How to Avoid Mortgage Insurance

Three Methods:Changing Your Loan-to-Value RatioRaising Your Credit ScoreAdding Insurance to Interest

Typically, if you buy a house with a down payment of less than 20 percent of the home's value, or refinance with less than 20 percent equity, the lender will require you to purchase private mortgage insurance, or PMI, which protects the lender in the event you fail to make your mortgage payments.[1] PMI is expensive, and once you start paying it, you can't cancel it until your loan balance is 80 percent or less of the home's value. In addition, changes to IRS rules mean that as of 2013 you can no longer deduct PMI premiums from your federal taxes. However, you often can avoid mortgage insurance as long as you have a down payment or home equity of at least 10 percent.[2]

Method 1
Changing Your Loan-to-Value Ratio

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    Calculate your loan-to-value ratio. Your lender typically will look at your loan-to-value ratio to determine whether to require PMI on your mortgage.[3]
    • PMI insures the lender, not you – although you pay the premiums. The insurance protects the lender by providing a partial reimbursement of its investment if you default on your loan.[4]
    • Typically lenders require PMI if you make a down payment that is less than 20 percent of your home's value, which means you're asking the lender to finance more than 80 percent of the home's price.[5]
    • For example, if your home costs $250,000 and you have a down payment of $50,000, your down payment is 20 percent and lenders typically won't require you to pay PMI. However, if you can only afford a down payment of $20,000, this means you're asking the lender to finance 92 percent of the purchase price. In that case, most lenders would require you to pay PMI.
    • If you have poor credit or are otherwise considered a high-risk borrower, lenders may require PMI even if you have a larger down payment. Some ways you may be considered high risk include a history of unsteady income or recent foreclosures.[6]
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    Get a piggyback mortgage. You may be able to avoid mortgage insurance by using a second mortgage to make a larger down payment on your house.
    • A piggyback mortgage typically is taken out at the same time as the original mortgage. The first mortgage covers 80 percent of your purchase price, while the second, or piggyback, mortgage covers the other 10 percent, enabling you to make a 10 percent downpayment.[7]
    • Some piggyback mortgages also follow an 80-5-15 split, where your first mortgage is for 80 percent while the second is for 5 percent and you make a 15 percent downpayment.[8][9]
    • Keeping the loan-to-value ratio of the first mortgage at under 80 percent usually eliminates that lender's need for PMI.[10]
    • In some cases, you may be able to avoid PMI this way and also deduct the interest from both loans on your taxes. However, keep in mind that some piggy-back loans may have shorter terms or adjustable interest rates.[11][12][13]
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    Get a second appraisal. Some lenders are willing to consider a second appraisal when assessing the value of your home to determine whether PMI is necessary.
    • You typically must pay between $300 and $500 to get an appraisal.[14] However, since you may pay anywhere from $50 to $200 a month or more for PMI, the one-time cost potentially could save you thousands.[15]
    • Before you get the house re-appraised, find out from your lender if they would be willing to accept your second appraisal of your house when calculating your loan-to-value ratio.
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    Pay a higher down payment. Lenders typically don't require PMI if you're making a down payment that is greater than 20 percent of the home's value.[16]
    • While this is the easiest way to avoid paying PMI, it often isn't feasible. While some home buyers simply want to make a lower down payment, most people choose a lower down payment because they can't afford to pay more.[17]
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    Prepay on your loan. If you can't make a higher downpayment, consider making additional payments on your loan to more quickly decrease your loan balance in relation to your home's value.
    • Lenders are required by law to tell you how long it will take to pay down your loan sufficiently that you can request a cancellation of the PMI. You can accelerate that time frame by making additional payments on your mortgage.[18]

Method 2
Raising Your Credit Score

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    Get a copy of your credit report. Federal law entitles you to one free credit report each year.[19]
    • Lenders often require PMI for high-risk borrowers, so be on the look-out for items such as judgments or accounts in collections, which can lower your credit score and place you in a higher-risk category.[20]
    • If you have negative marks on your credit report, see what you can do to remedy those problems or get those entries removed.[21] You may be able to talk to the original creditor and work out a better payment plan to improve your score and credit history over time.
    • Delinquent accounts and collections can have a tremendous negative impact on your credit score.[22] However, cleaning up your credit after past difficulties also can show lenders that you're owning up to past mistakes and taking responsibility for your finances.
    • Keep in mind that any delinquencies or public judgments will remain on your report for seven years, although your credit score tends to place more emphasis on more recent activity.[23] Even if you pay off a collections account, the information about the account will remain on your report.[24]
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    Have any errors on your report corrected. Contact the credit bureau to have any erroneous items adjusted or removed from your report.[25]
    • The three major credit bureaus allow you to file a dispute online. You must provide details regarding the item you believe is in error and why you dispute the information, as well as providing documentation that backs up your claim that the item is on your credit report in error.[26]
    • Once you've filed your dispute, allow the credit bureau 30 days to respond.[27]
    • Once you've corrected your report, you also should contact the company that provided the information to the credit bureau and initiate a dispute there. Otherwise, they may report the same information again. They also may have reported the same information to other credit bureaus.[28]
    • Many states allow you an additional free credit report after you've filed a dispute so you can verify that the erroneous entry was removed or corrected.[29]
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    Pay down your credit cards. Paying down consumer credit cards to reduce your debt-to-income ratio can raise your credit score.[30]
    • The best way to improve your credit score is to keep your balances on any open revolving credit accounts as low as possible. High outstanding debt can have a negative effect on your credit score.[31]
    • If you pay off an open account, don't close it – you'll lose that credit that was previously available to you, which can negatively impact your debt-to-credit ratio and hurt your credit score.[32]
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    Open up a new line of credit. Although initially this will temporarily lower your credit score, opening a new line of credit increases the amount of credit available to you, which if used responsibly while paying down other debt will give you a better debt-to-income ratio.
    • While you don't want to apply for credit cards needlessly, you can use additional lines of credit to improve your debt-to-credit ratio, since open revolving accounts typically improve your credit score.[33]
    • Generally, someone with a good mix of credit cards who has handled them responsibly is considered a lower-risk borrower than someone with no credit cards or with a negative payment history.[34]

Method 3
Adding Insurance to Interest

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    Ask about the possibility of lender-paid mortgage insurance. With lender-paid mortgage insurance, the cost of the PMI premium is added to your interest rate.
    • If you are able to get lender-paid mortgage insurance, you still must pay a higher interest rate over the life of the loan – even after your equity reaches 20 percent and you could have cancelled PMI – and the insurance amount may not be tax-deductible.[35]
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    Offer to buy out the PMI by paying a higher interest rate. If you have a lower credit score, the lender may be willing to take on the risk without insurance if you are willing to pay a higher interest rate.
    • The point of PMI is to allow you to finance a home at an affordable interest rate. However, if you're able to afford a slightly higher rate, it may be better for you in the long run because you can deduct mortgage interest payments from your taxes, but you cannot deduct PMI payments.[36]
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    Consider borrowing from a credit union or through a special program. Because credit unions are non-profit, they often have more options available for homebuyers who don't have the credit other lending companies desire, or who cannot afford larger down payments.[37]
    • Many credit unions will be willing to waive PMI or provide other cost-saving options for buyers with decent credit.[38]
    • In addition to credit unions, many banks offer special programs for certain types of buyers, including first-time home buyers or people willing to buy in a certain neighborhood.These programs may allow for low down payments and waive PMI. However, keep in mind you typically need pretty good credit to qualify for these programs.[39]

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