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Private Mortgage Insurance – Q & A

Q: What is PMI?
A: Private mortgage insurance, or PMI, insures the lender against a default. It is required when the borrower is making a cash down payment of less than 20 percent of the purchase price.

PMI costs vary from one mortgage insurance firm to another, but premiums usually run about 0.50 percent of the loan amount for the first year of the loan. Most PMI premiums are a bit lower for subsequent years. The first year’s mortgage insurance premium is usually paid in advance at the close of escrow, and there is usually a separate PMI approval process.

Lenders generally turn to a list of companies with whom they regularly work when lining up private mortgage insurance.

In most cases, PMI can be dropped after the loan to value ration drops below 80 percent. Find out from your lender what procedure to follow to have PMI removed when your equity reaches 20 percent.

For homeowners who have improved their properties and believe that their equity has increased as a result of these improvements, refinancing the property at a loan-to-value ratio of 80 percent or less is another possible way of eliminating PMI payments.


Q: Is PMI always required on low-down home loans?
A: A growing number of private lenders are loosening up their requirements for low-down-payment loans. But private mortgage insurance, or PMI, usually is required on very low-down loans.

Q: What does PMI cost?
A: PMI costs vary from one mortgage insurance firm to another, but premiums usually run about 0.50 percent of the loan amount for the first year of the loan. Most PMI premiums are a bit lower for subsequent years. The first year’s mortgage insurance premium is usually paid in advance at the closing.

Q: How do I drop PMI?
A: In some states, the loans have to be at least two years old, and the borrower can not have made any late payments in the last year in order to drop private mortgage insurance. In addition, the loan-to-value ratio must be less than 75 percent. Some state disclosure laws require lenders to notify borrowers after the close of escrow whether the borrower has the right to cancel private mortgage insurance. This eventually may be a federal requirement as well.

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