General Information on Private mortgage insurance.

By: Thomas Hunter

What is PMI? PMI, or private mortgage insurance, is an insurance that home buyers are required to purchase if their down payment is low. Private mortgage insurance is usually required of home buyers whose down payment is 20 percent or less of the property’s sale price or appraised value. This insurance was created by private mortgage insurers, and was created to provide protection for the lender in the case that the home buyer should default on the loan.

Private mortgage insurance has helped create millions of new homeowners by allowing people to buy homes with much smaller down payments than had previously been accepted. As home prices continue to soar, the ability to purchase a home with a small down payment has become even more important. Private mortgage insurance allows potential homeowners to buy a home sooner, with even just a 5 percent down payment. Also, private mortgage insurance can help you qualify for a greater number of home loans.

The cost of private mortgage insurance varies according to the down payment and mortgage loan, but it typically equals approximately one half of one percent of the total amount of the loan. But how exactly is private mortgage insurance calculated? Let’s assume you bought a house for $100,000, for which you put set down a 10 percent down payment. Your lender will multiply the remaining 90 percent by .005 percent. The result, $450, is your annual private mortgage insurance, which is divided into monthly payments.

After a few years of paying down your mortgage loan, you should be able to stop paying private mortgage insurance. You should keep track of your payments and contact your lender when you reach 80 percent equity so that your private mortgage insurance can be cancelled. In 1999, a new law, the Homeowner’s Protection Act, was passed that requires lenders to notify you, the buyer, how many months and years it will take for you to pay the 20 percent of your principal. However, it is still a good idea to keep track of it on your own.

This same law also allows lenders to make certain buyers continue their private mortgage insurance, all the way to 50 percent equity. This requirement applies to buyers classified as high risk borrowers. Some Federal Housing Administration loans may even require that home buyers acquire Private mortgage insurance through the lifetime of the loan.

If the idea of paying private mortgage insurance for years sounds unappealing, you’re not alone. Over the years, new ways of avoiding payment of the private mortgage insurance—even when you don’t have the 20 percent down payment available—have emerged. One strategy commonly employed to avoid paying private mortgage insurance is to pay more interest on your mortgage loan. Some lenders will waive the private mortgage insurance requirement if the home buyer agrees to pay a higher interest rate on their mortgage loan. One advantage to this strategy is that mortgage interest becomes tax deductible.

Another way to avoid paying private mortgage insurance is by using the ’80-10-10’ loan strategy. This strategy involves taking on two loans and putting down a 10 percent down payment to purchase a home. One loan finances 80 percent of the mortgage, while the second loan finances the remaining 10 percent of the sales price. The second mortgage—the one that covers the 10 percent—has a higher interest rate. But since the amount of the loan is low, the interest charges are relatively easy to pay off. Under this plan, the mortgage interest is also tax deductible.

You may also be able to cancel your private mortgage insurance if you can prove that your home has increased significantly in value. If the value of your home has gone up, you may already have 20 percent (or more) of the equity you need to cancel your private mortgage insurance. You can submit evidence of this to your lender, but the process is slow. Expect to wait up to two years for the lender to make a decision.

You may be required to continue paying private mortgage insurance, however, if you have a poor payment history, or if your credit record reflects any liens placed against your property. You should speak to your lender to see how any changes in your credit record may affect your use of private mortgage insurance.

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