Mortgage free by 30? How this Mum CFO did it

How many of us dream of being able to pay our mortgages off before we retire? How about 10 or 20 years before we retire? Or what about before we turn 30? Sounds impossible, doesn’t it? Not for Deborah and her husband Joel – they are about to move into a family home which is completely mortgage free. We spoke to Deborah to find out how they did it and asked her to share her top tips on how you can be mortgage free by 30 too.

Deborah grew up in Winmalee, New South Wales and met her husband, Joel in 2007 in Penrith through mutual friends. The two hit it off instantly, less than a year later they were engaged and they got married in 2010.

They bought their first property in 2009 before they got married. Deborah says they didn’t really make a conscious decision that they wanted to be mortgage free before they reached their 30s but they knew they wanted a comfortable retirement. In order to achieve this, they decided to invest in property in order to build up capital they could then use to pay off their mortgage and save for their retirement.

Their first house was a 3 bedroom house in Jamisontown, New South Wales. They bought it for $310,000 in 2009. The house needed a fair amount of renovation and they got to work updating the bathroom, polishing the timber floors and redesigning the outdoor area. They also enclosed the carport and turned it into a double garage. They lived in this house until the birth of their son Ewan in 2011 when they realised they needed a bigger property. They decided to keep this this property, rent it out and buy a new family home.

At a friend’s BBQ, Deborah by chance overheard her friend saying her uncle was selling his property, also in Jamisontown. It was a 4 bedroom home and house ticked all of their boxes, even though it needed a lot of work doing to bring it up to standard. They ended up buying this house privately from the seller for $375,000 in 2012. Over the next few years they spent around $50,000 on renovating the property bringing their total investment to $425,000.

In 2014, they purchased an investment property, also in Jamisontown. It was a 5 bedroom home and they paid $555,000 for it. This property has a mortgage but is positively geared and tenanted.

The following year, in 2015, they bought their second investment property, this time in Gloucester, New South Wales. This 4 bedroom home is tenanted and positively geared as well. They paid $315,000 for this home.

Also in 2015, they made the decision to sell their first home, the 3 bedroom house in Jamisontown. Having paid $310,000 for it back in 2009, they sold it in 2015 for $565,000 – a tidy profit of $255,000.

In 2016, they sold their 2nd house, the 4 bedroom home in Jamisontown. After buying it for $375,000 and spending $50,000 on renovations, they sold it for a hefty $728,000 – a profit of $303,000.

This has allowed the family to completely pay off the 4 bedroom home in Gloucester and in January 2017 they will be moving into this property and paying off the mortgage completely, meaning their family home will be mortgage free –and all before Deborah turns 30!

This isn’t the end of property investing for the couple though – in July 2016, they purchased another property, this time in a different state. It’s a 5 bedroom investment property in Redbank Plains, Queensland and they paid $315,000. It’s currently mortgaged and they are about break even at the moment.

Throughout this whole process, Deborah and Joel did not receive any financial help from family or friends. Despite being on fairly low incomes compared to the national average, they managed to save hard and spend their money wisely in order to achieve their goal of becoming mortgage free as soon as they could. When they bought their first investment property they were both earning under $40,000 each. Presently, they earn a little over $100,000 between them. Deborah works as a personal assistant for doctor at a cosmetic surgery clinic and Joel started his own business last year as a landscaper and also works part time at the cosmetic surgery clinic where Deborah is employed, doing landscaping and general maintenance.

In terms of daily living and expenses, they made a conscious decision to live frugally. They shop at Aldi and purchase bulk meat that goes straight into the freezer. When they bought their first two homes in Jamisontown, they paid their bills, bought the necessary groceries and had $20 a week to spend on themselves. ‘Spending money’ just wasn’t something they had. These days, things aren’t as tight and they usually eat out once a week and have little luxuries like Foxtel and coffees with friends. Deborah says ‘you don’t have to live like a pauper, but smart spending is crucial’. She’s looking forward to splashing out on a new car once the latest property has settled.

We asked her for her top five tips for anyone who wants to be mortgage free:

1. Be willing to go without.

2. Put all your spare money and savings into your mortgage. Having a redraw facility can be useful if you really need it but very often if you don’t have the money to spend, you just won’t spend it.

3. Don’t overcapitalise on your investment properties, especially if you’re not planning on keeping the property for at least 5 years. Be smart about what improvements will add value to the home, for example those expensive plantation shutters look good, but you won’t make back the $10-15,000 you spent on them when you come to sell.

4. Build a great relationship with your real estate agent and mortgage broker. Deborah says this can make all the difference. Even though the last three houses they bought were not listed with their agency, their agent at Michael Ball Realty, was able to sit down and discuss with them whether the home was going to be good for their long term goals and portfolio. Their mortgage brokers, Sara Hardin and Sharon Williams from Sands Financial Services, were also able to get them loans where no other bank or lender could.

5. Get handy – the more work you can do yourself, the more money you’ll save and the more money you’ll make when it comes to selling.


And there you have it – straight from the horse’s mouth! Are you planning on paying your mortgage off as soon as you can? What tips would you add to Deborah’s? Let us know in the comments.

Thanks to Deborah for talking to Mum CFOs about her story and sharing her insights into becoming mortgage free by 30.