PMI Insurance: How Down Payment Size Impacts Your Mortgage

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Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is an insurance policy that protects lenders in case the borrower (homebuyer) forecloses on their home because they’ve defaulted on their mortgage payments. It's a common requirement for homebuyers who finance more than 80% of their home's value.

Before you close on your loan, learn how PMI works and what steps you need to take before you can cancel your PMI payments.

Key Takeaways

  • Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is required for borrowers who put down less than 20% on a conventional loan, serving as a safeguard for lenders against loan default.
  • Lenders take on more risk when they front a larger percentage of the property purchase and charging for PMI helps them offset this risk.
  • PMI may be canceled once the borrower pays down about 20% of the home's appraisal value.
  • PMI rates range between 0.58% to 1.86% of the annual loan balance, influenced by factors such as the borrower's credit score, down payment size and type of mortgage (fixed-rate or adjustable-rate).
  • PMI can be avoided by making a 20% down payment or opting for government-backed loans like VA and USDA loans which don't require mortgage insurance.

What Is PMI?

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is a type of mortgage insurance typically required when you put less than 20% down when you take out a conventional loan.[1] Your mortgage lender will require PMI as part of your mortgage because they are taking on more risk when they approve a loan where they are financing 80% or more of the property purchase. Charging PMI premiums is one way for a lender to protect their investment in the event a borrower defaults on their mortgage payments.

How Does PMI Work?

The loan-to-value (LTV) ratio helps lenders determine whether or not to enforce PMI premiums as a condition of approving the loan. The LTV ratio is calculated by dividing the mortgage amount by the home's appraised value. To explain, let's use the following example:

  • Home appraisal value: $100,000
  • Down payment: $10,000

The loan-to-value ratio here is 90% (90,000/100,000). If the LTV is higher than 80%, then you will likely be subject to PMI payments. 

Fortunately, PMI requirements will not last your entire mortgage term. Once you've paid down around 20% of the appraisal value, you can request for the lender to terminate the PMI requirements.[2] In the example above, you can make this request once your mortgage principal balance reaches $80,000 (80% of the original property value of $100,000).

Is PMI Required by All Lenders?

Conventional mortgage lenders typically require PMI if you put a down payment of less than 20%, but this is not always the case. Government-backed agencies like the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) offer single-family housing loans without mortgage insurance.[3][4] They often require low to zero down payments and operate under different rules and regulations.

How Much Does PMI Cost?

Private mortgage insurance rates depend on whether you’re applying for lender-paid insurance (LPMI) or borrower-paid (BPMI) insurance.

With LPMI, you substitute monthly payments with higher interest rates for the entire life of your loan. BPMI is a monthly fee on top of your mortgage payment that can be terminated once you reach 20% of your home's equity. You cannot cancel LPMI payments.[5]

Your PMI costs vary by your loan program and other factors. According to the Urban Institute, PMI rates generally range from 0.58% to 1.86% of the annual loan balance broken down into monthly installments, with good-credit borrowers usually paying lower rates than poor-credit borrowers.[6]

You can use PMI calculators to estimate your PMI costs and monthly payments. Using the PMI calculator from Freddie Mac, we’ve provided estimated costs for a house valued at $380,000, with a mortgage term of 30 years and an interest rate of 7%:


5% Down




Monthly PMI Payment





Monthly Mortgage Payment (Principal, Interest and PMI)





What Factors Influence the Cost of PMI?

When applying for a mortgage, your lender will consider several factors to determine your PMI cost. Since PMI is based on the size of your loan balance, increasing your down payment can help lower your monthly payments.

Your credit history also plays a role. A higher credit score, which is usually an indicator of someone who is financially responsible and can make timely payments, can lead to lower PMI premiums. Conversely, a lower score may result in higher charges.[7]

How Do You Make a PMI Payment?

Homeowners can make their PMI payment via a single premium or split-premium. Single-premium PMI involves paying the entire insurance premium upfront in a single lump sum, eliminating the need for ongoing monthly payments. Keep in mind, if you choose this upfront payment method and later decide to move or refinance, you may not be eligible for a refund of this premium.[1]

On the other hand, split-premium PMI offers a blend of the two, where a portion of the insurance cost is paid upfront as a lump sum, and the remaining balance is paid in monthly installments. This allows for some degree of upfront cost reduction while spreading the rest of the payment over time, potentially offering a middle ground in terms of affordability and convenience.

Different lenders may present you with multiple PMI payment options. In some cases, PMI may involve a combination of both upfront and monthly payments. It's advisable to consult with your loan officer to help you understand the total costs associated with each option over various potential timeframes that align with your plans and financial situation.

