Think Twice Before Making Extra Principal Payments

Many homeowners are in a rush to pay off their home loans. This is not always a wise decision. First, you lose liquidity and put your home equity at a higher risk. This is especially the case if you have little cash set aside and if you have few liquid investments. You should always strive to have at least six months of savings set aside.

Consider the following two situations. The first is a homeowner who routinely pays extra on her mortgage with the intent of the home being paid off early. Yes, it is true that if you pay a little extra each month, you will pay the home off substantially faster. Now, the second homeowner only makes the minimum payment each month.

Let’s imagine that a few years go by and both homeowners lose their jobs. And can no longer make their mortgage payments. Who is better off? The first homeowner has more equity than the second owner. However, the real estate market is slow and she may not be able to sell the home before it goes into foreclosure. And, yes, the second owner is in the same situation.

That being said, the second homeowner, who had been just making the minimum payment, has more options. She knows that the bank has little incentive to foreclose on the property. This is because the mortgage balance is high. That is, the bank isn’t in a position to gain hardly anything by foreclosing. The firs homeowner is a better target for the bank because they can sell the property and recover their losses.

Let’s also pretend that the second homeowner either saved or invested the money in which she was considering paying extra on the mortgage. She now has multiple options. She can keep current on her mortgage from these savings. This is the case whether she kept the money in a savings account or invested the money in liquid investments like stocks. Or, if she stops making the payments, the bank would be in no rush to foreclose.

Banks are incentivized to foreclose on properties with low loan balances first. This is because they can recover their losses easily. A home that is underwater or has a high balance will cause the lender to incur a loss, which is why lenders are seldom in a rush to foreclose on an underwater home. This is especially the case in a weak market because it would only add to the inventory of homes for sale, which is one more thing driving down prices.

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