For many homeowners, the monthly mortgage payment is the largest expense. With the right strategies, however, there are several ways to reduce this cost, both in the short term and long term. Here’s a guide to help you lower your housing payments and make homeownership more affordable.
1. Bi-Weekly Mortgage Payment Plan
One effective method to reduce your mortgage faster is by switching to a bi-weekly payment plan. This approach involves making half of your monthly mortgage payment every two weeks. Since there are 52 weeks in a year, you will make 26 half-payments, or 13 full monthly payments, instead of the usual 12. This extra payment can significantly reduce your principal balance and the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
Most lenders will let you set a bi-weekly schedule – some are easier than others. If you don’t see the option in your online dashboard, call your lender.
For a $400,000 mortgage with a 30-year term and a 4% interest rate, switching to a bi-weekly payment plan can reduce the loan term by several years and save tens of thousands of dollars in interest.
2. Pay Extra Towards the Principal
Another way to reduce your mortgage faster is by paying extra towards your principal each month. Even an additional $100-$200 can make a significant difference.
For a $400,000 mortgage with a 20% down payment and a 30-year term at a 5% interest rate, let’s explore the impact of paying an extra $200 per month towards the principal.
Original Mortgage Details:
- Loan Amount (after 20% down): $320,000
- Interest Rate: 5%
- Loan Term: 30 years
- Monthly Payment (without extra): Approximately $1,717.83
Impact of Paying Extra $200 per Month:
- New Monthly Payment (with extra): $1,917.83
- Total Interest Paid Without Extra Payment: Approximately $298,418.51
- Total Interest Paid With Extra Payment: Approximately $228,499.15
- Interest Savings: Approximately $69,919.36
- Loan Term Reduction: Approximately 6.17 years
By paying an additional $200 each month towards the principal, you not only reduce your loan term by over 6 years but also save nearly $70,000 in interest over the life of the loan. This strategy can significantly accelerate your path to being mortgage-free and reduce the overall cost of your home loan.
3. Make One Extra Payment Per Year
Making one extra mortgage payment each year can also help pay off your loan faster and reduce the amount of interest. You can do this by saving up throughout the year or using money from a tax refund or bonus.
Additionally, rounding up your mortgage payment to the nearest hundred can subtly increase your principal payments without a substantial impact on your monthly budget.
4. Homestead Tax Exemptions
Many states offer homestead exemptions that can lower your property taxes by reducing the taxable value of your home. This exemption is usually available to homeowners who use their home as their primary residence. The amount and eligibility criteria vary by state, so it’s worth researching what’s available in your area.
5. Shop for Home Insurance Annually
Insurance premiums can vary significantly from one provider to another. By shopping around and comparing quotes annually, you can potentially find a better deal. Look for coverage that meets your needs without overpaying for unnecessary extras.
Shopping and switching homeowners insurance policies can take a couple of hours total, but can save you hundreds each year.
6. Refinancing Your Mortgage
Refinancing your mortgage can be a smart move, especially if interest rates have dropped since you took out your loan. By refinancing to a lower rate, you can reduce your monthly payment and the total amount of interest paid over the life of the loan.
If you have a $400,000 mortgage at 4.5% interest and refinance to a 3.5% interest rate, your monthly payment can decrease significantly, saving you a considerable amount over the life of the loan.
Refinancing Example for Recent Homebuyers:
Consider you’re a homeowner who bought a house in 2022 or 2023. If you secured a $400,000 mortgage at a higher interest rate, say around 6%, and now have the opportunity to refinance to a lower rate, such as 4.5%, the savings can be substantial.
Let’s break it down:
- Original Mortgage Terms: $400,000 at 6% interest
- Refinanced Mortgage Terms: $400,000 at 4.5% interest
By refinancing from a 6% to a 4.5% interest rate, your monthly payments will decrease significantly. This reduction in your interest rate not only lowers your monthly payment but also reduces the total amount you’ll pay over the life of the loan, translating into thousands of dollars in savings.
In this scenario, refinancing can be an especially effective strategy for those who bought their homes when rates were peaking. With this kind of adjustment in interest rates, refinancing can offer a much-needed financial relief, making homeownership more affordable in the long run.
7. Eliminate Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)
If you put less than 20% down on your home, you’re likely paying PMI. Once you’ve built up 20% equity in your home, either through paying down your mortgage or appreciation, you can request to have the PMI removed. This can save you hundreds of dollars each year.
8. Lower Your Property Taxes
Your property tax is based on the assessed value of your home. If you believe this assessment is too high, you can appeal it with your local tax assessor’s office. Successfully reducing your home’s assessed value can lower your property tax bill.
Steps to Appeal:
- Gather evidence: Compile data on similar homes in your area that are assessed at a lower value.
- File an appeal: Follow your local tax assessor’s process for filing an appeal.
- Be prepared to make your case: You might need to present your evidence at a hearing.
Lowering your housing payments requires a mix of strategy, knowledge, and sometimes a bit of negotiation. Whether it’s through making additional payments towards your mortgage, refinancing, shopping for better insurance rates, or appealing property taxes, there are numerous ways to reduce your monthly expenses. By taking these steps, homeowners can enjoy more financial freedom and potentially save thousands over the life of their mortgage.