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How these savvy homeowners paid off their home in just six years

Diana Bocco

Paying off your mortgage in just six years seems impossible, doesn't it? It's definitely not easy, but one Texas couple was able to do it.

And the biggest benefit of doing so is perhaps the savings, says Adiany Barboza, a licensed real estate broker with Abbey Road Realty, LLC in Orlando, Florida.

Barboza says that many consumers don't realize the true cost of a mortgage. Depending on your interest rate and the amount you took a mortgage out for, you could end up paying more than double the amount of your mortgage in just interest over time, she says.

"That alone should be enough motivation to pay the mortgage earlier," Barboza explains. 

And that was enough motivation for Crystal Stemberger and her husband, Len, who paid off their mortgage in only six years.

How did they do it?

Stemberger says finding a low-priced, $114,000 foreclosed home in April 2007 was key to their success. The low initial price of their home, which was a 1,750 square feet, two-story property near Houston, Texas, allowed them to put 20 percent down, and get a 15-year mortgage at 5.375 percent for a $91,200 loan, she explains. That meant their monthly payment was just $740 a month. At that time, Stemberger worked in an office and earned $32,500 a year. Her husband, a public school science teacher, earned a salary of $42,500.

But the couple was driven to pay off their mortgage early, and they took every action necessary to do so.

To start, "We started the process by overpaying from day one," explains Stemberger. Even though their mortgage payment was $740 per month, they paid $900 total from their very first payment, with the extra $160 going towards the principal.

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Another key to the couple's success was that they weren't afraid to refinance.

In March 2011, less than four years after getting the original mortgage, Stemberger and her husband refinanced their remaining loan amount of $66,000 to another 15-year mortgage.

"Chase offered us a no-cost refinance to a 4.5 percent interest rate," she says. This allowed them to save money by getting a lower interest rate, without having to pay closing costs for the new loan. Refinancing also allowed them to lower their monthly mortgage payment to $505.

But because the couple was determined to pay off their mortgage quickly, they decided to continue paying $900 a month, an extra $395 more than necessary. They were able to do this because of her husband’s new job as a school librarian, and the success of an online business that Stemberger launched. In 2012 for example, their gross income totaled $120,000 for the year.

Another thing that helped the couple pay off their mortgage faster was renting out a spare bedroom for $500 a month. They used this strategy on and off for a total of two and half years.

And while this might not be an option for everybody, Stemberger says it "helped us pay off our principal even faster."

They also made larger payments towards the principal whenever they had enough money saved up.

And it was all worth it when they finally paid off their home just a few months ago in April 2013.

"We ended up paying off our [entire] mortgage in about six years on the dot," she explains. "That was an amazingly happy day."