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Freedom 58? Half of Canadians doing more to pay down their mortgages, says CIBC

A real estate agent puts up a

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A real estate agent puts up a "sold" sign in front of a house in Toronto April 20, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darren Calabrese

TORONTO - A new survey says Canadians, on average, expect to be mortgage-free by age 58, one year later than in a similar poll a year ago.

But the survey, conducted for CIBC (TSX:CM) by Angus Reid, found some big discrepancies across the country.

For example, homeowners in British Columbia thought they wouldn't be able to pay off their mortgages until they hit 66, while those in Alberta expected to be mortgage-free more than a decade earlier at 55.

The survey also found that just over half of those polled were taking advantage of the current low interest rate environment to pay down their mortgages faster.

Fifty-five per cent said they were putting in extra effort into repaying their mortgages, although that was down from 68 per cent last year.

Of those paying off their mortgages quicker than necessary, 32 per cent said they were making payments more often, 28 per cent were increasing the amount they pay while 18 per cent said they had made either an additional prepayment or a lump sump payment.

Beyond Alberta and British Columbia, the survey found the average age respondents expected to be mortgage-free ranged from 56 years in Quebec to 57 years in Atlantic Canada and Ontario and 58 years in Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

CIBC says even small efforts can lead to big savings for homeowners in the long run.

For example, someone paying 4.99 per cent interest on a $250,000 mortgage with 25-year amortization can expect to save nearly $35,000 of interest if they add $147 to their $1,453 monthly payments.

The same homeowner can save as much as $30,000 on interest if they make $726 payments every two weeks, instead of waiting until the end of the month to make a payment.

The bank pointed out that even making a lump sum payment every year — for instance, putting the average $1,600 tax refund towards the mortgage — would shave off $33,103 of interest.

"Employing one or more of these strategies does take some planning and discipline," said Barry Gollom, vice-president of secured lending and product policy at CIBC.

"If becoming mortgage-free sooner is something you want to achieve, it's important to look at your mortgage as part of your overall financial picture and to balance your mortgage payment plan against your other goals."

The online poll was conducted by Angus Reid Forum with 1,509 Canadian adults between May 21 and May 22.

The polling industry's professional body, the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, says online surveys cannot be assigned a margin of error as they are not a random sample and therefore are not necessarily representative of the whole population.

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