Down payments for a new home ideally are around 20% of the total cost of the
. For many, that is an overwhelming amount of money to have to pay at
once. You might be thinking that, since you can’t shell out that kind of cash,
you’re never going to be able to get a house. Private mortgage insurance (PMI)
can be a means for people in this position to get a home.
How Does PMI Work?
It’s important for you,
as the homebuyer, to know that PMI isn’t in any way designed to protect you. It
protects the lender. Putting down a lower down payment (as little as 0-5% with a
PMI) is risky for the lender, so they secure a PMI policy for you, for which you
pay a fee along with your monthly loan
. Say you make a 5% down payment at closing. If you were to default
on the loan, the lender would receive (from the PMI) the difference between an
ideal down payment of 20% and what you actually put down, in this case, 15%.
How Much Does PMI Cost?
PMI payments can be pretty expensive, so
if there’s any way you can avoid getting it, you should. That being said, just
like with any insurance, premiums for PMI policies vary but usually fall between
0.5% and 1% of the loan. For a $150,000 loan with a $7,500 down payment, you’d
probably pay between $80 and $120 per month for your PMI.
The good news for you if you have to get PMI is
that you don’t have to retain it all the way through the term of the loan. Once
the equity in your home is under the 80% loan-to-value ratio (LTV) (meaning you
owe less than 80% of the home’s value), you can cancel your PMI. Here are some
ways you might reach that point:
- Increase in home value: If you’re home value goes up, and you reach
the required LTV of 80%, it becomes possible for you to cancel your PMI. One
great way to raise your home’s value is to remodel.
- Pay down your mortgage: You can pay your mortgage down until it’s
under the 80% LTV and then cancel your PMI.
- Automatic termination: You can arrange for your PMI to be cancelled
automatically once you’ve reached a 20% equity in your mortgage. In addition,
the Homeowner’s Protection Act of 1998 requires lenders to terminate your PMI
when you reach a 78% loan-to-value ratio.
Make sure you keep an eye on
these things, so you can be sure your PMI gets cancelled when it’s possible. You
don’t want to be making payments for insurance that you don’t need.
Other Information About PMI
- Perhaps one of the most important things about PMI is that premiums are
tax-deductible for buyers whose annual household income is $100,000 or less.
This means that, while your up-front cost may be high, you’ll get it back in
your tax return.
- Your lender is required by law to remind you annually of your right to
request cancellation of your PMI.
- PMI premiums are fixed. You won’t have to worry about your premiums going
up. Of course, they won’t go down either.
Private mortgage insurance
isn’t ideal, but it can be a huge benefit to those who need it. It makes it
possible for low-income families to get a home. The inconvenience of paying a
monthly fee pales in comparison to being able to put a roof over the heads of
you and your family.