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Buying or selling  Maryland Real Estate  is one of the most pivotal decisions you may ever make. Taking the time to research listings, markets, and all the other variables in this process may seem daunting at first, but remember one thing; you don't have do it alone . Serving Prince Georges County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County and Montgomery County, Maryland Real Estate.

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REAL ESTATE BLOG
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Cash Buyers No Longer Overcrowding the Housing Market

2015-07-04 10:54:00

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Investing
Alex Kalina/Getty Images


By Bob Sullivan

In many parts of the country, housing prices gave returned to pre-recession levels. That's good news for sellers, bad news for buyers. But buried within the latest housing data is some good news for everyone -- everyone on Main Street, anyway.

All-cash buyers seem to be finally retreating. The percent of homes purchased by all-cash buyers in May was close to its long-term average going back to January 2000 of 24.8 percent, and well below its recent peak of 42.2 percent in February 2011, according to data released Thursday by RealtyTrac. It's one sign that the housing market is on the road back to a normal, "how do we find a place to live?" market, and away from the "how do I make a quick buck?" market.

What's an all-cash buyer? Someone -- or something -- with a lot of money. All-cash buyers don't need mortgages. They just show up with a check and buy a home. Generally, they are big investors such as hedge funds and foreign entities, buyers with no intention of living in the homes. They skew the market by soaking up inventory that could be purchased by a young family looking for a first-time home purchase. They also make such buyers look bad. If you were a seller and had two offers -- one all-cash, and one that still required financing to be arranged -- which would you choose?

"As housing transitions from an investor-driven, cash-is-king market to one more dependent on traditional buyers, sales volume has been increasing over the last few months and is on track in 2015 to hit the highest level we've seen since 2006," said RealtyTrac vice president Daren Blomquist.

The out-of-whack housing market has been suffering from a record level of all-cash buyers for the past several years -- well above historical norms, according to mortgage expert Logan Mohtashami. He says the retreat of cash buyers is a positive development.

"This is a positive as total sales are rising with less cash buyers as a part of the market place.... Less cash means more traditional buyers in the system, which means the supply and demand balance is more correlated to Main Street economics," Mohtashami said. "[This year] is trending between 24-27 percent, which is still very high, but this is the first time it's under 30 percent in every report."

Of course, the shrinking number of cash buyers doesn't mean prices are going down. In Manhattan, for example, the average sales price for an apartment just hit a record high -- $1.87 million. And it's not just New York. Home prices in Dallas, Denver, and San Francisco are positively bubble-icious, rising about 10 percent last year, soaring past pre-recession levels.

But with more first-time homebuyers and less inventory, at least the dynamics of home buying might change a bit.

"The competition in the marketplace is ... different," said Craig King, chief operating officer at Chase International brokerage, covering the Nevada markets of Lake Tahoe and Reno. "While inventory is tight, many investors have dropped out of the market and cash deals are not as prevalent as they were. Even in multi-offer situations, much has been equalized. This is great news for first-time buyers."

If you're looking to buy a home this year, make sure you know how much home you can afford (here's a calculator). And be sure to check your credit, since improving your credit scores can save you thousands of dollars in interest over the life of your mortgage. You can get a free credit report summary every month on Credit.com to see where you stand. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Dennis Miller Sells Beach House for $3.5 Million Below List

2015-07-02 12:09:00

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

Riskin Associates via ZillowThe house features 6,000 feet in a beautiful cottage-style white but the real selling point is the 63 feet of beachfront.



By Melissa Allison

UPDATE: Comedian Dennis Miller and his wife sold their oceanside California mansion south of Santa Barbara for $19 million -- $3.5 million less than they were asking for the stylish estate.

ORIGINAL POST 1/4/2015: The beach retreat Dennis Miller and wife Carolyn Espley-Miller are listing for $22.5 million has an office -- but the buyers should expect to accomplish very little there, she warned.

"We joke that no work ever gets done, because we're either staring at the view or talking on the phone about how beautiful the view is," Espley-Miller told House Beautiful. "I had such a strong vision of a serene, whitewashed house on the sea. So I just gave the whole place a big dollop of white, from floors to ceiling."


Associated PressDennis Miller


The 6,063-square-foot home has views of the Pacific Ocean and the mountains. It sits a little back from the beach on a half acre along Padaro Lane in Santa Barbara County, with five bedrooms, 5.5 bathrooms and 63 feet of beachfront.

