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You Can Pay Off Your Mortgage in 5 Years. These Homeowners Are Doing It

 You Can Pay Off Your Mortgage in 5 Years. These Homeowners Are Doing It

Seneca and Dennis, a married couple in Ohio with two kids, have plenty to say about debt. And tens and thousands of people are listening. 

Before becoming homeowners in 2020, the couple paid off over $100,000 in combined student loans, car loans and credit card balances in three years. Now, Seneca and Dennis — who requested their last name be left out to maintain financial privacy — are on a path to pay off their 30-year mortgage in just five years. Their entire mortgage payoff journey is documented on Instagram and TikTok at @LiveWithoutLoans

“Paying off our debt and staying out of debt — those things truly bring me joy and make me happy,” Seneca said in a phone interview.

The couple shares the details of their repayment plan, which includes plenty of discipline, with all their social media followers, who in turn also ask plenty of questions. Their commitment to cutting 25 years off their home loan isn’t unprecedented, and many experts support paying off your mortgage early, as long as it works with your financial means and goals. 

“Aggressive repayment may not be the right fit for everyone,” said Kate Bulger, vice president of business development at Money Management International. “There are many different strategies that people use to become debt-free.”

A mortgage makes buying a home possible. However, it also leaves homeowners with hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt and expensive interest charges, which can double or even triple the original loan balance. Paying a mortgage off early is one way to save money on interest, free up your budget and own your home outright. 

How they’re paying off a home loan in 5 years

Before getting a mortgage, Seneca and Dennis got rid of all their consumer debt using a combination of the debt snowball and the debt avalanche payoff methods. 

“This was something I wanted to do to feel more comfortable with homeownership and expenses that could come up,” Seneca said.

In September 2020, the couple made a 20% down payment on their $317,000 home and took out a $254,000 loan at a 3% interest rate. Their minimum monthly mortgage payments were calculated at $1,070 (not including property taxes and homeowners insurance), with an estimated payoff date of October 2050. 

@livewithoutloans (More info) This is how we are paying off our house in a total of 5 years. Context: Bought in sep 2020 for 317K & put down 20% so our mortgage was 254k. 3% loan. We have prepaid $150k so far. Our situation: my husband and I both work a full time job and our household base salary is $120K. #mortgagepayoffjourney ♬ original sound – Paying our house off early

Their initial goal was to try to pay off their mortgage in 10 years. “At first, we weren’t super aggressive with it and put extra toward the loan when we could,” Seneca said. But after paying extra during the first year, Seneca did some calculations and realized they could pay it off in five years if they made a few more sacrifices. 

Seneca and Dennis then started focusing on paying off the balance as soon as possible. As a general rule, they’ve made two payments each month: their minimum payment with extra that goes toward the principal, plus an additional payment. As of May 2024, their mortgage balance was down to $69,879. They’re now on track to have the remainder of their home loan paid off by September 2025. 

Both Seneca and Dennis work full-time jobs, but they don’t make more than the average household: about $6,400 per month after taxes, health insurance payments and retirement plan contributions. They’ve both worked occasional overtime hours, and they recently became eligible to earn ad revenue from TikTok and YouTube

They’re transparent about their strategy and budget. The couple applies the majority (around 70%) of their take-home income toward their mortgage. And they always pay their credit card balance in full each month to avoid accumulating other debt. 

@livewithoutloans My etsy shop with this template is linked in my bio 🔗. This is what a little spendy week looks like for us. I ate out twice on mother’s day 🫣 #noregerts +it’s make an extra payment on the mortgage week!! How much do you think our balance will be? #mortgagepayoffjourney ♬ original sound – Paying our house off early

They limit their expenses, stay home most of the time and don’t spend a lot, budgeting around $500 a month for groceries by buying in bulk and shopping at discount stores. They also put aside cash in a sinking fund for future expenses like property taxes, Christmas gifts and car maintenance. The couple saves on childcare costs by enrolling their kids in local home-based daycare. Working shifts that allow for someone to be at home with the kids is also a huge help for their budget.  

One of the challenges the couple encountered in the past year was expensive car repairs. “We’ve made it work by digging into savings a little more than we wanted to,” said Seneca, adding that she’d ideally like to put more money into their high-yield savings account each month. They’d also like to start contributing more to their children’s 529 education fund so their kids don’t have to take out student loans. 

Even if you aim to pay off your mortgage in five or 10 years, financial experts recommend going with the longer-term 30-year loan. That way, your minimum monthly payments are smaller, and you can contribute more when feasible. If there’s an emergency or major life event, it’s better to be able to cover your mortgage obligation on time than miss a payment because you can’t afford it. 

Facing challenges like work burnout, the family discussed the possibility of pushing out their mortgage payoff date. But they ultimately decided to stick with their timeline because it would be more devastating to their mental health to postpone paying off their debt.

The end goal will be worth it: By eliminating the biggest line item in their budget, they’ll not only save six figures in interest charges, but they’ll also be free of housing costs, so they can spend more on what they want and enjoy in the foreseeable future. 

Getting started on paying off your mortgage ahead of schedule

If you’re thinking about paying off your mortgage early, the couple says it’s worth the challenge. 

“You just need to go into it with a goal and a plan,” Seneca said. “I would suggest paying off other debts first so you can focus your extra income on the home loan. That’s what worked for us.”

Get started early, and remember that every payment counts, especially when those payments are going toward the principal. 

Head to a mortgage calculator to examine the numbers. If the five-year payoff is too much, a 10-year or 15-year payoff should be more manageable. Even just putting $100 extra toward the principal each month will help you pay off the loan early and shave tens of thousands of dollars from your interest costs over time. 

You just bought a $400,000 home with a 10% down payment by taking out a 30-year loan at a 7% interest rate. If you make only minimum payments of $2,395 each month, you’d spend $502,232 on interest. To pay off the loan in five years, you’d need to put an extra $4,700 extra toward the loan principal each month, but you’d be saving $434,126 in interest costs. 

Before making the first extra payment, call your loan servicer and make sure your extra payments go toward the principal, said Jeremy Schachter, a loan officer with Fairway Independent Mortgage Corp. “I have seen when you apply extra payments to your principal balance it goes to the wrong category, like the escrow account or your next payment,” he said.

Also, make sure your higher payments won’t divert money from your retirement and short-term savings goals. If your payoff plan includes aggressive lifestyle changes, they should be sustainable, said Bulger. “Like a crash diet, there are some big changes that can work for a little while but aren’t realistic in the long term.”

Cutting expenses can help you dedicate more money toward the home loan, though it should make sense for your lifestyle. “You can set limits for yourself. Once you hit that limit, that’s it,” Seneca said. 

Consider planning a special treat if you need help staying motivated as you reach milestones. Seneca and Dennis plan to take a vacation in the next several months. Once they’ve successfully completed their mortgage payoff journey next year, there will surely be more opportunities to celebrate. 

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