What Is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

You’re about to discover the ins and outs of private mortgage insurance (PMI) and what it means for your home ownership journey. PMI is a safeguard for lenders when you make a down payment of less than 20% on a conventional mortgage. It’s a topic that’s worth diving into, as it can have a significant impact on your finances and loan options. So, let’s shed some light on PMI and explore how it affects your path to owning your dream home.

Definition of Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

Explanation of private mortgage insurance

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is a type of insurance that protects lenders when borrowers are unable to make their mortgage payments. It is typically required when borrowers have a down payment that is less than 20% of the home’s purchase price. PMI provides financial security to the lender in case the borrower defaults on the loan.

Purpose of private mortgage insurance

The main purpose of private mortgage insurance is to reduce the risk for lenders when granting loans to borrowers with a low down payment. By requiring PMI, lenders can take on the risk of a borrower defaulting on their mortgage, which allows them to provide mortgages to a wider range of homebuyers. PMI provides a sense of security for lenders by ensuring that they will be compensated in the event of a borrower’s default.

When private mortgage insurance is required

Private mortgage insurance is typically required by lenders when borrowers make a down payment of less than 20% of the home’s purchase price. This requirement is in place because a larger down payment is seen as an indicator of a borrower’s ability to manage their finances responsibly. When borrowers contribute a higher down payment, it decreases the lender’s risk and reduces the need for PMI.

How Does Private Mortgage Insurance Work?

Insurance premium

Private mortgage insurance requires borrowers to pay an insurance premium, which is typically included in their monthly mortgage payment. The premium amount varies depending on factors such as the loan amount, credit score, and down payment size. The insurance premium can range from 0.5% to 1% of the loan amount annually.

Coverage period

The coverage period for private mortgage insurance is determined by the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio of the mortgage. The LTV ratio compares the loan amount to the appraised value of the home. Once the LTV ratio reaches 80% – meaning the borrower has paid off 20% of the home’s value – the borrower may be eligible to cancel the private mortgage insurance.

Cancellation/maturity of PMI

Private mortgage insurance can be canceled in two ways. The first is through automatic cancellation, which occurs when the borrower’s loan-to-value ratio reaches 78% based on the original purchase price. The second option is by the borrower requesting cancellation once the loan-to-value ratio reaches 80% based on the current market value of the home. However, it’s important to note that some loans may have specific conditions that must be met before cancellation is allowed.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

Benefits of Private Mortgage Insurance

Increased access to homeownership

One of the primary benefits of private mortgage insurance is that it increases access to homeownership for individuals who may not have the means to make a large down payment. By allowing borrowers to make a smaller down payment, PMI enables more people to qualify for a mortgage and fulfill their dream of owning a home.

Lower down payment requirements

Private mortgage insurance allows borrowers to make a down payment of as little as 3% of the home’s purchase price, compared to the traditional 20% down payment requirement. This lowers the upfront costs for homebuyers, making it more attainable for individuals with limited savings to purchase a home.

Protection for lenders

Private mortgage insurance provides protection for lenders by reimbursing them in the event of borrower default. This protection allows lenders to confidently offer mortgages to borrowers with lower down payments without taking on excessive risk. PMI acts as a safety net, giving lenders peace of mind and ensuring the stability of the mortgage market.

Drawbacks of Private Mortgage Insurance

Cost of PMI

One of the drawbacks of private mortgage insurance is the additional cost it adds to the monthly mortgage payment. The insurance premium, which is determined by various factors, can range from a few hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per year. This additional expense should be carefully considered when determining the affordability of a home.

Additional monthly expense

Private mortgage insurance is an additional monthly expense that stays in effect until the borrower reaches a certain loan-to-value ratio. This can be a burden for some borrowers, as it increases the total amount due each month. It is important for borrowers to budget for this additional expense to ensure they can comfortably afford their mortgage payments.

Non-cancellation until certain conditions are met

Private mortgage insurance cannot be canceled immediately upon reaching the 80% loan-to-value ratio. Some loans may require a specific waiting period or other conditions to be met before cancellation is allowed. This can prolong the period of time that borrowers are required to pay for private mortgage insurance, increasing the overall cost of the loan.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

Requirements for Obtaining Private Mortgage Insurance

Loan-to-Value (LTV) ratio

One of the main requirements for obtaining private mortgage insurance is having a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio that exceeds a certain threshold. Typically, if a borrower’s down payment is less than 20% of the home’s purchase price, the LTV ratio will be above 80%, triggering the need for PMI. The exact threshold may vary depending on the lender and loan program.

Credit score

Another requirement for obtaining private mortgage insurance is having a good credit score. Lenders evaluate the borrower’s creditworthiness to determine their eligibility for PMI. A higher credit score is generally associated with lower risk, and borrowers with a higher credit score may qualify for lower PMI premiums.

Property type

The type of property being financed can also be a requirement for obtaining private mortgage insurance. Some lenders have specific guidelines regarding the type of property they will provide PMI for. For example, certain types of investment properties or non-owner-occupied properties may be excluded from eligibility for private mortgage insurance.

