Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) FAQs

Woman researching mortgage insurance on laptop.

What is PMI?

Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, is required by most lenders if the borrower is unable to put down less than 20% of the appraised home value or sale price. This insurance provides some protection for the lender in cases where the borrower may default on the home loan. The borrower is paying the premiums on the insurance policy, and the lender is the beneficiary.

Are PMI and MIP the same thing?

While similar, there are differences between private mortgage insurance and FHA’s mortgage insurance premium or MIP. MIP is a government-administered mortgage insurance program that does have certain restrictions. The FHA has maximum regional loan limits that are lower than those with private mortgage insurance. So, it may be more expensive. Plus, FHA insurance lasts for the life of the loan, unlike private mortgage insurance which can be removed in most circumstances.

Who pays for mortgage insurance?

The lender makes the payment to the mortgage insurance company, although they will generally pass that cost on to the borrower. Typically, a portion of the mortgage insurance premium is paid upfront at closing, and the rest is paid as part of the monthly mortgage payment.

How is mortgage insurance paid?

Private mortgage insurance can be paid on either an annual, monthly, or single premium plan. Premiums will vary according to loan-to-value (LTV) ratio, type of loan, and amount of coverage required by the lender.

Can I cancel my mortgage insurance at some point?

Mortgage insurance is maintained at the option of the current owner of the mortgage. In many cases, the lender will allow cancellation of mortgage insurance when the loan is paid down to 80% of the original property value. However, lenders may take more than your home value into account to consider eliminating PMI. If you've had late payments in recent months, it may disqualify you from removing PMI earlier than is required by law. Lender’s requirements for this can vary state to state so contact your loan servicer directly to find available options.

Will the mortgage lender notify me when I can get rid of mortgage insurance?

If your loan balance has reached the 80/20 LTV mark, contact your mortgage servicer and ask them to remove the mortgage insurance. Under the Homeowners Protection Act, (or PMI Cancellation Act) mortgage lenders are required to get rid of PMI when the balance on your loan drops to 78%. (Note: the lender may require an appraisal to verify your home's loan-to-value.)

If mortgage insurance is canceled, will I receive a refund for pre-paid premiums?

If the mortgage insurance was financed at the time of origination and is canceled prior to its maturity you may be entitled to a refund if the refundable option was chosen at time of origination. However, if there was no refund/limited option, this would negate any option for a refund. When PMI is cancelled, the lender has 45 days to refund applicable premiums.

Can I choose the mortgage insurance company and compare rates?

No. You cannot choose the mortgage insurance company, negotiate premiums, shop for a provider. However, you can do that with homeowners insurance if you're looking to save more money on your monthly payments.

Can mortgage insurance be canceled on an FHA loan, after the LTV has reached 80% or less?

Please refer to your borrower about when you will be able to cancel your mortgage insurance.

How are mortgage insurance escrows applied to the payment?

Lenders collect monies on escrow and remits to PMI when the premium is due. Typically lenders collect 14 months of premiums at a home loan closing. Twelve months of the premium is paid to PMI as the initial premium. The remaining two months is used to start the escrow account. The borrower then pays a percentage going forward that is applied to the escrow account.

As my home equity goes up, will my mortgage insurance premiums go down?

Not usually. These questions will have to be answered by your lender because investor and state requirements have a wide variance. Click here to see active states for American Financing.

Is mortgage insurance required on investment properties?

PMI is available on 1 unit investment properties with only 15% required down payment.

Do lenders use mortgage insurance to approve high risk borrowers (e.g. self-employed)?

It is unlikely that your coverage would have any effect on the lender's ability to offer loans to those self-employed. Generally, mortgage insurance is required due to a low down payment.