The title can this post can be misleading. No, being mortgage free does not mean that I've almost paid off my mortgage. It means that the bank is almost done processing the foreclosure on my house. I'm getting some big envelopes in the mail about my house, ones that cost $5+ to send in the mail. I'm also starting to get frequent phone calls from Wells Fargo about my mortgage. It's funny that they want to communicate with me now that my mortgage is being processed for foreclosure. Over the past few months it's been nearly impossible to communicate with them.
I didn't listen to conventional wisdom about my mortgage. I didn't put 20% down, and I had doubts if I'd live in the house for more than 5 years. I just really, really didn't want to live in an apartment building.
If I had to do it all over again, I'd find a nice local property manager who managed a maximum of 10 houses/duplexes/properties. Someone who was able to buy another property and wants to rent it out. This would be a person that is personally invested in their properties and their tenants. This way, I know they'd care about the property and give a "hoot" if something went wrong. Also, the benefit of living in a duplex is that you have 1 direct neighbor instead of 2 or 3.
Mortgages are rough, and if you can take away anything from this post, it's my encouragement to wait to buy a house until you know you'll be somewhere for at least a few years. If you have a gut feeling you won't, or any doubts/reservations, it'll probably be easier to rent.