Are There Advantages To Paying PMI?

The obvious benefit of paying PMI is that it gives homeowners a chance to buy a home without waiting to save up a large amount of money. Consider that 20% down for a home valued at the national median price of $391,800 is $78,360.[8] For some people, saving that kind of money isn’t feasible. 

Plus, saving for a down payment could mean missing out if the current housing market is offering low mortgage rates. Instead of waiting, you can move forward right away.

How To Stop Paying Private Mortgage Insurance

Buyers can cancel PMI through several methods, including requesting your lender to terminate the requirement, reappraising your home and refinancing.

Wait for Automatic Cancellation

Lenders will automatically cancel your PMI once you owe 78% of the home's original value.[2] The principal on your mortgage loan must be $78,000 for a home appraised at $100,000, for example.

Making extra payments on your loan principal allows you to build equity sooner. Write a note alongside any additional payments directing extra payments towards the principal balance instead of future payments. Lenders may consider early cancellation when the loan is no longer a high risk. They may also cancel after it has reached the midpoint of the amortization timeframe — for example, after 15 years into a 30-year mortgage loan.[5]

Request To Cancel PMI Sooner

Once you've paid down 20% of the home's appraisal value, you may ask your lender to cancel the PMI. To legally cancel your PMI, fulfill these criteria:[2]

  1. Submit a written request.
  2. Maintain a good payment history and make timely payments.
  3. Certify no junior liens (like a second mortgage) exist on your home.
  4. Prove that your property value hasn’t dropped below its original value, usually with an appraisal report (otherwise, you may not be able to cancel your PMI payments)

Reappraise Your Home

By reappraising your home, you can potentially remove PMI if the new appraisal shows a significant increase in your home's value, thus increasing your equity. For instance, if you bought a home for $200,000 with a 10% down payment, you initially had 10% equity. If the home's value rises to $300,000, your equity, including your down payment and the value increase, reaches $100,000 or 33.3% of the new value. This is well over the 20% threshold, allowing you to request your lender to move the PMI requirements.


Refinancing could cancel PMI if the new loan amount is less than 80% of the home's value. Plus, borrowers could save money at a lower rate. Refinancing involves fees and paying closing costs, so use a refinance calculator to determine if it's an excellent time to refinance.

How Can I Avoid Paying PMI?

The easiest way to avoid paying PMI is by putting down at least 20% on a home loan. Sometimes called "piggybacking," some buyers take out a second loan to cover the 20% down payment and make two different loan payments. There are also some mortgage loans that do not require PMI or the PMI is actually paid by the lender with higher interest rates typically being the tradeoff (LPMI).

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Is PMI tax-deductible?

You can no longer claim the itemized tax deduction for private mortgage insurance premiums paid on or after January 1, 2022.[9]

Is private mortgage insurance the same as home insurance?

No, they are different. Private mortgage insurance protects the mortgage lender in case the homeowner defaults on their mortgage payments, while homeowners insurance protects the home itself against perils like fire and break-ins and the homeowner for liability.

How long do you pay PMI?

You can request to cancel PMI once you owe 80% of your home’s original value. Otherwise, your lender should automatically cancel PMI once you reach 78% of the home’s original value or you’ve reached the month after the midpoint of your mortgage term.[2]

Can I cancel PMI if my home value increases?

You can cancel PMI if your home value increases, as this may raise your home equity above the 20% threshold typically required by lenders. Your lender will likely request an appraisal report to prove its appreciated value.[2]


  1. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “What Is Private Mortgage Insurance?” Accessed December 1, 2023.
  2. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. “When Can I Remove Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) From My Loan?” Accessed December 1, 2023.
  3. Department of Veteran Affairs. “Ten Things Most Veterans Don’t Know About VA Home Loans.” Accessed December 1, 2023.
  4. AskUSDA. “Is Private Mortgage Insurance Required for a Rural Development Single-Family Housing Loan?” Accessed Dec. 15, 2023.
  5. Blink Lending and Investments. “BPMI vs LPMI: Which Is Better for You?” Accessed December 1, 2023.
  6. Urban Institute. “Mortgage Insurance Data at a Glance 2023,” Page 35. Accessed December 1, 2023.
  7. Industrial Federal Credit Union. “How PMI and Credit Scores Are Linked,” Page 1. Accessed December 1, 2023.
  8. National Association of Realtors. “Research and Statistics.” Accessed December 1, 2023.
  9. Internal Revenue Service. “Publication 530 (2022), Tax Information for Homeowners.” Accessed December 1, 2023.

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