Owning a home is one of the hallmarks of the American dream, but most people don’t really own the house they live in. Less than 40 percent of homes were mortgage-free in 2017, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Housing Survey.

Paying off a home mortgage is one of the big moments in life. Many homeowners have what is referred to as a “Mortgage Burning” party, where the ritualistic incineration of the promissory note is accompanied by a gathering and celebration.

All homeowners should be aware that there are ways to pay off a home mortgage early. The idea that paying off a mortgage with a lump sum is easy, is a disguise. It is not as simple as just writing a check to wrap things up, there is “red tape” to cut through.

First, to pay off a mortgage early, U.S. News and World Report says, “Add a little more to your monthly payment, make extra payments whenever possible or make at least one extra payment per year to pay off the home loan early.”

A 30-year mortgage is standard, but paying down the mortgage can save on making interest payments over time and chips away at the principal. Some lender’s actually charge a prepayment penalty, so check the small print for this possibility.

Early in a mortgage, most of the payment goes toward the interest, to save on interest consider this example. A loan of $100,000 for 30 years at a fixed-rate mortgage at 4.5 percent, now add $100 to the usual $500 monthly payment. The mortgage can be paid off eight and a half years early and save more than $26,300 in interest. Another option is to make half of the monthly payment every two weeks, this results in one extra payment each year.

Homeowners should consider using a work bonus, tax refund or cash gift toward the mortgage because even a few hundred dollars now and then adds up over several years.

Secondly, paying off a mortgage in one big lump sum requires more than simply writing a check to the loan provider. A cashier’s check or wire transfer will be required. Calling the loan institution to get a “pay-off date” for a pay-off quote is also required. Most likely the place where the checks for monthly payments was sent is not the same address where the lump-sum payment will be sent. Homeowners should contact their mortgage company directly for details concerning the pay-off process.

— Marla Ballard’s Master of Disguise appears in the Times-Journal Wednesday editions.

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