Paying off your mortgage ahead of schedule could be a good idea if you want to save money on interest. In the process of getting rid of your home loan just one or two years early, you could potentially save hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars. But if you’re planning to take that approach, it’s important to avoid making mistakes. Here are four missteps that could cost you when you’re trying to pay off your mortgage early.
1. Not Putting Extra Payments Toward the Principal
Throwing in an extra $500 or $1,000 every month won’t necessarily help you pay off your mortgage more quickly. Unless you specify that the additional money you’re paying is meant to be applied to your principal balance, the lender may use it to pay down interest for the next scheduled payment.
If you’re writing separate checks for extra principal payments, you can make a note of that on the memo line. If you pay your mortgage bill online, you might want to find out whether the lender will let you include a note specifying how additional payments should be used.
2. Not Asking If There’s a Prepayment Penalty
Mortgage lenders are in business to make money and one of the ways they do that is by charging you interest on your loan. When you prepay your mortgage, you’re essentially costing the lender money. That’s why some lenders try to make up for lost profits by charging a prepayment penalty.
Prepayment penalties can be equal to a percentage of a mortgage loan amount or the equivalent of a certain number of monthly interest payments. If you’re paying off your home loan well in advance, those fees can add up quickly. For example, a 3% prepayment penalty on a $250,000 mortgage would cost you $7,500.
In the process of trying to save money by paying off your mortgage early, you could actually lose money if you have to pay a hefty penalty.
3. Leaving Yourself Cash Poor
Throwing every extra penny you’ve got at your mortgage is an aggressive way to get out of debt. It could also backfire. If you don’t have anything set aside for emergencies, for example, you could end up in a tight spot if you get sick and can’t work for a few months. If that happens, you may have to use your credit card to cover your bills or try to take out an additional loan.
If you don’t have an emergency fund, your best bet may be to put some of your extra mortgage payments in a rainy day fund. Once you have three to six months’ worth of expenses saved, you may be able to focus on paying down your mortgage debt.
4. Extending Your Loan Term When Refinancing
Refinancing can save you money on interest. But in some cases, it could cost you more in the long run, especially if you’re planning to extend your loan term. Before you refinance, it’s a good idea to crunch some numbers and figure out whether having a longer mortgage term makes sense.
And don’t forget to think about closing costs. If your lender agrees to let you roll those costs into your loan, you could end up paying more money. After all, you’ll be paying interest on a larger loan amount.
Whether you should pay off your mortgage early ultimately depends on how much money you have to spare. Making additional payments toward your principal could make matters worse if you run out of savings.
To help make this decision, or any other related to your financial goals, you might want to talk to a financial advisor. A matching tool like SmartAsset’s SmartAdvisor can help you find a person to work with to meet your needs. First you answer a series of questions about your situation and your goals. Then the program narrows down thousands of advisors to three fiduciaries who meet your needs. You can then read their profiles to learn more about them, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future. This allows you to find a good fit while doing much of the hard work for you.
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