4. Refinance to speed up payoff

Refinancing can help you pay off your mortgage sooner, the idea being that a lower payment frees up money that can be applied to additional principal payments.

The challenge is being able to qualify for a new loan, says Justin Lopatin, vice president of residential banking at Baytree National Bank & Trust in Chicago.

The biggest hurdle, Lopatin says, is the effect of declining home values. A lower valuation can throw off your loan-to-value ratio, result in an appraisal that's too low to support your loan amount or trigger a need for mortgage insurance, making your new payment more costly and refinancing less attractive.

You'll also need a good credit score and two years' worth of documented stable income, Lopatin says.

To maximize the benefit of refinancing, shorten the term of your loan. For example, if you've paid off 10 years of a 30-year term, refinance with a 15-year mortgage instead of a new 30-year loan.

5. Shrink your housing costs

Selling your house might seem like a dramatic way to get rid of your mortgage, but it's certainly effective, leaving you free to buy a more affordable home for cash or become a renter without any housing debt.

Whether downsizing makes sense is largely a matter of your needs and personal lifestyle, yet Rogoszinski suggests it's "definitely something to consider." However, don't try to time the housing market by selling high and buying low. That's a strategy more appropriate for professional real-estate investors than for homeowners.

6. Tap retirement savings

Homeowners who don't have spare cash on hand might be tempted to tap a retirement account to pay off a mortgage. This idea has gained purchase in recent months, as legislation pending in Congress would waive the early withdrawal penalty if money removed from a retirement account were used to pay a home loan.

Still, Rogoszinski and McIntosh advise caution.

"My instinct is not to look at that very favorably, particularly because of how little retirement savings Americans have already," McIntosh says.

One exception: If you're in danger of foreclosure due to a temporary financial setback, a retirement account might be a resource of last resort.

Even then, McIntosh adds, "be very, very careful."