How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

How to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

So you’re eager to join the nearly 40% of American homeowners who actually own their home outright. Can you imagine that? When the bank doesn’t own your house and you do—that’s freedom.

But the problem is you’re currently stuck dragging around that ball and chain called a mortgage—just like most homeowners.

Don’t worry. We’ll show you how to pay off your mortgage faster so you can finally join the ranks of debt-free homeowners. Let’s get started.

4 Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early

Okay, you probably already know that every dollar you add to your mortgage payment puts a bigger dent in your principal balance. And that means if you add just one extra payment per year, you’ll knock years off the term of your mortgage—not to mention interest savings.

To get serious about paying off your mortgage faster, here are some ideas to help:

1. Make Extra House Payments

Let’s say you have a $220,000, 30-year mortgage with a 4% interest rate. A mortgage payoff calculator can show you how making an extra house payment ($1,050) every quarter will get your mortgage paid off 11 years early, and save you more than $65,000 in interest.

Use the mortgage payoff calculator and see how fast you can pay off your home.

But before you start making extra payments, let’s go over some ground rules:

  • Check with your mortgage company first. Some companies only accept extra payments at specific times or may charge prepayment penalties.
  • Include a note on your extra payment that you want it applied to the principal balance—not to the following month’s payment.
  • Don’t shell out your hard-earned cash for a fancy mortgage accelerator program. You can accomplish the same goal all by yourself.

What Does Paying Your Mortgage Biweekly Do?

Some mortgage lenders allow you to sign up for biweekly mortgage payments. This means you can make half of your mortgage payment every two weeks. That results in 26 half-payments, which equals 13 full monthly payments each year. Based on our example above, that extra payment can knock four years off the 30-year mortgage and save you over $25,000 in interest.

Are Biweekly Mortgage Payments a Good Idea?

A biweekly payment plan can be a good idea—but never pay extra fees to sign up for one. Remember, there’s nothing magical about them. The real reason it helps pay off your mortgage faster is because your extra payments add up to 13 monthly payments per year instead of the standard 12. So if your lender only lets you pay biweekly by charging you a fee, don’t sign up.

2. Bring Your Lunch Into Work

Sure, bringing an egg salad sandwich to work every day isn’t as fun as going to a restaurant with your coworkers. But trading lunch out for eating in can make you a lean, mean, mortgage-free machine.

Suppose packing your lunch frees up $100 to use toward your mortgage every month. Based on our example above of the $220,000 loan, that $100 in lunch money will help you pay off your mortgage four years ahead of schedule and save you nearly $27,000 in interest.

Can’t quite spare a whole $100 from your food budget? No worries. Even small sacrifices can go a long way to help pay off your mortgage early. Put Andrew Jackson to work for you by adding just $20 to your mortgage payment each month. Based on our example, you’ll pay your mortgage off a year early, saving over $6,000 in the process.

3. Refinance—Or Pretend You Did

Another way to pay off your mortgage early is to trade it in for a better loan with a shorter term—like a 15-year fixed-rate mortgage. Let’s see how this would impact our earlier example. If you keep the 30-year mortgage, you’ll pay more than $158,000 in total interest over the life of the loan. But if you switch to a 15-year mortgage, you’ll save over $85,000—and you’ll pay off your home in half the time.

Sure, a 15-year mortgage will probably come with a bigger monthly payment. But if it fits within your housing budget, it’ll totally be worth it. And hey, maybe you’ve boosted your income or lowered your cost of living since when you first took out your mortgage—then you’d definitely be able to handle the bigger payment.

You can refinance a longer-term mortgage into a 15-year loan. Or if you already have a low interest rate, save on the closing costs of a refinance and simply pay on your 30-year mortgage like it’s a 15-year mortgage. What if you already have a 15-year mortgage? If you can swing it, imagine increasing your payments to pay it off in 10 years.

4. Downsize

Downsizing your house could be a drastic step. But if you’re determined to pay off your mortgage fast, consider selling your larger home and using the profits to buy a smaller, less expensive house.

With the profits from selling your bigger house, you may be able to completely pay cash for your new home. But even if you have to get a small mortgage, you’ve still succeeded in reducing your debt. Now your goal is to get rid of that debt as quickly as possible. The smaller the balance, the quicker you can make it happen.

Don’t Buy More House Than You Can Afford

Let’s say you go the downsizing route. Before shopping for your next home, first make sure all your ducks are in a row and know how much house you can actually afford. This handy checklist is a great place to start. If you can’t say yes to all six questions, it’s best to put your home purchase on hold.

  • Am I debt-free with three to six months of expenses in an emergency fund?
  • Can I make at least a 10% (preferably a 20%) down payment?
  • Do I have enough cash to cover closing costs and moving expenses? (This is typically 3-4% of the home value)
  • Is the house payment 25% or less of my monthly take-home pay?
  • Can I afford to take out a 15-year fixed-rate loan?
  • Can I afford ongoing maintenance and utilities for this home?

If you need help figuring out what your new monthly mortgage payments will look like, try a mortgage calculator.

Consult a Pro to Find the Right Home

For help finding houses that fit your budget, or if you’re ready to sell your home, consult an experienced real estate agent whose advice will save you time and money.

A buyer’s agent can help you navigate through the home-buying process. In some cases, they may even be able to help you find a house before it hits the market, giving you a competitive edge. And when it comes to making an offer, your agent will negotiate on your behalf—so that you don’t pay a penny more than you have to.

Maximize Your Down Payment

The best way to buy a home is with 100% down. Paying cash for a home may sound weird, but imagine all the fun you’d have without a mortgage payment weighing you down.

If you can’t postpone the purchase until you can pay cash, plan to put an absolute minimum of 10% of the home price down at the closing table. Of course, 20% or more is even better because then you’ll avoid paying private mortgage insurance (PMI).

PMI typically costs 0.5–1% of the loan amount annually. For example, on a $250,000 mortgage, PMI will cost you $1,250–2,500 a year. Why give the bank extra money each month if it doesn’t pay your mortgage down faster?

Keep in mind that the more cash you put down on the front end, the less money you’ll need to finance. That adds up to a lower mortgage payment each month, making it easier to pay off your mortgage early.

What are your tips to paying off a mortgage early?

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