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What is PMI and When Do I Need to Pay PMI?

What is PMI and When Do I Need to Pay PMI?

Michael Jensen, Mortgage and Finance Guru
, Mortgage and Finance Guru

    If you make a down payment of less than 20% when you buy a home, lenders typically require the borrower to purchase private mortgage insurance, which is also known as PMI.  PMI is insurance against loss from mortgage default provided to the lender by a private insurance company.  In other words, the borrower pays for an insurance policy that protects the lender in case you cannot pay your mortgage.  Please note that PMI does not protect the borrower if you fail to pay your mortgage or lose your home to foreclosure.  PMI typically requires the borrower to pay an ongoing monthly fee when you make your mortgage payment or a one-time upfront fee, which is relatively uncommon.

    The borrower is only required to pay PMI as long as the loan-to-value (LTV) ratio is greater than the lender's maximum LTV threshold which is 75% - 80% depending on how long you have had the mortgage.  The LTV ratio represents the ratio of the mortgage amount to the fair market value of the property and is inversely related to the down payment the borrower makes.  For example, if the borrower makes a 5.0% down payment, the LTV ratio is 95.0% and if the borrower makes a 15.0% down payment the LTV ratio is 85.0%.  The LTV ratio decreases as the borrower pays down the mortgage balance over time or if the property value increases.  The borrower can request to have the PMI fee cancelled when he or she believes the LTV ratio is below the maximum threshold.

  • CalculatorUse our DOWN PAYMENT CALCULATOR to determine the LTV ratio based on your down payment
  • PMI rates vary depending on several factors including:

    • Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio: the higher the LTV ratio, the higher the PMI fee
    • Credit Score: the higher your credit score, the lower the PMI fee
    • Mortgage Term: the shorter the mortgage term, the lower the PMI fee
    • Mortgage Type: fixed rate mortgages have lower PMI fees than other mortgages such as adjustable rate mortgages (ARM)
    • Mortgage Amount: the PMI fee is higher for mortgage amounts greater than $650,000
    • Cash-Out Refinancing: there is an additional PMI fee for a cash-out refinancing
    • Investment Property / Second Home: there is an additional PMI fee if the property being finance is an investment property or second home
  • Ongoing Monthly PMI
  • If you are required to pay PMI, borrowers typically select the ongoing fee option, which is an extra monthly payment on top of your mortgage payment.  For a conventional loan, if you decide to pay for PMI on an ongoing monthly basis, you do not pay a one-time upfront PMI fee.  As outlined in the table below, the ongoing PMI fee depends on many factors including your credit score and LTV ratio.  It is important to highlight that the ongoing PMI is based on your mortgage balance at the beginning of the year, not your original loan amount, so it declines over time as you pay down your loan.

    The table below shows the ongoing PMI fees for a thirty year fixed rate mortgage, as a percentage of the loan amount.  The table demonstrates how ongoing PMI fees vary by LTV ratio and credit score with higher credit scores and lower LTV ratios having lower PMI rates.  For example, according to the PMI pricing table below, a borrower with a 700 credit score and 97% LTV ratio pays an ongoing PMI fee of .99% of the loan amount.  if your mortgage balance is $100,000 and the ongoing PMI fee is .99%, then your monthly PMI fee is $82.50 ($100,000 * 1.115% = $990 / 12 months = $82.50 per month).

    Please note that the table below shows the ongoing PMI fees for a 30 year fixed rate mortgage at the maximum coverage level. The PMI fee is higher for adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs) although a mortgage with an interest rate that does not adjust within the first five years is considered a fixed rate mortgage for the purpose of calculating PMI (so a 5/1 and 10/1 ARM are considered fixed mortgages). The required ongoing PMI fee is also lower for mortgages with terms of 20 years or less.

    Finally, there are different coverage levels for PMI, or how much of the mortgage is protected by the insurance.  For example, for a mortgage with an LTV ratio between 95.01% and 97.00% you can purchase PMI that covers 18%, 25% and 35% of the loan balance.  The amount of coverage required depends on the LTV ratio, mortgage program and lender policy.  Most lenders and mortgage programs require maximum PMI coverage levels which are 35% of the loan amount (for LTV ratios between 95.01% and 97.00%), 30% of the loan amount (for LTV ratio between 90.01% and 95.00%), 25% of the loan amount (for LTV ratio between 85.01% and 90.00%) and 12% of the loan amount (LTV ratio between 80.01% and 85.00%).  Some programs require lower coverage levels which reduces the PMI fee.  The table below shows the PMI fee as a percentage of the loan amount based on the maximum required coverage levels.  

    • PMI fees vary mortgage and lender. Please consult your lender to determine the PMI fees that apply to your mortgage
  • Ongoing PMI Fees for 30 Year Fixed Rate Mortgage
  •   Credit Score
    LTV 760+ 740-759 720-739 700-719 680-699 660-679 640-659 620-639
    95.01% - 97%
    90.01% - 95%
    85.01% - 90%
    85% and below
  • Source: Genworth (June 2018)

  • How to Have PMI Removed
  • Please note that your lender automatically removes PMI when your LTV ratio is 78% based on your scheduled mortgage payments and the value of the property when you obtained your mortgage.  This is called cancellable PMI.  For example, if you obtained a $90,000 mortgage on a property that was appraised at $100,000 at the time your mortgage closed, the lender automatically removes the PMI when your mortgage balance reaches $78,000 (78% LTV ratio) as you pay down your loan over time according to the original amortization schedule.  In this example it takes approximately six years and nine months to reach a 78% LTV ratio (assuming a 30 year fixed rate mortgage).