"Besides it being right on the sand, the Padaro location is the crème de la crème of beach locations for this area," said Dina Landi, who listed the property at Riskin Associates.

"One of the things that makes that particular house on Padaro Lane special is its very open floor plan, the incredible amount of natural light that comes into the house and the privacy you get" from it being set a little back from the beach, Landi said.

The light extends all the way to the master suite, where the bathroom is "very white and very simple," Espley-Miller told House Beautiful. "I wanted nothing to detract from the incredible view and the light."

Miller, perhaps still best known for his roles on "Saturday Night Live," appeared in the television series "House of Cards" in 2013 and narrated the reality series "Forever Young."



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5 Ways to Handle the Eyesore Next Door Before You Sell

2015-07-02 11:41:00

Filed under: How To, Selling
Getty Images


By Laura Agadoni

You're almost ready to put your house on the market when you realize it: The neighborhood eyesore is going to pose a problem.

Sure, we know some people might view any attempts to hide an eyesore from view as being underhanded, sneaky, and designed to fool unsuspecting buyers. They might envision unscrupulous sellers and agents who keep their fingers crossed, just hoping no one spots the eyesore next door.

If you feel that way, by all means, point out the junkyard behind you that's worthy of "American Pickers," the yard next door that looks more like a prairie than a lawn, or the bail bonds sign spray-painted on the wall across the street.

For the rest of us, here are five ways to resolve these eyesore neighbor issues so would-be buyers won't be scared off. And who knows? Maybe if you tackle these unsavory sights, you'll decide not to sell your home after all.

1. Ask your neighbor to fix the problem.

This solution can be tricky. There's really no easy way to tell someone that his or her house is the neighborhood eyesore. But there are some methods that might help.

"Just writing a friendly note (dropped off with a bottle of wine or another small gift) can sometimes do the trick," says Ross Anthony, a San Diego real estate agent.

It also can't hurt to mention to your neighbor that the more your home sells for, the more his or her home will be worth.

2. Be neighborly.

You know how people can become desensitized to certain smells? ("How did you know I had a cat?") Well, people can become so accustomed to the condition of their house that they don't notice when it looks run-down.

This sometimes happens with elderly homeowners: Either they haven't realized the condition of their home or they simply can't manage the upkeep. You might think a condo or townhouse situation might better suit your overwhelmed neighbor, but steer clear of that suggestion.

Instead, offer to spruce up the house yourself. "If it is an elderly person, I offer to help," says Sarah Bentley Pearson, an Atlanta real estate agent.

But it's not just elderly neighbors with houses that could benefit from a little TLC -- just think of all the work you did to get your house in selling shape.

Alexander Ruggie of 911 Restoration in Los Angeles says that if the next-door neighbor has a poor paint job, a wobbly fence, or a caved-in garage, there's no reason you can't offer to help fix the problem. "Most people would be surprised how much they can convince people to do when they offer to help do it."

3. Notify your HOA.

If you live in a community with a homeowners association (HOA), let it know about the unkempt house near you. One of the main reasons HOAs exist is to prevent homes in the neighborhood from becoming eyesores that could drive down the value of other homes.

Your HOA might send a letter to the offending neighbor warning him or her to fix the problem or face fines. Or the HOA might take care of the problem and then bill the homeowner.

4. Call the city.

If your neighbor won't mow his or her lawn, get rid of the junk outside, or let you help tidy up, you can always call your local government.

"If there is a really bad problem, like the grass is a foot tall and there are junk cars on the front lawn, your neighbors are probably in violation of local codes and can be forced to clean up," says John Z. Wetmore, producer of the TV show "Perils for Pedestrians."

Do this well in advance of putting your house on the market. The city could give your neighbor up to 90 days to meet housing codes.

Wetmore also suggests that you "walk around the block and pick up any litter along the public streets and sidewalks."

If the house is a bank-owned foreclosure, find out which bank owns the property by checking county title records. Insist the bank maintain the property.

5. Plant view-blocking trees or install a fence.

It might be worth the investment to block an unsavory view. If you plant trees, choose ones that are at least six feet tall to give you an immediate sense of privacy. Privacy fences should also be six feet high.

If your neighbors are noisy, putting in a small water feature can drown out the racket.

"You only have one first impression," says Anthony, the San Diego real estate agent. "You want potential buyers to fall in love with your home before writing it off due to an unkempt neighboring property."

