Monday, June 23, 2008

What is PMI?

You have probably seen the initials PMI when you have applied for a home loan. If you are paying PMI, also known as Private Mortgage Insurance, it is probably because you put less than 20% down on your home mortgage.

PMI can be defined as an insurance that is required to protect the lender in the event the borrower defaults on their loan. PMI is paid for by the borrower and is included in each monthly mortgage payment. Private mortgage-insurance companies offer the insurance to lenders, who then are able to accept lower down payments than they would normally accept. The insurance then provides what the equity of a higher down payment would provide to cover a lender's losses in the unfortunate event of foreclosure. Therefore, without mortgage insurance, you might not be able to buy a home without a 20% down payment.

The cost of PMI increases as your down payment decreases. For example: The cost of PMI on a 10% down payment is less than the cost of PMI on a 5% down payment. Your PMI premium is normally added to your monthly mortgage payment.

The decision on when to cancel the private insurance coverage does not depend solely on the amount of equity in you home. The final say on terminating a private mortgage-insurance policy is reserved jointly for the lender and any investor who may have purchased an interest in the mortgage. However, in most cases, the lender will allow cancellation of mortgage insurance when the loan is paid down to 80% of the original property value. Some lenders may require that you pay PMI for one or two years before you may apply to remove it.

To cancel the PMI on your loan, you must contact your lender. In most cases, an appraisal will be required to determine the value of your property. You will probably also be required to pay for the cost of this appraisal. Another way of canceling the PMI on your loan is to refinance and to get a new loan without PMI.

At one time, homeowners didn't know they had the option of canceling their PMI. Then, in 1998, a new federal law called The Homeowner's Protection Act (HPA) required lenders or servicers to provide certain disclosures concerning PMI for loans secured by the consumer's primary residence obtained on or after July 29, 1999.

In the past, most lenders honored consumers' requests to drop PMI coverage if their loan balance was paid down to 80 percent of the property value and they had a good payment history. However, consumers were responsible for requesting cancellation and many consumers were not aware of this possibility. Consumers had to keep track of their loan balance to know if they had enough equity and they had to request that the lender discontinue requiring PMI coverage. In many cases, people failed to make this request even after they became eligible, and they paid unnecessary premiums ranging from $250 to $1,200 per year for several years. With the new law, both consumers and lenders share responsibility for how long PMI coverage is required.

Under HPA, you have the right to request cancellation of PMI when you pay down your mortgage to the point that it equals 80 percent of the original purchase price or appraised value of your home at the time the loan was obtained, whichever is less. You also need a good payment history, meaning that you have not been 30 days late with your mortgage payment within a year of your request, or 60 days late within two years. Your lender may require evidence that the value of the property has not declined below its original value and that the property does not have a second mortgage, such as a home equity loan.


Greg Sullivan is the President of http://www.electronicappraiser.com, a leading provider of home appraisals offering a nationwide personalized instant home appraisal service. For more information, please visit http://www.electronicappraiser.com

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