in with their parents. Almost 6 million 25 to 34 year olds now live with mom and dad, up 26% from when the recession started in 2007. Today's 36.8% homeownership rate for 25 to 29 year olds is at its lowest level since 1999, and homeownership for 30 to 34 year olds is at its lowest rate in 17 years.

The good news is that this pent-up demand will ultimately provide a much needed boost to the housing sector. The bad news is that the boost will be heavily skewed to the rental market as it will take longer than ever for young people to qualify for a mortgage, especially if more and more graduates are hit with credit blemishes from unpaid student debt.

To help struggling graduates, the Obama Administration recently announced a program to help those with student debt reduce their payments down to 10% of their income. However, with student loans at 10% of income, how will these people be able to qualify for a home?

All of this analysis contributes to our belief that the lion's share of housing demand will end up in the rental market. Look at the tremendous growth we expect in rentals in comparison to the last decade.