Alternative Ways to Pay Off Your Mortgage Early
A standard fully-amortizing mortgage pays off the balance over the term. With a 30-year term, this requires 360 monthly payments, while a 15-year term requires 180 payments. Many lenders, however, offer special loan repayment programs that promise to pay off the balance before term, without imposing much of an added burden on the borrower. This article looks at the most common of these schemes, as well as an alternative that borrowers can adopt on their own.
Bimonthly Payment Plans
On a bimonthly payment plan,
the borrower’s monthly payment in split into two pieces of equal size,
one due on the 15th
of the month and the other on the first. While the borrower makes 24
payments a year instead of 12, they add to the same total. However, the
lender credits the half payment on the 15th
to the balance on the 15th,
which reduces the interest due on the first.
While the reduction in interest shortens the period to payoff, the
impact is small. On 30-year mortgages with rates of 6% or less, payoff
occurs after 719 half payments, shaving just one-half of a month off the
term. On a 7% mortgage, payoff occurs after 718 half payments,
accelerating payoff by one month.
There isn’t anything wrong with
the bimonthly mortgage, provided that paying twice a month is convenient
and you don’t give up anything of value to get it. Readers have reported
to me that loan officers touting the bimonthly have told them that the
term would be reduced to 23 or 24 years, which is nonsense. You can
check this out yourself with a spreadsheet called
Extra Payments on Bimonthly
Payment Fixed-Rate Mortgages.
This spreadsheet also allows you to assess the
impact of additional bimonthly payments, which some borrowers might find
an attractive option. As an example, the borrower with a $200,000
mortgage at 4% who pays $477.42 twice a month gets to a zero balance
just half a month early. But if the borrower rounds off the payment to
$500, payoff occurs after 659 payments, or 30.5 months early.
Biweekly Payment Plans
A biweekly mortgage is one on which the borrower makes a payment equal to half the monthly payment every two weeks. The payment amount on a biweekly is thus the same as that on a bimonthly. But since there are 26 biweekly periods in a year compared to 24 bimonthly periods, the biweekly produces the equivalent of one extra monthly payment every year.
This results in a significant shortening of the term. For example, the 4% 30-year loan converted to a biweekly pays off in 310 months – or 25 years, 10 months. The reduction in payoff period is due entirely to the extra payment every year. Payments are credited monthly, not biweekly, so there is no intra-monthly interest savings comparable to that on a bimonthly.
There have been biweekly plans in which payments are credited biweekly rather than monthly, but they have been over-priced and their advantage is small. In the example directly above, the payoff period would be 25 years 7 months, or 3 months less than when payments are credited monthly.
Roll-Your-Own Extra Payment Plans
Borrowers who like the idea of accelerating the payoff need not pay
extra for the privilege; they can do it themselves. By increasing
their monthly payment by 1/12, they will pay off in about the same time
as a standard biweekly. At 4%, payoff is one months later while at
7% it is one month earlier.