How to Get or Refinance a Mortgage as a Student Loan Cosigner

Facebook icon Twitter icon Print icon Email icon
Jolene Latimer

By Jolene Latimer

January 7, 2019

Cosigning a student loan can affect the cosigner’s ability to qualify for a new mortgage or refinance a current mortgage. In addition, as a cosigner, you could face higher interest rates or be denied a mortgage altogether. Although it might seem stressful at first, there are financial moves you can make that could help you get or refinance a mortgage.

But, the student loan isn’t really your loan!

Cosigning for a student loan for a family member or someone else can impact your credit, even though you might argue that the debt isn’t actually yours. From a lender’s perspective, however, a cosigned loan is still money that you’re liable for, which could make you a less attractive borrower. In addition, your debt-to-income ratio will be higher with the cosigned loan and the borrower’s late or missed payments will show up on your credit history.

What do you do? First, don’t panic.

It might take some planning, but you do have options. Here’s how you can get or refinance a mortgage as a student loan cosigner.

How to get a mortgage as a student loan cosigner

Several steps can help a student loan cosigner to get or refinance a mortgage.

Apply for cosigner release

Qualifying for cosigner release on a student loan isn’t easy to do, but it is an option worth pursuing. Essentially, the primary borrower has to prove they are capable of making timely payments on their own for at least a year (in some cases, two, three or four years) before the cosigner can possibly qualify to be released. They also need good credit and have to be able to meet the lender’s income requirements. Your lender should have a form available to apply for a cosigner release.

Refinance the student loan without a cosigner 

If the student qualifies for a better interest rate on a new loan, without a cosigner, they could refinance the cosigned student loan. Using this strategy, the new loan will pay off the original loan you cosigned. This option might help the student repay their loan faster, if they’re able to qualify for a lower interest rate. Generally, it takes a few years after graduation before the student can qualify for a better interest rate, if they manage their credit responsibly and have a good job. 

If you do decide to refinance the current student loan, shop around and compare rates so your student gets the best terms possible. (Parents can also transfer a Federal Parent PLUS loan into the student’s name by refinancing it into a private student loan, but will lose the superior repayment benefits available on federal education loans. These include income-driven repayment options, potential for loan forgiveness, generous deferment options, a death or disability discharge, and more.

Reduce monthly student loan payments

When you’re applying for a new mortgage or refinancing a current one, the lender is going to be primarily concerned with the debt-to-income (DTI) ratio. The debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your monthly income that is devoted to repaying debt, including the cosigned loan. If the debt-to-income ratio is too high, you’re less likely to qualify for a mortgage loan.

One option is to try reducing your monthly federal student loan payments by increasing the term of the loan or by taking advantage of an income-driven repayment plan. Increasing the loan’s term could mean more interest will be paid over the life of the loan. However, the monthly payments will be smaller, allowing you to qualify for a mortgage because less of your monthly income will be allocated toward student loan repayment

Pay off smaller loans or credit cards first 

Another way to change your debt-to-income ratio is to reduce some of your other debt. Do you have any credit card debt with small balances that you can focus on paying off before you try to qualify for a mortgage? Or perhaps you can pay off a car loan, which reduces your monthly debt obligations. Knocking out some of the smaller debt could improve your credit report and prepare you to take on more financial responsibility in the eyes of a lender.

Increase income with a second job

Taking on a second job can reduce your debt-to-income ratio by increasing your income. You can also ask your employer for a raise. A lender will put most weight on the income from your primary job. However, income from a second job could help if you’ve demonstrated the ability to work two jobs simultaneously in the past and you don’t have a job gap of more than 30 days within the past 24 months.

Shop around for flexible lenders

Some lenders will be less risk-averse than others, so shop around. You might find a lender who is willing to help you with a mortgage despite the student loan debt. Consider credit unions and community banks, who tend to be more flexible than big box lenders. This is why it’s important to compare several lenders before you make a decision. Shopping around with various mortgage lenders will not hurt your credit score.

Find a solution that works for you

It’s frustrating to think your credit could be penalized for trying to help a child go to college by cosigning their student loans. Even if this happens to you, there are workarounds to help you achieve your financial goals. Carefully assess each option and talk with your student about what might work for them. It might take some research and compromise, but in the end, you’ll likely be able to make it work.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn!

Sign up to get the latest student loan tips and news:

* indicates required

A good place to start:

See the best 529 plans, personalized for you