Alternatives to Private Mortgage Insurance

Piggyback mortgage

One alternative to private mortgage insurance is a piggyback mortgage, also known as an 80-10-10 loan. With a piggyback mortgage, the borrower takes out two separate loans: one for 80% of the home’s purchase price, and the other for 10%. The remaining 10% is covered by the borrower’s down payment. This structure allows the borrower to avoid PMI altogether.

Lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI)

Lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI) is another alternative to private mortgage insurance. With LPMI, the lender pays the mortgage insurance premium upfront in exchange for a higher interest rate on the loan. This allows the borrower to avoid the monthly PMI payment, but it does result in a higher overall cost of borrowing.

Veterans Affairs (VA) loans

For eligible veterans, active-duty service members, and their spouses, VA loans provide an alternative to private mortgage insurance. VA loans do not require a down payment or private mortgage insurance. Instead, they are backed by the Department of Veterans Affairs, which guarantees a portion of the loan to the lender.

USDA loans

USDA loans, offered by the United States Department of Agriculture, are another alternative to private mortgage insurance. These loans are available for low- to moderate-income borrowers in eligible rural areas. USDA loans do not require a down payment or private mortgage insurance.

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans

FHA loans are insured by the Federal Housing Administration and are designed to help borrowers with lower credit scores and smaller down payments. While FHA loans come with their own mortgage insurance premium, it can be more flexible and potentially more affordable than private mortgage insurance.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

How to Cancel Private Mortgage Insurance

Automatic cancellation

In some cases, private mortgage insurance is automatically canceled when the borrower’s loan-to-value ratio reaches 78% based on the original purchase price. This means that, over time, as the borrower pays down the mortgage and the home appreciates in value, PMI will be automatically canceled without the borrower having to take any action.

Requesting cancellation

Borrowers can also request the cancellation of private mortgage insurance once their loan-to-value ratio reaches 80% based on the current market value of the home. This typically requires an appraisal to determine the home’s value. The borrower will need to contact their lender to initiate the cancellation process and provide any necessary documentation.

Reaching the 80% LTV ratio

Reaching the 80% loan-to-value ratio is key to canceling private mortgage insurance. This can be achieved by making regular mortgage payments, paying down the principal balance of the loan, and potentially through home value appreciation. It is important for borrowers to monitor their loan-to-value ratio and take steps to cancel PMI once they become eligible.

Tips for Managing Private Mortgage Insurance

Understand your options

It is important to thoroughly understand the options available when it comes to private mortgage insurance. Familiarize yourself with the requirements, costs, and alternatives to PMI. This will enable you to make informed decisions about your mortgage and ensure that you are taking advantage of any available options to manage PMI.

Monitor your loan-to-value ratio

Keep a close eye on your loan-to-value ratio, especially if you are aiming to cancel private mortgage insurance. Regularly review your mortgage statement, check your home’s current value, and assess how much equity you have in your home. This will help you determine when you reach the 80% threshold and can take steps to cancel your PMI.

Improve your credit score

A higher credit score can lead to more favorable terms when it comes to private mortgage insurance. Take steps to improve your credit score by paying bills on time, reducing debt, and correcting any errors on your credit report. A better credit score may result in lower PMI premiums or potentially qualifying for alternative mortgage products without PMI.

Consider refinancing

If you have built up equity in your home or have significantly improved your credit score, consider refinancing your mortgage. Refinancing may allow you to secure a new loan with better terms, potentially leading to the elimination of private mortgage insurance. Evaluate the costs and benefits of refinancing, taking into account factors such as closing costs and interest rates.

Frequently Asked Questions about Private Mortgage Insurance

Is private mortgage insurance tax-deductible?

As of 2021, private mortgage insurance is no longer tax-deductible for most borrowers. However, there are some exceptions for borrowers who meet certain income requirements. It is always recommended to consult with a tax professional or financial advisor to understand the specific tax implications of private mortgage insurance in your situation.

Can private mortgage insurance be transferred?

Private mortgage insurance is not transferable between loans or properties. If you refinance your mortgage or purchase a new property, you will need to obtain a new private mortgage insurance policy. The terms of the new policy will be based on the specific loan and property.

Can your private mortgage insurance premium increase?

Private mortgage insurance premiums typically do not increase over the life of the loan. However, overall mortgage payments may change due to other factors such as changes in property taxes or interest rates. It is important to review your mortgage statement regularly to ensure you are aware of any changes in the monthly payment amount.

When does private mortgage insurance end?

Private mortgage insurance ends when the loan-to-value ratio reaches the required threshold, typically 80% based on the home’s current market value. At this point, the borrower may be eligible to cancel the private mortgage insurance and stop paying the associated premiums. It is important to follow the specific guidelines of your loan and contact the lender to initiate the cancellation process.


In summary, private mortgage insurance (PMI) is a type of insurance that provides financial protection to lenders when borrowers have a low down payment. PMI allows borrowers to access homeownership with a smaller down payment, but it comes with additional costs and requirements. It is important for borrowers to weigh the benefits and drawbacks of PMI and explore alternative options that may be available. By understanding the requirements, monitoring the loan-to-value ratio, and taking steps to improve creditworthiness, borrowers can effectively manage PMI. Ultimately, PMI can be canceled once the loan-to-value ratio reaches the necessary threshold, giving borrowers the opportunity to reduce their monthly mortgage expenses.

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