Mortgage insurance, also referred to as PMI, or private mortgage insurance is typically only found on loans where the borrower did not make a minimum 20% down payment. This can be a big hurdle, especially for first-time homebuyers, to come up with a large down payment of at least $10,000 or more depending on the price of the home. A 20% down payment on a $500,000 home is $100,000, something very few first-time homebuyers are able to save. This is where mortgage insurance comes into play. Lenders will allow a borrower to make a down payment of less than 20% on certain types of loans including an FHA loan or VA loan and because of the lower down payment there needs to be some sort of mortgage insurance for the lender themselves. This is known as a private mortgage insurance or lenders mortgage insurance.
Lenders want to make sure that if a borrower defaults on the loan and the lender has a risk of losing money, mortgage insurance will protect the lender by providing the money payable to the lender only to recoup any losses. Lenders tend to think that buyers who are unable to put 20% down might be more inclined to default on their loan. While this is true or not, lenders would still need to recoup the cost if the borrower defaults.
Mortgage insurance typically does not protect the borrower but it can still benefit the borrower. It allows the borrower to make a payment of less than 20%, which means that many borrowers would be able to be homeowners far sooner than have they saved the 20%. And even though it benefits the lender primarily, it is the borrower’s responsibility to pay the premium.
Mortgage insurance rates are based on the mortgage amount, loan terms, the down payment size, the borrower’s credit score and history. On average, the mortgage insurance rates are about $50 per month per $100,000 borrowed. Premiums can be paid up front or incorporated into the loan. Some insurance providers may offer discounts to borrowers with more modest incomes or higher downpayments but these are things to check with your lender about.
One good thing about the mortgage insurance is that it won’t last for the entire life of the loan. It is only required until the loans principal balance reaches 80% of the value of the home. Ironically the same amount should the borrower had put 20% down to begin with.
In 1998 the US Homeowners Protection Act required lenders to cancel the borrower paid mortgage insurance when the loan reached 78% of the appraised value or a sale price, whichever is less. This would mean that a borrower typically needs 22% equity in their home to have it automatically canceled. However, borrowers can call and request cancellation after a year or two of paying it or if the home can be appraised or valued at 80% of the loan.
Private mortgage insurance is also tax-deductible and is usually the least expensive option for low down payment borrowers. However, the Congress extends the tax break on a yearly basis so be sure to check with your lender on if this is still the case each year.
Private mortgage insurance can definitely benefit borrowers and that they don’t have to have the full 20% in order to buy a home but, you have to remember to cancel it when you can so that you don’t have to keep paying it when you don’t have to.
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