Any kind of debt - student loan or car loan - is a major barrier to homeownership, according to a latest report by real estate intelligence firm RealtyTrac.
For the report, RealtyTrac analyzed affordability in 500 counties across the nation. They found that non-mortgage debts made saving for a home loan down payment harder and it affected 48 percent of the counties analyzed.
RealtyTrac also noted that the suggestion of lowering the traditional down payment percentage from 20 percent to 3 percent - given by Mel Watt, the director of Federal Housing Finance Agency - could help low income but credit worthy homeowners avail a mortgage easily.
In their report, RealtyTrac estimated that if a home buyer carried non mortgage debt, it would take the buyer 12.5 years to save up for a mortgage down payment. But if the down payment percentage would be lowered to 3 percent, it would take a qualified buyer less than two years to accumulate the money.
On the contrary, the report also found that if the down payment is lowered to 3 percent, buyers with non mortgage debts could afford homes in just 48 of the 500 counties analyzed, at today's rates. Therefore, the larger the sum of the down payment the better it is for people with student or car loans.
The report highlights that there are more than 2,300 down payment assistance and closing programs available across the counties where homes are affordable. But home buyers aren't utilizing them. Why?
"The narrative is that it's too hard to get a loan today and when first-time buyers believe that, they won't even begin their search. That hurts the overall housing market," Rob Chrane of Down Payment Resource explained, according to RealtyTrac.
"Consumers for the most part have no idea that these programs exist, so they don't think to ask for them. Whatever your situation is, whatever you have for a down payment, you could be in a much better situation if you find out you are eligible for one of these programs," Chrane added.
Of late, several studies have argued both for and against the fact that student loans could be holding back home ownership.
"The burden of student loan debt is preventing potential home buyers from starting households, which in turn is hindering overall economic growth according to Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)," a study noted, while Darren Blomquist - chief economist at RealtyTrac - doesn't quite agree.
"(Student loans) are not holding people back technically. That's not to say that, psychologically, a person who has that student loan debt is going to be eager to take on a little more," Blomquist was quoted in The Oregonian.
That said first-time home buyers haven't been making the move yet. A recent report by the National Association of Realtors found that the percentage of first-time home buyers dropped to its lowest since 1987 in September 2014.
"Rising rents and repaying student loan debt makes saving for a down payment more difficult, especially for young adults who've experienced limited job prospects and flat wage growth since entering the workforce," Lawrence Yun said in the report.
"Adding more bumps in the road is that those finally in a position to buy have had to overcome low inventory levels in their price range, competition from investors, tight credit conditions and high mortgage insurance premiums," Yun added.