Mortgage insurance lowers the risk to the lender of making a loan to you, so you can qualify for a loan that you might not otherwise be able to get.
Typically, borrowers making a down payment of less than 20 percent of the purchase price of the home will need to pay for mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance is also typically required on FHA and USDA loans. If you are required to pay mortgage insurance, it will be included in your total monthly payment that you make to your lender, your costs at closing, or both.
There are several different kinds of loans available to borrowers with low down payments. Depending on what kind of loan you get, you’ll pay for mortgage insurance in different ways:
If you get a conventional loan, your lender may arrange for mortgage insurance with a private company. Private mortgage insurance (PMI) rates vary by down payment amount and credit score but are generally cheaper than FHA rates for borrowers with good credit. Most private mortgage insurance is paid monthly, with little or no initial payment required at closing. Under certain circumstances, you can cancel your PMI.
Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Loan
If you get a Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loan, your mortgage insurance premiums are paid to the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). FHA mortgage insurance is required for all FHA loans. It costs the same no matter your credit score, with only a slight increase in price for down payments less than five percent. FHA mortgage insurance includes both an upfront cost, paid as part of your closing costs, and a monthly cost, included in your monthly payment.
If you don’t have enough cash on hand to pay the upfront fee, you are allowed to roll the fee into your mortgage instead of paying it out of pocket. If you do this, your loan amount and the overall cost of your loan will increase.
US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Loan
If you get a US Department of Agriculture (USDA) loan, the program is similar to the Federal Housing Administration, but typically cheaper. You’ll pay for the insurance both at closing and as part of your monthly payment. Like with FHA loans, you can roll the upfront portion of the insurance premium into your mortgage instead of paying it out of pocket, doing so increases both your loan amount and your overall costs.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA) Loan
If you get a Department of Veterans’ Affairs (VA)-backed loan, the VA guarantee replaces mortgage insurance, and functions similarly. With VA-backed loans, which are loans intended to help service members, veterans, and their families, there is no monthly mortgage insurance premium.
When using a second “piggyback” mortgage,the loans are structured differently. For example, the same borrower might pay for the home with: a 10 percent down payment, 80 percent main mortgage, and a 10 percent “piggyback” second mortgage. In this scenario, the borrower is still borrowing 90 percent of the value of the home, but the main mortgage is only 80 percent. The “piggyback” second mortgage typically carries a higher interest rate, which is also often adjustable.
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Source: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)