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Sarah Jessica Parker, Matthew Broderick Sell at $750K Loss

2015-06-30 19:16:00

Filed under: Celebrity Homes, Selling

ZillowThe Greenwich Village townhouse features six bedrooms and seven fireplaces, including this one in a bathroom.


By Melissa Allison



Maybe Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick should stick with flipping their hair.

The savvy New Yorkers bought this Greenwich Village townhouse in 2011 for nearly $19 million. They put it on the market the next year, and after almost three years of trying to unload it, have finally found a buyer -- at $18.25 million, as first reported by Curbed.

The couple and their children reportedly never lived in the 6,800-square-foot home, which is 25 feet wide and has six bedrooms and seven -- count 'em, seven -- fireplaces.

There are twin fireplaces on the "parlor" floor, a marble fireplace near the kitchen, a Victorian fireplace in a guest suite and a stone fireplace -- plus a hand-carved stone tub -- in the master suite. Photos indicate a couple more fireplaces in bedrooms.

The ground floor opens onto a split-level, landscaped garden that is also visible from a Juliet balcony off the second floor, and the master suite boasts a large, private terrace.

The listing agent for the home was Fredrik Eklund of Douglas Elliman.





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Why Mom and Dad Should Charge Millennials Rent

2015-06-30 18:16:00

Filed under: Investing, Lifestyle, Renting
Getty Images


By Erin Lowry

The cliche of 20-somethings taking up refuge in their parents' basements is a now tired way to describe millennials. Unfortunately, it became a stereotype because it's true. Millennials have been known to graduate college, quit work or just opt out of adult life and scurry back to the nest.

But for every millennial who ran home to mommy and daddy, there is a set of parents who allowed a grown child to linger in a state of arrested development without consequence. Which begs the question, what is a loving parent to do?

Charge the kid rent, of course.

Before boomers and millennials alike end up in a blind rage, understand that extolling a little tough love is exactly the way parents can lead a stray millennial back to the expressway toward adulthood.



The Return Home Trend

There is no shame in needing to head back home for some time to figure out the next steps. A lot has changed in how the world works. Not that long ago, it was standard that many young men and women would graduate from college and get married just a few months later.

Today, few millennials are leaving college and heading straight down the aisle. Plus, the job market was slow moving for those who graduated four to eight years ago. And let's not forget to mention the massive student loan burden. So a precedent was set that those who elected not to leap into graduate school or who were struggling to find employment would return home -- for a little while.

A little while sometimes turned into years. And hordes of graduating millennials each May still return home (even though the job market has warmed up again).

This phenomenon has been aided by parents willing to let their children take up residence at home and return to a life of mom and dad cooking, cleaning, doing laundry and fulfilling other parts of Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Living at home is just easy.

Why Millennials Need to Cough Up Rent

Just because living at home is easy doesn't mean it should be free. The easier the lifestyle, the harder it will be for a child to feel motivated to strike out on his or her own and learn the life skills necessary to survive outside the protective bosom of mom and dad.

This is why millennials living at home need to pay rent.

The demand for rent means the millennial needs to get a job -- even if the job is stocking shelves at the grocery store or whipping up drinks at Starbucks. Keeping idle hands busy and dealing with obnoxious customers in exchange for a paycheck barely above minimum wage will help motivate young millennials to find a career and put that degree to good use.

Paying rent will also force a child living at home to learn how to budget for paying student loans, going out with friends and purchasing whatever they consider necessities. This assumes parents aren't back on the allowance bandwagon and subsidizing the child's stay at Resort de Mom and Dad.

Asking for rent from a child doesn't mean it needs to be at market value. You don't need to charge the same amount he or she would pay to live in an apartment in your town. About $100 or $150 a month would do just fine.

What to Do with the Money

The money a child contributes to rent could go toward paying household bills. If you use this method, be sure to share with your child how you are spending his or her money. It will help rationalize the need to pay rent if your child sees their money is helping to pay off the mortgage, pad the grocery budget that dropped since he or she went off to college or pay off a parent PLUS loan taken out to help him or her through college.

Parents who don't feel the need to use the money collected from a child can quietly create a "parental 401(k)." This will force a child to save money without him or her knowing it. When it comes time for the child to move out, parents can present the nest egg in the form of a check, or deposit it into a bank account. If parents are feeling really generous, they can provide a percentage match like an employer would. This is a great way to plant a seed to encourage a child to put money in an employer-sponsored retirement plan once he or she starts a job.

