Whether you see your residence as a forever home, a financial investment or just a place to crash for the night, there’s no denying how much the cost of housing cuts into your available funds at the end of the month. According to CNN, housing expenses top the list of how Americans spend their money, regardless of income or age, and it has been this way for quite some time.
GOBankingRates reached out to experts in both the real estate and mortgage loan fields to get a sense of simple ways to save money on this massive monthly cost, without having to downgrade accommodations.
Here’s what the professionals had to say.
1. Don’t Throw Money Out The Window
“Check your windows and doors,” said Shawn Tamarro, co-owner of Entourage Elite Real Estate. “These openings have the least amount of insulation between your warm house and the blizzard conditions that we are experiencing right now.”
This concept goes both ways, whether you’re caught in the wrath of the polar vortex or are fortunate enough to live in warmer West Coast temperatures. Weatherproofing your doors and windows can help save 25 percent to 40 percent off heating and cooling bills, meaning more savings in your pocket that can go toward paying down your mortgage loan or growing a nest egg.
Tamarro recommended that homeowners look into insulated windows with a 0.35 or lower fenestration rating, where possible.
2. Double Your Monthly Principal
John F. Sullivan, a 20-year exclusive buyer agent and vice president of Buyer’s Edge Co., Inc., explained how to pay down a 30-year mortgage loan fast, but without the pressure of taking on a larger mortgage payment every month.
“This can be accomplished by making your normal 30-year mortgage payment, plus the principal of the following month’s payment,” Sullivan said. “The result is substantial savings in interest paid and the flexibility to pay down the principal when it fits [a homeowner’s] budget.”
The housing expert is exercised this strategy on his own mortgage loan, and was 53 months ahead of his lender’s payment schedule as of last year.
Before paying off your mortgage loan early, however, identify whether your lender imposes a prepayment penalty to avoid additional fees.
3. Talk to the Right People
“Reach out to a mortgage banker (not a broker) and clearly define [your] goals so that a customized solution can be offered,” said Jorge Avila, in-house mortgage banker at Opulence International Realty.
Although a mortgage broker can be helpful in the initial home-buying process, once the broker finds an adequate lender and financing terms for his client and connects the borrower to the lender, the broker’s role is looped out of the process.
On the other hand, Avila said, mortgage bankers still play an active role in assessing your financial situation and offering viable options, should you need to adjust mortgage loan terms after the starting stages.
“If it makes economic sense, we [mortgage bankers] restructure their current mortgage to accomplish one of three goals,” Avila said. “We lower their rate and thus their payment amount, we lower the term and thus save them on interest payments, or use existing equity in the home to accomplish another financial goal.”
4. Use a Home Improvement Organizer
“Have a personalized maintenance schedule that reminds you every month of what needs to be done to maintain your home,” said John Bodrozic, co-founder of HomeZada, a home improvement resource and tool. “Most people forget or just don’t know all the little things to do to keep the home running smoothly.”
Aside from repaying your mortgage loan, a large housing expense that can easily send your savings account spiraling downward is routine household maintenance needs that go unattended. At times, scheduled maintenance gets overlooked by accident, but this forgetfulness can lead to costly repairs down the line.
Not only does staying on top of home improvement projects and maintenance schedules keep your home in tip-top shape, but it also helps keep a home’s resale value intact, Bodrozic said.
Finding ways to save money and maintain affordable housing costs can take very different approaches, all of which are viable if you’re willing to put in the effort to achieve a lower monthly payment goal.