3 ways to tame student loan debt and afford a mortgage Student loans can make buying a home a challenge because they can be included in the buyer's debt-to-income ratio, or DTI, the percentage of monthly income that is spent on payments for mortgages, loans, and minimum credit card payments. This ratio is one factor lenders use to decide whether a buyer can afford a mortgage. They prefer a DTI ratio of 36 percent, but sometimes make allowances. The house payment is an important part of DTI, affected by the home's price, taxes and interest. Whether student loans are included in DTI depends on the type of loan. For a conventional mortgage or VA loan, student loans will be included even if the payments have been deferred. If you apply for an FHA loan, student loans will not be included if the payments have been deferred for at least 12 months. The best plan to get started in a home if you have student loan debt is to have less debt, make more money, or move debt around, according to housing writer Marcie Geffner. Don't get a car loan if you want a house. Settle for a used car that you can pay cash for. Pay off installment debt and don't use credit cards. Some lenders will remove an installment payment if the loan will be paid off within 10 or fewer payments. An option that may be open to some is to pay off all or part of a student loan with a private loan from family. Married buyers may be able to move their debt around if they don't live in a community property state. They could refinance an existing auto loan and put it in the name of the spouse. You can also increase income. Generally, income must be documented for two years to be included in DTI. But a buyer's college history can make up almost all of that two-year time frame. A new job isn't necessarily a negative, especially if it comes with a higher salary. You must have 30 days of pay stubs.