Alternatives to Charging Rent

Many parents have trouble with the idea of charging their child rent. It doesn't feel right. That's fine, but it doesn't mean your nesting millennial should get off without contributing to the family pot.

Instead of asking for an upfront monthly fee, you could require a child to buy the family groceries or put money toward one of the monthly bills such as water, electric or cable. Or you could just return to the glories days of the chore wheel. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Mortgage Rates Break 4% Again Before Falling Back to 3.93%

2015-06-30 16:41:00

Filed under: Buying, Financing, Refinancing
ZillowThe weekly mortgage rate chart illustrates the average 30-year fixed interest rate in six-hour intervals.


By Lauren Braun

Mortgage rates for 30-year fixed loans fell this week, with the rate borrowers were quoted on Zillow Mortgages at 3.93 percent Tuesday, down 2 basis points from the same time last week.

The 30-year fixed mortgage rate rose to 4.03 percent Friday and remained there through the weekend, then dropped to 3.88 percent Monday before returning to the current rate.

"After moving higher on Friday, rates fell as markets absorbed the shock of Greece's decision to close its banks leading up to a referendum on its debt negotiations," said Erin Lantz, vice president of mortgages at Zillow. "Greece will likely dominate financial headlines again this week, but Thursday's early jobs report could move markets if lenders don't clock out early for the Fourth of July holiday."

Additionally, the 15-year fixed mortgage rate was 3.04 percent. For 5/1 ARMs, the rate was 2.88 percent.

Check Zillow Mortgages for trends and up-to-the-minute rates for your state, or use the mortgage calculator to calculate monthly payments at the current rates. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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The 11 Questions You Need to Ask Before Signing a Lease

2015-06-29 08:43:00

Filed under: Renting
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By Niccole Schreck

If you've found your dream apartment and you're getting ready to sign the lease, all of your biggest questions should have already been answered. You don't want to agree to live somewhere without knowing how much it's going to cost you per month and whether all the appliances are working properly, right?

But there are a number of questions you'll want to ask before you sign your apartment lease, which is a legally binding document and shouldn't be taken lightly. Ideally, the property manager or landlord will walk you through the process. When they do, keep these 11 questions in mind:

1. How do I pay rent? This is something that differs from company to company and landlord to landlord, so it's an important question to ask every time you move somewhere new. You may have to send a check to a specific address or P.O. Box, but some apartment communities will have you drop off a check in a box at the main office. Others will let you pay online. Make note of the preferred payment method for your new apartment.



2. What utilities should I take care of? Some apartments include utilities in the rent and some don't, so make sure you know which ones to handle independently, including electricity, Internet, cable, water and gas. You'll have to call each company and set up an account for the apartment under your name. You should also see if the building already has deals with any of the providers. Cable and Internet companies often make deals with property management companies, which usually means the residents get cheaper monthly bills.





3. What Is the late rent policy? Is there a grace period? Many landlords allow residents until the third or fifth of the month before they deem the rent to be "late," but make sure you know your apartment's specific policy so you don't end up paying additional fees.



4. Is renters insurance required? Renters insurance is always a good idea, and it typically doesn't cost that much per month. However, some management companies require residents to have a policy, so double check with yours.



5. What happens if I have to move out early? It may not seem like it, but 12 months is a long time to commit, especially if you think you may move for your career or family in the near future. So, what happens if you need to leave before your lease is up? Ask if getting out of your lease early is possible, how much notice you need to give and whether you're allowed to sublet. If moving out early isn't an option, make sure you know the fee for breaking the lease.



6. Can I make changes to the apartment? Some landlords couldn't care less if you painted the walls black and the trim purple, while others would dock your security deposit if you tacked a poster to the wall. If you're planning on decorating your place, make sure you double check the apartment's policy for making changes to the space. If your landlord says you can paint or make changes that aren't spelled out in the lease, be sure to get everything in writing.



7. How do I submit a maintenance request? What if it's an emergency? Is there a maintenance staff member on-site 24/7? If not, what happens if your heat stops working in the middle of winter, your pipes burst, your toilet floods or some other unimaginable maintenance issue arises? Ask for an email address or phone number for basic requests (like if one of your burners stops working or your faucet drips) and if there is separate contact information for emergencies. Some apartment communities even have online maintenance request systems.



