This guest post was written by Henry Truc from Go Banking Rates, a website that brings you informative personal finance content and helpful tools, as well as the best interest rates on financial services nationwide. Follow them on Twitter at @GoBankingRates.
For most homeowners, paying down their mortgage loan is akin to fighting off the plague, but the dream of one day owning their home in full keeps them going. Unless you’re flush with cash, buying a house usually means taking on a sizable amount of mortgage debt, and with that, forking over a fortune in interest payments.
Conventional wisdom suggests that owning your home outright is the smarter financial strategy. You don’t owe lenders anything, you save money on interest payments and you’re one major step closer to financial independence.
That said, there are some disadvantages to owning 100 percent of your home equity that should be considered.
Disadvantages of Owning Your Home in Full
Though it’s debatable whether or not there is such a thing as good debt, paying off your mortgage in full does reduce certain opportunities for better use of your money. Home loan debt isn’t necessarily a bad thing and here are a few reasons why:
- Tax Deductions: One of the most popular reasons for maintaining mortgage debt is the tax advantages that you enjoy on interest payments. It doesn’t necessarily make sense on its own because owing money just to save money on interest defeats any economic purpose. It does, however, effectively reduce the cost of that debt.
- Greater Financial Flexibility: Instead of having no cash in the bank and a mortgage paid in full, it may be a good idea to tap into that equity just to ensure that you have some access to cash if an emergency arises. If you pour every dollar into paying down your mortgage and don’t have anything left over for home repairs or one-off incidents, you could be positioning yourself in a tough spot to handle any costs of unforeseen events.
- Cheaper Debt: If you can get a good mortgage rate, chances are it’s multiple times less than your credit card, personal loan or auto loan interest rate. Consolidating your debts with a HELOC or home loan refinance can provide you some debt relief and help you save money on interest payments. Plus, mortgage interest payments are tax deductible, unlike credit cards or other personal loans.
- Property Value: Since your property value isn’t affected by your mortgage balance, you can put your equity to better use than just having it sit around idly by, waiting for you to sell your house. You may want to consider taking out a loan against your home for value-added investments like remodeling your home or adding another bedroom that will increase its market value.
- Return On Investments: By the same token, you can probably do better with your home equity than having it sit around earning a zero percent return. Depending on your risk tolerance and the potential return on investment, you may be able to outpace a low fixed mortgage rate. Granted, no investment is guaranteed and you’d be hard pressed to find a CD rate that trumps your mortgage rate. So for practical purposes, putting your home equity at risk to pursue any investment may not be a shrewd idea.
Keep in mind that these options should only be considered if you own a majority of your home equity or own your property outright. Mortgage debt is still debt. Whether you owe a balance on your first mortgage, are refinancing to consolidate other debt with higher interest rates or using it to fund a home improvement project, you’re still taking out debt on your home. Before agreeing to any home loan, use a mortgage calculator to ensure that you can afford the monthly payments first.
Advantages of Home Equity
Owning your home, whether outright or just a majority of the equity, has undeniable advantages. The more equity you own in your home, the more stable your financial situation may be. The peace of mind and stability of not having to worry about meeting mortgage payments is hard to put a price on.
You shouldn’t consider taking on more mortgage debt against a home you have little or no equity in. In addition, if you are fortunate enough to be in a financial situation where you can own your home outright, be debt free and have a surplus of savings to invest wisely, you may not need to access your home equity at all. The key, as always, is to find the right balance that fits your financial strategy and maximizes the efficiency of your money.
Do you think it’s better to own your home outright or to owe a small mortgage balance?