Mortgage Q&A: “How to pay off the mortgage early?”
If you’re looking to pay off your mortgage ahead of schedule, now is an easy time to do so because interest rates are very attractive. But even if they’re not, there are still countless ways to pay off a mortgage faster, which I’ll explain below.
With mortgage rates still quite low historically, it’s possible for homeowners to make the same mortgage payments they’ve always been making, while paying off their mortgages in a much shorter period of time.
Pay the Mortgage Early Without Increasing Your Payment
- If your current interest rate is much higher than today’s mortgage rates
- You may be able to refinance to a lower rate
- But continue to make your old monthly payment
- And save thousands while paying off your loan much earlier!
How This Strategy Works
Let’s pretend you’ve got a loan amount of $300,000 on a 30-year fixed mortgage set at 6.25%.
Your current monthly principal and interest payment is $1,847.15. If today’s rates are a much lower 4.75% for the same loan, you could take advantage of this trick.
The new monthly payment would be $1,564.94, but it you continued to make your old payment each month, you’d chip away at the mortgage a lot faster.
Loan amount: $300,000
Loan program: 30-year fixed
Current mortgage rate: 6.25%
Current mortgage payment: $1847.15 <===== keep making this monthly payment
Refinance mortgage rate: 4.75%
New mortgage payment: $1564.94
If you were able to refinance your mortgage as outlined above, your new monthly mortgage payment would be roughly $282 cheaper per month, assuming you stayed with the same loan program.
While such a move clearly provides monthly payment relief, it could also shorten the term of your mortgage tremendously, assuming you made your old mortgage payment on the newly refinanced mortgage. This is one trick to pay off your mortgage early.
If you simply made the old monthly payment of $1847.15 per month, the $282 or so a month in overpayment would go toward the principal balance, shortening the amortization period from 30 years to about 22 years.
Yes, you read that right. In our example, you could shave eight years off your mortgage simply by making the payment you’ve always been making. But wait, it gets even better.
You’d Pay a Lot Less Interest Too!
- Paying early to own your home sooner is one benefit
- But you can also save a ton on interest
- When you shorten the term of your loan
- Because a quicker payoff means you don’t have to pay the full amount of interest due
By paying extra, the total amount of interest paid over the life of the home loan would also decrease from over $263,000 to less than $182,000, for total savings of nearly $82,000, not factoring in tax deductions and the interest you paid on the original loan.
Not bad for continuing to make the same monthly mortgage outlay you were making before, right? Where else are you going to save nearly $100k?
The 15-year fixed mortgage payment in our example from above would be $2,219.06 (assuming a new refinance rate of 4%), which is a more significant jump that not all homeowners would be comfortable with, let alone qualify for.
But if there’s a wider spread on your existing mortgage rate and the current rate you qualify for, it could make a lot of sense to shorten the term with little or no monthly payment pressure.
Of course, you’d have no choice but to make those higher payments each month.
Finally, you could leave your mortgage intact and just make larger monthly payments (toward principal), or look into biweekly mortgage payments.
Just keep in mind that if you make larger payments each month on your original mortgage, it WILL NOT lower your payment due the next month. The way mortgages are paid off, extra payments simply reduce your interest expense and shorten your term, they do not affect the amount of future monthly payments.
In other words, if you paid an extra $100 each month, you would still owe the same amount the following month, despite having a smaller outstanding balance.
Tip: Making extra payments earlier in the loan term will amount to greater savings, so if you plan to pay your mortgage off early, do it sooner rather than later! A payoff calculator will demonstrate this.