8. What can I expect when lease renewal time rolls around? It's a good idea to find out upfront what to expect when it comes time to renew the lease. Are you allowed to extend the lease on a month-to-month basis? Will the lease automatically renew if you don't give notice of move-out? Is the rent going to go up? And if so, by how much? Knowing the answer to these questions now will prepare you better when it's time to decide between renewing and moving out.



9. What is the pet policy? Say you don't already have a pet (if you did, you should already know the pet policy way before signing a lease). If you think there's even a slight possibility you'll want to adopt a furry friend within the next year, find out now if pets are allowed. If they are, discuss how much more you'll be paying each month and if there are any deposits or fees involved.



10. Can you document any current damage in the apartment? If your landlord or management company doesn't bring it up, make sure you do a walk-through of your apartment to make a detailed list of any scratches, holes or other damage currently in the apartment. That way, you won't be blamed for damage you didn't do.



11. What are some reasons you wouldn't refund my security deposit? Finally, it's a good idea to find out the circumstances in which you wouldn't get your security deposit back. Some wear and tear to the floors and walls is normal and shouldn't affect your deposit too much, but how does the management define damage that's beyond normal?



The answers to these questions will hopefully leave you with all the information you need to make the move-in process a success. Permalink | Email this | Comments

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Chrissy Teigen, John Legend List NYC One-BR for $4.5 Million

2015-06-27 15:59:00

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes, Selling

ZillowAt 2,000 square feet, the home isn't tiny by Manhattan standards, but it still has only one bedroom and two baths.



By Natalie Wise

Only two superstars like Chrissy Teigen and John Legend -- and few cities in the world but New York -- could command $4.5 million for a one-bedroom apartment.

Recently, the most expensive condo in San Francisco sold for $2.3 million in less than a month. But the couple's Nolita apartment in the Brewster Carriage House just hit the market for nearly twice as much, the New York Post reported, and it could sell quickly too.

Though only 2,000 square feet with one bedroom and two bathrooms, the modern luxe apartment has the added cache of being the abode of the glamorous supermodel and musician. The home itself is also a star: Architectural Digest recently featured the unit on its cover.

Exposed brick and wood keep the historic details of the carriage house front and center, though every decorating detail says "celebrity." The open floor plan is enhanced by plenty of windows, a cozy gas fireplace and smart home technology.

Reclaimed wood, cast iron columns and brass lighting feature prominently in the chef's kitchen and bar that open into the living and dining area. Despite the small space, the home includes a butler's pantry, laundry room, walk-in closet and a large alcove that can flex between being an office and guest quarters.

The master suite is anything but cramped or devoid of luxury. A deep cast iron soaking tub, walk-in shower and radiant floor heating keep the bathroom extravagant.

Despite the home's apparent charms, Teigen and Legend are ready for a change of scenery. Not long ago they sold their Hollywood Hills home, too. Kids are soon to come, Teigen commented recently, and for that, they'll need more space.

Jason Walker of Compass holds the listing.



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Queen Elizabeth II Reportedly Buys an Apartment in NYC

2015-06-25 21:12:00

Filed under: Buying, Celebrity Homes
ZillowThe Royal Family reportedly owns a unit on the 18th floor of a building designed by British architect Norman Foster.


By Streeteasy

What kind of pied-a-terre would an 89-year-old British monarch require to make New York City feel like an extension of the royal palace? According to The Real Deal, that would be an $8 million, three-bedroom, 3.5-bathroom apartment on the 18th floor at 50 United Nations Plaza.


APQueen Elizabeth II


Is it Buckingham Palace East? Well, no. The Norman Foster-designed building in Turtle Bay is far more sleek and modern, and there's nary a beefeater standing sentry in this luxurious, secure and private building adjacent to the U.N.

With Buckingham Palace in need of serious renovation, Queen Elizabeth II might be plotting getaways beyond her current options including Windsor Castle, Balmoral Castle in Scotland and Sandringham House in Norfolk.

What drew the queen to this unit? It might have something to do with the 50-foot long dining room and grand foyer, suitable for large-scale entertaining. There's also a private motor court and garden entry to the building. Last, but not least, the queen has tapped the shoulder of architect Foster before -- when she knighted him back in 1990.

And if the queen winds up making only rare use of the place, perhaps she'll allow her grandchildren and great-grandkids to use the pad the next time they're in town to hang out with Jay Z and Beyonce at a Brooklyn Nets game.



