Selling a house to pay off student loans may not make the most sense for most borrowers. If you’re thinking about selling your home to pay off your mortgage debt and then buying another home after you pay off your student loans, it’s important to remember that no matter what, you’ll still have to pay back debt. Due to certain characteristics of both student loans and mortgages, it might not be advantageous to you as a borrower.
Read on to learn about mortgage debt vs. student loan debt, the challenges of selling your house to pay off student loans, and alternative options to selling your house to pay off student loans.
Paying Off Student Loans
It’s understandable that some borrowers may want to leverage the sale of a house to sweep away student loan debt. After all, student loan borrowers in the United States collectively owe about $1.6 trillion, up from $250 billion in 2004, according to Brookings and the U.S. Department of Education. Student loans take up the second largest portion of household debt after mortgages.
However, there are specific repayment plans that could help you put a plan in place to tackle the process of paying off your student loans. Here are several repayment plans available to federal student loan borrowers:
• Standard Repayment Plan: The most common repayment option for federal student loans is the Standard Repayment Plan, which means you pay a fixed amount each month. You must make payments of at least $50 per month over a 10-year period in order to repay the loan in full.
• Extended Repayment Plan: The federal fixed or graduated Extended Repayment Plan allows you to take up to 25 years to pay off your student loans in full. You must owe more than $30,000 to qualify under the Direct Loan or a Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) program.
• Graduated Repayment Plan: You can start out with a lower monthly payment and increase your payment amount every two years with the federal Graduated Repayment Plan. You’ll still pay your loans off in 10 years but the graduated repayment plan theoretically allows for your student loan payments to grow along with your salary.
• Income-Driven Repayment Plan: The Income-Driven Repayment Plans set your monthly payments based on your income and family size. It can take up to 25 years to pay off your loan using four different options: the Revised Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (REPAYE Plan), Pay As You Earn Repayment Plan (PAYE Plan), Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR Plan), and Income-Contingent Repayment Plan (ICR Plan). You may even be able to cancel your remaining balance after you meet certain requirements.
These plans give you opportunities to pay off your student loan debt with a goal in mind as an alternative to selling your home.
The repayment plans available for private student loans will vary based on the lender’s policy.
Mortgage vs. Student Loan Debt
Whether you choose mortgage and student loan debt, the fact of the matter is that you’ll still have debt.
One of the first things you may look into when you’re trying to decide whether to sell your house and pay off your student loan debt may be your interest rate. The interest rate is the amount you pay per month as a portion of the loan you receive from your lender. The higher your interest rate, the more you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
Mortgage lenders set interest rates based on the action on secondary markets, where bundles of loans are bought and sold as well as the amount of risk you present to a lender. Rates fluctuate depending on the 10-year Treasury yield. Mortgage lenders will also evaluate factors like your personal credit score, the type of mortgage, and loan terms, your down payment, and more when determining your mortgage interest rate.
The U.S. Department of Education also sets interest rates for federal student loans based on the 10-year Treasury note. Private student loan lenders use market factors and information they gather about you, the borrower, and your cosigner (if applicable). Private lenders also use a benchmark index rate to determine interest rates called the Secured Overnight Financing Rate (SOFR).
Student loan interest rates may be higher or lower than mortgage rates, depending on the type of mortgage loan you choose. If your student loan interest rate is higher than your mortgage, you may want to consider keeping your mortgage and refinancing your student loans to a lower interest rate.
However, the interest rate isn’t the only thing you’ll want to consider before you make your decisions about how to pay off student loans. In the next section, we’ll discuss several other important considerations before you make the big decision about whether to sell your house to pay off debt.
Challenges of Selling Your House to Pay Off Student Loans
Why may you want to avoid selling your house to pay off student loans? Let’s walk through a few reasons why you might want to consider other options.
Your Home Serves as Collateral
A mortgage is a home loan secured by the property you finance. In other words, when you get a mortgage, you put your home up as collateral. This means that when you borrow money, you agree to put an asset up to back the loan or as backing for that loan. If you fail to make your payments, your lender could take away your home through foreclosure.
Student loans are not backed by any collateral. You can’t lose your home if you’re having trouble making your student loan payments — there are benefits to having student loans!
You Lose Out on Certain Tax Benefits
If you’re not paying interest on student loans, you can’t claim the student loan interest deduction, which allows you to deduct up to $2,500 of the interest paid for student loans on Form 1040. You may deduct $2,500 or the amount of interest you actually paid during the year, whichever is less.
It’s true that you can also take advantage of the mortgage interest deduction, which is a tax deduction on the mortgage interest paid on your mortgage debt. You can deduct interest on the first $750,000 of your mortgage as long as you itemize your tax return.
However, if you’re asking, “Should I sell my house to pay off student loans?” — it may be a better idea to keep your student loan and your mortgage and get the tax benefits of both the student loan and mortgage interest deductions.