30+ Mortgage Payoff Tricks You Can Utilize Right Now
- Make extra payments to principal
- Make an extra payment each quarter, semi-annually, or annually
- Make biweekly mortgage payments
- Round up your mortgage payments
- Increase extra payments as salary rises
- Apply your tax refund (or any other windfall) to your principal balance
- Refinance your mortgage to a lower rate and make the old higher payment
- Refinance to a shorter-term mortgage such as a 15-year or 10-year fixed loan
- Refinance out of FHA to drop mortgage insurance
- If you have bad credit, improve your credit score then refinance to a lower rate
- Don’t reset the clock when refinancing
- Consolidate two loans to a lower blended interest rate
- Go with an ARM that has a lower interest rate but beware of resets
- Start with a lower rate by buying it down and pay closing costs out-of-pocket
- Put more money down to avoid PMI and get a lower rate
- Sell another property and use the proceeds to pay off a different mortgage
- Sell stock or other investments and use the proceeds to pay down the mortgage
- Find a roommate and use their rent to pay down the mortgage early
- Rent out a garage and use the funds to pay off the mortgage
- Put your property on Airbnb
- Cash in your credit card rewards/points and apply them to your mortgage balance
- Apply a bank sign-up bonus ($500 in some cases) to your mortgage balance
- Pay your mortgage with a credit card and put cash back amount toward principal
- Use some form of interest rate arbitrage, like a 0% APR balance transfer credit card, to pay a chunk of the mortgage now
- Put loose change in a collection jar and periodically deposit it and use it to pay down the mortgage
- Get a side job (hello real estate agent!) and use the earnings to pay down the mortgage faster
- Host a garage sale and apply proceeds to the mortgage balance
- Ask for a no-interest loan from a family member and apply it to the mortgage balance
- Ditch your car if you can get by without one, use extra cash on hand to pay off your mortgage early (I’ve done this)
- Be a cord-cutter and stop paying for cable, then put the difference toward the mortgage each month (I do this)
- Know which mortgage to pay first to save the most money!
Should I Pay Off My Mortgage Early?
- There are definitely pros and cons
- The advantage is saving money on interest
- The disadvantage is paying more each month
- And potentially having too much of your money locked up in your home
Clearly there are pros and cons to an early mortgage payoff, and not everyone will benefit from paying off their mortgage ahead of time. There is certainly the emotional win of getting rid of a home loan once and for all, but you may not want to get caught up in all that.
Any extra money might be better served paying off more expensive student loans, an auto loan, investing in the stock market, or just setting aside cash in you savings account so you’re able to buy more real estate in the future.
Just keep in mind that mortgages are very cheap at the moment, and you might be able to get a better return for your money simply by investing it or contributing to a 401k, Roth IRA, or similar retirement account. That may actually be a better method of investing in your future.
When mortgage rates are low, paying the mortgage off faster isn’t as beneficial because you’re not necessarily saving all that much. Conversely, when interest rates are high, paying the mortgage off early can be even more lucrative.
You may also get a tax break for paying mortgage interest. And if you factor in inflation, which will probably surge in the coming years, you’ll essentially be paying off your mortgage with cheaper money of the future. Remember, a dollar today is worth more than it will be tomorrow.
Do You Want Your Money Trapped in Your Home?
- Real estate is illiquid
- It’s hard and potentially expensive to get your money out
- And today’s dollars are worth more than tomorrow’s dollars
- So paying more today could actually cost you
Additionally, real estate is an illiquid asset, so if you pay off your mortgage and experience some kind of financial emergency, having all your cash tied up in your home and none on hand could put you in a tough spot.
Yes, you need to be able to qualify for a mortgage to tap your equity, so if you prepay your mortgage and later need that cash back, you might be out of luck if you can’t get approved.
Also note that if you have credit cards and other more expensive debt, you’ll want to attack those first as opposed to paying extra principal. There’s no sense in paying down your mortgage quicker than you have to if there are other debts hanging over your head.
At the same time, if you don’t want to pay all that extra interest and take any investing risks, it may make sense to pay off the mortgage early. This can be especially true if you’re close to retirement and anticipate living on a fixed income. Peace of mind has quite a bit of value too you know…
Before deciding whether to pay your mortgage down early or not, do the math, consider retirement planning, maybe run it by your financial advisor (if you have one), and look at all possible scenarios to see what will work best for you and your unique financial position.
To make your job a little easier, check my early mortgage payoff calculator, which allows you to run different scenarios to compare potential savings.
There might be a good middle ground where you can pay a bit extra while still maximizing your retirement account(s) and setting aside money for a rainy day.
Every situation is different, so don’t assume what works for someone else will work for you. Personally, I’m in no hurry to pay off my mortgage with rates as low as they are. Either way, be money smart and take the time to carefully consider all options and outcomes.
Tip: Watch out for mortgage accelerators and money merge accounts that promise to shed years off your mortgage. These programs are often riddled with fees and could wind up doing more harm than good.
When It Makes Sense to Pay Off the Mortgage Faster
- You don’t have other higher-APR debt (mortgages are generally cheap!)
- You are maximizing or at least contributing to retirement account(s)
- You have an emergency fund set aside for unexpected expenses
- You have money set aside for home maintenance
- There’s not a better place for your funds
- You’re close to retirement and will be living on a fixed income
- If it will give you peace of mind to pay off your mortgage
- Just remember you’ll still have to pay insurance/taxes forever, even if mortgage-free