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Ask Eli: It’s a Great Time to Remove Mortgage Insurance

This regularly scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Arlington resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist. Enjoy!

Question: Can you explain what mortgage insurance is and if there’s any way to get rid of it?

Answer:

What is Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance is an additional monthly or upfront fee added to a mortgage, usually set at .1% to 1% of the loan amount, offered by either the government or private insurance companies to enable lenders to offer down payments below 20%. Mortgage insurance covers lenders for losses up to a certain amount if a borrower defaults on their mortgage.

Note: There are some sub-20% down payment products on the market for high-earning, high-credit borrowers that do not require mortgage insurance.

There are two types of mortgage insurance available:

  1. FHA mortgage insurance: FHA is a government program, which requires a down payment of as little as 3.5% of the sales price, and mortgage insurance is required on FHA mortgages, regardless of the amount of down payment.
  2. Conventional mortgage insurance: Conventional mortgages are home loans that are not insured or guaranteed by the government, as in the case of the FHA mortgage example. Many conventional loans are sold to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac and thus follow these entities’ “conforming” guidelines.

Conventional or private mortgage insurance enables lenders to offer conventional loans with a minimum down payment as low as 3.0% to 5.0%. Most 3.0% down conventional mortgages are restricted to low-to-moderate income borrowers.

How is the Fee Determined?

The cost of mortgage insurance will vary greatly, depending upon several factors:

  • The amount of the down payment
  • The qualifications of the borrower like credit score and debt-to-income ratio
  • Whether the mortgage is an FHA or conventional loan
  • The type of the mortgage such as a 30-year or 15-year loan

Mortgage Insurance Can Be Removed

If you have a conventional loan (not FHA), you can request that your mortgage insurance premium be removed from your payments once your equity reaches or exceeds 20% (loan-to-value/LTV is 80% or less). This can be a result of a natural equity increase through your monthly payments and/or through appreciating home value.

To qualify, you cannot have a late payment in the last two years, and if you are making your case based on a higher market value of your home, the loan servicer will require a new appraisal (cost is usually around $500).

For conventional loans, your mortgage insurance is automatically removed once your LTV reaches 78% (equity reaches 22%) or you reach the midway point in your loan (15 years into a 30-year loan). Prior to hitting a 78% LTV, it is up to your loan servicer to decide whether to approve the removal of your mortgage insurance payment.

Key Takeaway

Given how much townhomes and single-family homes have appreciated recently, if you have mortgage insurance and have not made a late payment in the last two years, it’s a good idea to contact your loan servicer about having your home reappraised to see if you now have 22% or more equity and qualify for automatic removal or have 20% to 21.99% equity and can apply for early removal.

If you’d like to discuss buying, selling, investing or renting, don’t hesitate to reach out to me at [email protected].

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column or to discuss buying, selling, renting, or investing, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at EliResidential.com. Call me directly at 703-539-2529.

Video summaries of some articles can be found on YouTube on the Ask Eli, Live With Jean playlist.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with RLAH Real Estate, 4040 N Fairfax Dr #10C Arlington VA 22203. 703)-390-9460.

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