How we paid off our mortgage early

Learn how Canadians achieved their financial dreams and how you can too. This is the fifth instalment in our seven-part series entitled “Making it Happen.”

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From the December/January 2013 issue of the magazine.

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“We paid off our mortgage by our mid-30s”

Fritz Wyssen, 40 // Krystal Wyssen, 37 // Quesnel, B.C.

When Krystal and I married 14 years ago, we had only $1,500 in our pockets. I was 26 years old and Krystal was 23. We started our married life together by renting a small one-bedroom cabin that was just 350 sq. ft. in the tiny town of Kitwanga, B.C. You could say we started small—really small. Those were tough days and money was really hard to come by. I made $20 a day shovelling snow and about $150 a week as a paramedic. In those days, you only got paid when you got an ambulance call. I got about two calls a week.

Then our luck turned. In 2000, I landed a job with the highways department in the Queen Charlotte Islands (Haida Gwaii). There, I negotiated the price of our first home, and we were able to buy a small bungalow for $50,000. The following year we rented it out and bought a larger, unfinished home—really just a shell. It was also $50,000 and was in a more remote area. The market was really depressed, so it was a great deal. We then spent the next year renovating it ourselves. At first I earned $40,000 annually while Krystal earned $5,000 a year working part-time as a cashier. As our salaries grew, we put every spare penny we had towards the two mortgages.

Four years later, the real estate market was starting to turn. We were itching to get back to the mainland where we could raise our growing family—we had our son Korbin by then. We sold our home for $107,000 and moved to Quesnel, a working-class town in the B.C. interior. It was an adventure. We came to Quesnel blind, picked it on a map and just drove down here. I worked in a timber mill full-time as well as part-time for the local ambulance service. Krystal got a full-time cashier job.

We bought a brand new 3,500-sq. ft. house in Quesnel for $200,000 and used the proceeds of our two homes on the Queen Charlottes to make a big down payment. The house was way underpriced because the builders were experiencing financial problems and were anxious to sell. We spent the next three years aggressively paying off the $60,000 mortgage, and we had it finished in 2008, when we were in our mid-30s.

For us, the key to financial success in real estate has been to never fall in love with a property and to always be willing to negotiate the price down. We always lived in small towns where real estate is cheaper. We also made sure to buy at rock-bottom prices and added value by renovating. As well, we advertised online and sold our homes privately.

With our home in Quesnel, we made sure we had a short amortization period—20 years. We doubled up on monthly payments once a year, and made the maximum annual prepayment—usually 10% of the value of the mortgage. We also saved 25% of our combined income each year. Then, when the mortgage came due in 2008, we took $30,000 from savings and paid the balance in full.

Most important is to stay out of debt and live frugally. Krystal and I do all our own home maintenance and renovations. We buy meat in bulk, pay our credit card off each month and pay cash for vacations with the kids—Korbin is eight now and his sister Riley is five. Last year, we took the kids to Disneyland and kept to our $5,000 budget.

Our next dream? To retire early. I’ve recently picked up a part-time position at a sawmill while Krystal stays at home. Our magic number for retirement is $750,000. When we get there I’ll walk away from work. We’ve given ourselves 10 years to reach that number. I don’t know what early retirement will bring for us but I’m sure it will be quite an adventure.

More from the “Making it Happen” series:

How we paid off our debt
How I started and sold my business
How I thrived financially after divorce
How I built a solid portfolio
How I became a landlord
How I graduated without student debt

14 comments on “How we paid off our mortgage early

  1. Great story! The key to success is financial discipline – not feeling pressured to keep up with "the Jones." If you're financially disciplined a longer mortgage amortization can be advantageous – you can still make your prepayments, but you won't be tied to a higher mortgage payment if life happens and you lose your job or get sick. Here's an excellent read: http://www.milliondollarjourney.com/30-year-mortg

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  2. Honestly, I'm growing sick of these fairy tale stories by Money Sense. Boy meets girls, they buy a small house, get one child and pay off the house really quick and retire millionaires before they are 30, we get the message.
    Where are the stories about bigger families with a line of credit? Where is the advice for them get rich and become a MoneySense Walt Disney story?
    Find a different angle sometime. Something real please.

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  3. I'm not trying to be harsh, but is it really that big of an accomplishment to pay off only $60,000 in three years? Every time I see a headline like this, I think "wow, cool!" and then am disappointed by the article. It's EASY to pay off a $60,000 mortgage by your 30s. What about normal mortgages?

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  4. Times are WAY different now. Your household income of $45,000 came from one full-time and one part-time job. The cost of your house was $50,000. That meant that your annual gross earnings were 90% of the cost of your house.

    Today, the average house in Ottawa is close to $350,000. I don't know of any couple just starting out, who gross $315,000 with one full-time and one part-time job.

    Anyway, something to consider.

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    • by choosing to live in a lower priced area and slowly moving up we were able to afford the $350,000 in 10 years.

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  5. Congratulations & good luck with the rest!

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  6. Great story! Really does illustrate just how possible it is to be financially stable… but, as you said, it does take discipline!

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  7. Having a good financial plan is good in paying term loans, also deciding what part of your house that needs to be repaired , might keep the cost low . I would admit having the challenge to pay mortgage in a tough time is a bit challenge, lets take it as a challenge , Ideas on repair and renovation would still help I found my own here http://www.calgarybasementdevelopment.net/basemen

    Hope this helps as much as the mortgage article you have here incourages me

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  8. I paid my $98 000 mortgage in 5 years, probably best thing I ever did. Of course property values went really high and was able to sell my house for $275k and invest in $500k home.

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  9. It seems to me the only way to pay off your mortgage early is to make more money that you need to live on, and pump the difference into the mortgage. It's amazing how quickly you can reduce it.

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  10. That's awesome. I would love to follow your advice.

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  11. the Math might be a bit confusing in the article but the point is that we decided to start small and by paying off small mortgages we have now reached the $400,000 mortgage paid off in 14 years of hard work and small sacrifices

    Reply

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