To be able to completely pay off your mortgage is an ambition many ordinary people would love to achieve as living mortgage-free would make a huge difference to most lives. In 2006, the BBC ran a six episode programme called Pay Off Your Mortgage In Two Years in which it followed eight individuals or families who followed advice from business expert René Carayol.
The series was aired after the participants had already completed their first twelve months, i.e. were halfway through and a follow-up series Did They Pay Off Their Mortgage In Two Years? was aired in 2007.
The response from the media and financial experts was mixed. The programme highlighted some excellent budgeting tips and advice on maximising income and minimising expenditure but on the other side, experts were concerned that should families or individuals follow suit and throw every penny they could at their mortgage they may run the risk of not having any spare cash for emergencies, such as redundancy, and thus actually put their mortgage at risk by then not being able to keep up with repayments. As any good mortgage advisor will tell you, you should keep some money to one side as your home can be put at risk if you fall behind with mortgage repayments.
For the experiment, participants started extra businesses, let out a room in their home to a lodger and sold off possessions in order to put every penny they could into their mortgage. One single lady gave up and was replaced, and two of the eight managed to pay off their mortgage whereas the others made significant inroads into their mortgage.
The focus of the series did shift away from paying off the mortgage to actually looking at the amazing transformation in the way the participants lived their lives and managed their income, and in many ways the series was a great success.
It would certainly be interesting to see how a second series progressed, particularly in the changed economic environment. With interest rates currently so low, particularly for many on a variable interest rate, there will no doubt be many who have paid chunks off their mortgage with overpayments but the balanced view would be to learn how to manage your income, build a safety pot, make small and affordable overpayments where possible (subject to the terms of your mortgage deal) and live a balanced life.