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This Couple Paid Off a 30-Year Mortgage in Just 7 Years

2015-06-24 11:24:00

Filed under: Financing, Lifestyle, Refinancing
Courtesy of Andrea Stewart via Credit.comJerimiah Honer and Andrea Stewart paid off their 30-year mortgage on a $300,000 California home in just seven years.


By Christine DiGangi

The idea behind paying off a loan faster than scheduled is pretty simple: It saves you money. That's a huge part of the reason California couple Andrea Stewart and Jerimiah Honer decided to repay their 30-year mortgage in just seven years -- by doing so, they saved more than $130,000 in interest. Now the couple has an opportunity to achieve other goals, like invest beyond their property and existing retirement funds, travel and maybe do a little shopping. The frugal pair hasn't done a lot of that in the last several years.

Stewart, 32, and Honer, 36, worked hard to save money as they tried to accelerate their loan repayment, but they acknowledge they also had a lot of luck. Paying off debt is a different journey for everyone, but here's how they quickly achieved their dream of owning their own home.

The Details



Stewart and Honer bought their house on a 0.10-acre lot in Sacramento for nearly $300,000 in 2008. Their combined annual income from their full-time jobs amounts to roughly $150,000, but they received supplemental income from a variety of sources along the way to repaying the mortgage. They made a 10% down payment and received a 30-year mortgage with a 6.75 percent interest rate, but they refinanced twice, to 5.25 percent and then to 3.875 percent. Honer calculated their estimated savings of $130,000 using the lowest rate. The couple had some student loan debt when they took out the mortgage, but by paying an additional $200 a month toward their education debt, those loans were paid off by the end of their first year in the house.

That's when they switched their attention to the mortgage.

How They Paid Off a 30-Year Mortgage in 7 Years

The property itself had a huge impact on the couple's ability to put a lot of money toward their home loan. The house is close to downtown Sacramento, allowing them to easily commute by bicycle and sell their second car. Honer and Stewart also grow most of their own food.

"It's actually easier to go into your backyard and pick things than go to the grocery store," Honer said. "We like the organic element as well as it's a huge bill cut."

Not only did they save a lot on gas, vehicle expenses and grocery bills, they also budgeted as if they made less money in the first place. Honer crunched the numbers, and even though both he and Stewart have full-time jobs, they figured out they could manage under one income. The second income went toward the mortgage, and Honer made his own amortization schedule to determine how much they could afford to pay (and eventually save).

Much of their success stems from their mindset toward money.

"I think we were always frugal to begin with -- we're both savers," Stewart said. "One of the things we asked ourselves when we made a purchase was, 'Is this really going to make us happy?' ... We try to have experiences like traveling and things like that, yeah, but I don't think [we like] a lot of stuff."

Or, as Honer puts it: "We don't know how to spend money anymore. We kind of forgot." He also said that they're not "big credit people," and even though a mortgage is a helpful credit instrument, it was important to them to be out of debt as soon as possible. (You can see how your debts and your payment history are affecting your credit by getting your free credit report summary on Credit.com.)

Tips for Paying Off Debt Fast

For anyone interested in trying to replicate the couple's success, there are a few things to know. First, they paid off their other debt obligations (student loans). In addition to cutting out expenses and keeping to a strict budget, Honer and Stewart received some money besides their regular income, which they put toward the loan. The two are aspiring writers and made some money from side gigs, but they also received personal-injury settlements from two separate times a car hit one of them while riding a bicycle. Getting hit by a car isn't exactly good fortune, but the settlements amounted to $37,000, which helped cut down the debt. Inspired by a friend's successful pregnancy through egg donation, Stewart twice donated eggs and received about $6,000 each time.

Their story is a combination of hard work, a solid financial situation and luck, but a lot of their success comes down to decision-making: They could have done a lot with their regular income and the additional money they came into, but they chose to put it toward a specific goal. That means their home cost them thousands of dollars less than it could have if they paid for it on schedule.

There's not much they would have done differently, though they admit they could have saved more, rather than just pay off the home loan and contribute to their retirement accounts. Honer and Stewart don't see themselves changing their spending habits now that this huge loan is behind them, and they plan to stay in the home for a long time. Now they're interested in exploring other investments and maybe even retiring early some day.

"I hope it helps some people," Stewart said of her decision to share their story. She posted about it on Reddit, where it generated a lot of conversation. Her advice? "I would say just think about what makes you happy." That's what drove their decisions, and it kept them on track for years.

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