Paying down your mortgage as early as possible is one of the best suggestions that financial advisers make to their clients. After all, throwing extra money at the biggest debt you may have can result in big interest savings and being mortgage-free years sooner.
Since mortgage payments are made with after-tax dollars, putting extra money down on a debt with an interest rate of 3.49% is equivalent to getting a guaranteed, risk-free return of over 5.0% for most taxpayers. If your mortgage rate is higher, your return would be higher too.
1. Shop around for the best mortgage possible with your credit score. When a mortgage company has a small overhead cost to stay in business it typically means that they will not charge you unreasonable ongoing service fees. Make sure you know the fees charged by your mortgage company before you sign the loan.
2. Select weekly or bi-weekly mortgage payments. A bi-weekly mortgage payment means you make 26 half-monthly payments instead of 12 monthly payments. But keep in mind that unless your initial mortgage is set up as bi-weekly, some lenders charge an upfront fee of $300-$400 to make bi-weekly payments, and even though you're making a payment every two weeks, the lender only applies it once a month.
If you make bi-weekly payments of $415 instead of monthly payments of $830, you could save almost $27,000 in interest over the entire amortization period of your mortgage, and you could own your home about 4-1/2 years sooner.
3. Prepay a little extra every month or any time during the term of your mortgage. Increasing your payment by even a few dollars each month will pay down your principal amount faster. It is a good idea to pay 10-15% more each month. This amount shouldn’t put too much extra burden on you, and it will help to pay off your mortgage much faster. For example, if you increased your mortgage payments by just $170 from $830 to $1,000, you could save almost $48,000 in interest over the entire amortization period of your mortgage, and you could own your home about 8 years sooner.
4. Make an annual lump sum payment. Use your tax refund, work bonus, or any extra money you can save and apply it directly to your principal amount. Check your mortgage documents to find out how often you can prepay and in what amount. Many loans don't prohibit you from doing this, however, the lender may have parameters on how many extra payments you can make. Ask this question when shopping for a mortgage loan.
5. Pay as much as you can at renewal time. Most mortgages become open at renewal. This means you can pay as much as you want on your mortgage. If you chose a 5-year, fixed-rate term, and made a $10,000 lump-sum payment every time your mortgage came up for renewal, you would save about $37,481 in interest over the entire amortization period of your mortgage.
6. Red flag your extra payments. Always check your mortgage statement to make sure that any extra payments you made are being counted against the principal and that your bank has accurately documented your payments. Make the extra principal payments on a separate cheque and make a note on the memo line stating that the payment should be applied to principal reduction only. At tax time, tally up those payments and make sure they've been applied correctly.
7. Stay informed. Once you have a mortgage, aside from making the payments, it's easy to forget about it altogether. By keeping up-to-date on interest rates and new products could save you money. You may want to shop for another product that better suits your needs. For example, to qualify for a mortgage, you may have started out with a lower-rate adjustable-rate mortgage, but you want to switch to a more long-term affordable fixed-rate mortgage later.
Fortunately, it's easy to virtually play around with various payment scenarios. Most financial institutions, banks, and mortgage brokers have online mortgage calculators that can easily calculate the savings for you. Combining two or more of these above tips would result in even bigger savings.