Alternatives to Selling Your House to Pay Off Student Loans
What alternatives are available if you’re thinking, “I don’t know if I want to sell my house to pay off student debt?” Let’s go over a few options.
Consolidating Student Loans
If you have multiple federal student loans from different loan servicers, you may be able to combine them into one loan with a fixed interest rate by choosing student loan consolidation. You can also change your loan term when you consolidate and also adjust the repayment terms on your loans without paying extra fees. Though it’s worth noting that it’s possible to change your repayment plan for federal student loans at any time.
You must complete the Federal Direct Consolidation Loan Application to consolidate your loans but you can only use this option for federal student loans, not private student loans. You may consider refinancing your private student loans if you are interested in changing the rates or terms on them — continue reading for additional details on student loan refinancing.
Student Loan Forgiveness
It’s important to note that most student loan forgiveness programs don’t offer complete loan cancellation right away. As mentioned earlier in the article, with an income-driven repayment plan it could take 25 years to qualify for complete forgiveness.
One of the most common types of forgiveness, Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), means you no longer have to pay your remaining federal student loan debt after you make a specified number of monthly payments. You must satisfy all of the requirements before you get your loans forgiven or canceled. Note that the program only applies to federal direct student loans, including:
• Direct Subsidized Loans
• Direct Unsubsidized Loans
• Parent PLUS Loans
• Graduate PLUS Loans
• Direct Consolidation Loans
Pursuing loan forgiveness through a program like PSLF requires a series of on-time, qualifying payments. The program requirements can be strict so be sure to read the details closely to be sure you are fulfilling them. If you have any questions about whether you qualify for loan forgiveness, contact your loan servicer.
Refinancing Student Loans
Refinancing your student loans essentially means you trade in your current loans to a private lender and exchange them for a new loan with a better interest rate and payment plan. The goal with refinancing is to save more money over time with a lower interest rate over a fewer number of years.
Ultimately, you’ll have to consider a wide variety of factors before you decide whether it makes sense to sell your house to pay off student loans, including:
• Interest rates
• Loan term
• Repayment options
• Student loan consolidation options
• Forgiveness options
• Refinancing opportunities
• Tax deductions
In some situations, it doesn’t make sense to sell your house to pay off your student loans. Selling your home may mean eliminating a mortgage, but it also requires you to find a new place to live. Before you decide to sell your house to pay off student loans or buy a house again after doing so, it’s also important to remember that your home is a great investment — a nest egg that you can build on throughout your loan term.
Check out SoFi’s student loan calculator to see how you can refinance student loans and potentially secure a lower interest rate. You’ll quickly learn your estimated savings over the life of your loan. SoFi might have the answer to handling your student loans — no need to sell your home.
Should I move to pay off student debt?
Moving to pay off your student loans is a personal choice. However, if you can find a lower-cost home, it may be beneficial for you to be able to make lower mortgage payments because you may be able to devote more money per month toward your student loan payments. Weigh the pros and cons and also find out if you’ll owe money for paying off student loans early. Most lenders don’t charge a prepayment penalty, but it’s possible that your lender could charge one.
Is it wise to sell a house to pay off debt?
Selling your home to pay off debt can be one option for eliminating some of your debt, especially if you feel that you’re paying too much for your mortgage. Downsizing can be an effective way to expedite the repayment of other debts because you can use the excess money to make extra payments. The general rule of thumb is to spend 28% or less of your monthly gross income on your mortgage payment, which includes your principal, interest, taxes, and insurance. Before you sell your home to pay off debt, consider all the angles before you take the leap.
Is it better to pay off a house before selling?
You may think it’s a good idea to pay off a house before you sell it to make a clean, fresh start before buying a new home. However, you might end up owing more at closing because you might be subject to a prepayment penalty through your lender. Check your loan terms before you decide.
Photo credit: iStock/Quils
SoFi Student Loan Refinance
If you are looking to refinance federal student loans, please be aware that the White House has announced up to $20,000 of student loan forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients and $10,000 for qualifying borrowers whose student loans are federally held. Additionally, the federal student loan payment pause and interest holiday has been extended beyond December 31, 2022. Please carefully consider these changes before refinancing federally held loans with SoFi, since the amount or portion of your federal student debt that you refinance will no longer qualify for the federal loan payment suspension, interest waiver, or any other current or future benefits applicable to federal loans. If you qualify for federal student loan forgiveness and still wish to refinance, leave unrefinanced the amount you expect to be forgiven to receive your federal benefit.
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Notice: SoFi refinance loans are private loans and do not have the same repayment options that the federal loan program offers such as Income-Driven Repayment plans, including Income-Contingent Repayment or PAYE. SoFi always recommends that you consult a qualified financial advisor to discuss what is best for your unique situation.
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