Homebuyers with a down payment of less than 20 percent are usually required to get private mortgage insurance, or PMI. This is an added annual cost — about .03 to 1.5 percent of your mortgage.
How much you pay in PMI depends on your credit score and the amount of your down payment. PMI can tack on hundreds of dollars to your monthly housing bill. The bright side is that there are ways you can get rid of it.
“Private mortgage insurance protects the lender from the elevated risk presented by a borrower that made a small down payment,” says Greg McBride, CFA, Bankrate’s chief financial analyst. “Once the borrower has a sufficient equity cushion, the PMI will be removed.”
How to get rid of PMI
There are options for homeowners eager to save money each month by losing those costly PMI payments — or even avoiding them altogether (even without making a 20-percent down payment). Here are a few of them.
Pay down your mortgage balance
For folks with PMI, you must have at least 20 percent equity in the home to eliminate it. You may ask the lender to cancel PMI when you have paid down the mortgage balance to 80 percent of the home’s original appraised value. When the balance drops to 78 percent, the mortgage servicer is required to drop the PMI.
Calculating how much you need to pay down is straightforward. Simply multiply the purchase price of your home by 80 percent. For example, if the purchase price was $300,000, then you would multiply .80 by 300,000. The result is $240,000 — which is the minimum your loan balance needs to be before you can get rid of the PMI.
You can prepay the principal on your loan, reducing the balance, which helps you build equity faster and save on interest payments. Even $50 a month can mean a dramatic drop in your loan balance over time.
Some people choose to apply a lump sum toward their principal or even make an extra mortgage payment per year. That will get you to the 20 percent equity level faster.
Refinance your mortgage to get out of PMI
When mortgage rates are low, as they are now, refinancing can help you to not only get rid of PMI, but reduce your monthly interest payments. It’s a double dose of savings.
The refinancing tactic works if your home has gained substantial value since the last time you got a mortgage. For example, if you bought your house four years ago with a 10 percent down payment, and the home’s value has risen 15 percent since then, you now owe less than 80 percent of what the home is worth. Under these circumstances, you can refinance into a new loan without having to pay for PMI.
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Resource: Natalie Campisi (Bankrate)