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The Debt of Wrath: Do Student Loans Affect Saving for a Home?

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Detroit is the best place to buy a house... if you don't need a job or a mortgage. Meanwhile, it is literally IMPOSSIBLE for most people to ever save up a 20% down payment in San Francisco.

I thought you were exaggerating but actually the Trulia article says exactly that. 


I can attest. I've lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for 16 years and was never able to save enough for a down payment. So my money went to rent, year after year. 

A relative went through the same thing. BS in Computer Science from UCI, MS in IT from Purdue — expensive. To buy a house in Mountain View, he ended up changing careers — financial management. Ha.

I wonder how someone changes into a career of financial management. He must be good!

The next town over is Palo Alto, where even partners at law firms cannot afford the down payments. 

The main point of the article is that whether or not a person should go to college depends in part on where that person wants to live and how much student loan will affect their ability to make a down payment on a house there:

To go to college, or not to go? That is a question many millennials ask themselves. A college degree undeniably comes with perks, including better long-term job prospects and higher lifetime earnings. But many millennials who get a college degree must pay back student loans, making it more difficult to save for a down payment in the short run.

So why does this matter? Well, saving for a down payment is one of the biggest obstacles to homeownership. In fact, according to a recent Trulia survey*, 30% of 25-30 year olds in the U.S. said that they are currently trying to save for a down payment in the next two years. Moreover, there’s been much discussion about the impact of student loan debt on the ability of recent graduates to save for a down payment and buy a home.

So the real question is – if owning a home is part of your personal American Dream, is a college degree a necessary pre-cursor to being able to afford a down payment and securing the keys? The answer depends on where you want to buy a home.

Can You Really Save Up for a Down Payment?

A common approach to figuring out how long it will take to save for a down payment to buy a home is to calculate a 20% down payment (the ideal amount home buyers should put down) using the median housing price of a metro area, and assume that a would-be homebuyer is saving 10% of what they make each year (for which we’ll use the annual median household income). To get the number of years that it will take for a household to save for a home, you then divide the 20% down payment by the amount saved each year.

So, if the median house is priced at $200,000 and the median household income is $50,000, it would take eight years for the median household to save for a down payment.

game of life start college start career meme imgur

Even in the game of life we start by choosing college or career.

But the Trulia article makes it clear how many tradeoffs there are in various cities. 

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