    In all other circumstances, the borrower must request the removal of PMI.  Examples of situations where borrowers should request the removal of PMI include:

    • A major home renovation or remodeling that significantly increases the value of a property
    • Significant property price appreciation in your neighborhood based on recent home sales
    • If the borrower overpays, or accelerates, the mortgage which reduces the principal balance faster than the scheduled loan amortization

    The required LTV ratio to remove PMI depends on how long you have had the mortgage, which is also referred to as "seasoning."  For example, if you obtained a mortgage two years ago then the seasoning of the mortgage is two years.  With most mortgages, if the seasoning is between two and five years the LTV ratio must be 75% or less for PMI to be removed. If the seasoning of the mortgage is greater than five years then LTV ratio must be 80% or less, which means it is easier to cancel the PMI.

    Lenders typically do not remove PMI within the first year of a mortgage even if the value of your property has increased significantly or your loan balance has decreased significantly.  Additionally, in most cases the lender do not remove PMI within the first two years of a mortgage unless the borrower has completed renovations that significantly increase the property value.  If the seasoning of the mortgage is less than two years then the LTV ratio must be 75% or less. 

    If you believe that your LTV ratio is lower than the threshold then you should contact your loan servicer -- the company to which you make your mortgage payment -- and request to have the PMI removed.  To request the removal of PMI we recommend that you send a registered, return receipt letter to your lender. Your letter should include information that supports your request such as property values and comparable home sales in your area as well as your outstanding mortgage balance and estimated LTV ratio. After you receive confirmation that the lender has received your letter follow-up by calling the lender and initiating the process. Lenders delay removing PMI as long as possible so you need to be proactive and assertive.

    The lender orders an appraisal report from an approved appraiser to determine the current market value of your property.  The borrower is required to pay the appraisal fee which generally costs $400 - $750 depending on the approximate value of the property.  The lender has 30 days after receiving the appraisal to inform the borrower if the request to remove PMI has been approved or denied.

  • Great Mortgage IdeaRequesting the removal of PMI can be a time-consuming process and you may be required to pay for an appraisal but canceling PMI can save your a significant amount of money so it is usually worth the effort
  • If the appraised property value supports an LTV ratio less than the required threshold of 75% or 80%, the PMI is cancelled and removed from your monthly payment.  If the appraised property value falls below your expectations and the LTV ratio is greater than than the maximum threshold you can request a second appraisal but you are required to pay another appraisal fee.  Before you request to have PMI removed, we recommend that you assess the approximate value of your property by contacting a real estate agent or using a property value website.  Although you cannot rely solely on the property values provided by these websites, they provide a rough estimation of what your home is worth.

    In order for PMI to be removed the borrower must be current on the mortgage and not have had a payment over 30 days late within the prior year or over 60 days late within the prior two years.

    Watch our PMI video tutorial to learn more about private mortgage insurance and if you are required to pay it.

  • FREEandCLEAR Mortgage Instructional Video

    What is PMI and When Do I Need to Pay It? Instructional Video

  • Lender Paid PMI
  • It is important to highlight that some lenders may charge a higher mortgage rate instead of charging PMI -- this is often referred to as lender paid PMI.  For example, the lender may offer you an mortgage rate of 4.000% if you make a down payment of 20% and an interest rate of 4.500% if you make a down payment of 10%.  In many cases paying a higher interest rate by selecting lender paid PMI can cost more than borrower paid PMI because the you pay the higher rate over the life of the loan unless you are able to refinance.

  • Great Mortgage IdeaUnlike borrower paid PMI, you cannot request to have lender paid PMI removed or your mortgage rate lowered -- you are stuck paying the rate as long as you have the mortgage
  • If you decide to make a down payment of less than 20% and the lender does not require that you pay PMI, be sure to ask if lender paid PMI is included in the interest rate, and if the answer is yes, ask what the interest rate would be if you paid PMI separately.  If you pay for PMI separately, the interest rate could be lower and you will be able to have the PMI fee removed when your LTV ratio drops below the 75% - 80% threshold.  This could save you a significant amount of interest expense over the life of your mortgage.

  • One-Time, Up-Front PMI
  • Although it is relatively uncommon, some borrowers select to pay a one-time, upfront PMI fee.  This is also referred to as a single premium PMI fee.  If you decide to pay for PMI upfront, you do not need to pay PMI on an ongoing monthly basis.  Like ongoing monthly PMI, one-time PMI depends on several factors including your credit score and LTV ratio.  If you decide to pay for PMI upfront, you cannot get it refunded, reduced or removed, even if your LTV ratio drops below 80%.  The table below shows the estimated one-time, upfront PMI fee for a $300,000 30 year fixed rate mortgage with various LTV ratios.

  • Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV) PMI Fee (as a % of Loan Amount) Up-Front PMI Fee
    >95% 2.75% $8,250
    95% 2.16% $6,480
    90% 1.48% $4,440
    85% 0.64% $1,920
  • PMI fees based on a borrower credit score of 720 - 739.  Source: Genworth (June 2018)

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    Data provided by Informa Research Services. Payments do not include amounts for taxes and insurance premiums. Click for more information on rates and product details.
  • Sources

    PMI Requirements:

    PMI Rates:

About the author

Michael Jensen, Mortgage and Finance Guru

Michael is the co-founder of FREEandCLEAR. Michael possesses extensive knowledge about mortgages and finance and has been writing about mortgages for nearly a decade. His work has been featured in leading national and industry publications. More about Michael


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