All You Need to Know about PMI

August 14, 2023

When you’re on the journey to becoming a homeowner, there are numerous terms and concepts to grasp. One such term is “PMI,” which stands for Private Mortgage Insurance. PMI plays a crucial role in the homebuying process, particularly for those who make smaller down payments. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the world of PMI, covering everything you need to know before taking the step towards homeownership.

What is PMI and Why Does It Exist?

Private Mortgage Insurance, or PMI, is a type of insurance that protects the lender in case the borrower defaults on their mortgage payments. It’s typically required when a homebuyer puts down less than 20% of the home’s purchase price as a down payment. PMI provides financial security to lenders, allowing them to offer mortgages to borrowers with smaller down payments.

How Does PMI Work?

PMI is usually a monthly premium that’s added to your mortgage payment. The cost of PMI can vary based on factors such as your credit score, the size of your down payment, and the type of mortgage you have. While PMI benefits the lender, it doesn’t offer any direct benefits to the borrower. However, it can make homeownership more accessible to those who may not have the means to make a larger down payment upfront.

When Does PMI End?

The good news is that PMI isn’t a permanent addition to your mortgage payments. Federal law requires lenders to automatically cancel PMI once your mortgage balance reaches 78% of the original home value, based on the initial amortization schedule. However, you can request to have PMI canceled earlier if you’ve made substantial home value improvements or if your home’s value has increased significantly.

Strategies to Avoid PMI or Eliminate It Sooner:

If you’re aiming to minimize or eliminate PMI, there are strategies to consider:

– Make a Larger Down Payment: Putting down 20% or more of the home’s purchase price eliminates the need for PMI.

– Consider a Piggyback Loan: In some cases, borrowers opt for an 80-10-10 loan structure, where they make a 10% down payment and take out two loans to avoid PMI.

– Refinance Your Mortgage: If your home’s value has increased and you’ve built up equity, refinancing might allow you to remove PMI from your new loan.

– Pay Down Your Mortgage Faster: Accelerating your mortgage payments can help you reach that 78% loan-to-value threshold sooner, leading to PMI cancellation.

Pros and Cons of PMI:

It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons of PMI when making your homebuying decisions:

– Pros: PMI can make homeownership accessible with a smaller down payment, allowing you to secure your dream home sooner.

– Cons: PMI adds an extra cost to your monthly mortgage payments, which can impact your overall budget. It’s not an investment in your property, and it doesn’t offer any direct benefits to you as the homeowner.


Understanding PMI is a crucial aspect of the homebuying journey, especially if you’re considering a smaller down payment. While PMI adds an additional cost, it can open doors to homeownership that might otherwise be closed. As you plan your home purchase, weigh the costs and benefits of PMI alongside your financial situation and long-term goals. Working with a knowledgeable mortgage professional can provide you with personalized guidance to navigate this aspect of the homebuying process confidently.