A Necessary Evil and A Little History Lesson

If you are like many people buying their first home, or subsequent home, it may be tough to come up with a large down payment or much of any down payment. Whether it’s just hard to save, debts are too high or you aren’t realizing enough equity from the sale of your home, down payment savings are tough to allocate.

Ideally, a 20% down payment is the goal to shoot for in order to avoid PMI or MI– private mortgage insurance or mortgage insurance. Reality is, most people, just don’t have that, so they must contend with the necessary evil of paying for mortgage insurance in their house payment.

But is PMI/MI really all that bad? First, let’s look at some history of down payments.   In the early 1900’s, down payments were commonly 40%- 50% for conventional financing – wow!  Of course, a house back then, may have only cost $5,000 – so $2,500 doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, BUT when annual incomes were approximately  $600-$700/year, that made coming up with that money hard, maybe even impossible

To help stimulate the economy, in 1934, FHA (Federal Housing Administration) came along with an alternative to conventional’s large down payments – they offered a minimum down payment.  With it, they charged mortgage insurance on an annual basis (factored monthly into the payment) and also collected an amount upfront called the Upfront Mortgage Insurance Premium (UFMIP), which is financed into the loan.  Throughout the history of FHA, the required down payment, annual MI and UFMIP amounts have adjusted to FHA’s needs (government loan type).

In the late 1950’s, conventional financing wanted to get in the game and make housing more affordable, so in came Private Mortgage Insurance companies (PMI). This insurance, paid for by the buyer, helped lenders feel more comfortable with smaller down payments.

So what exactly does PMI/MI do? Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything for you.  It is all about insuring the lender in case you default on your loan.  If the lender has to foreclose due to non-payment, they can fall back on this insurance to help cover some of their losses.

With conventional financing, there are certain coverage percentages which differ with PMI depending on your down payment amount and your credit score. If you use a first time buyer program, with PMI, you may even have a lower percentage, thus a lower PMI payment.

FHA’s annual amount for MI doesn’t vary on the credit score. If you put more than 5% down, you will have a lesser annual/monthly amount for your MI.  Even if you put 20% or more down, you WILL still have the upfront and the annual MI with FHA.

What about getting rid of the PMI/MI? This differs by program.  With FHA financing, you can’t get rid of the MI – it will be on your loan the entire term you have it.  Only caveat is if you start with 10% down, the MI will eventually drop off.

With conventional PMI, it will automatically go away when you reach 78% loan to value (LTV) of the original value (purchase price) of your home – or 22% equity. Fortunately, with PMI, you can be proactive and attempt to remove this sooner than that.  There are essentially two opportunities, but ultimately, the servicer of your loan (company you’re making payments to) will be the decision maker here on whether they allow this.

First, your LTV must be at 80% or less of the original value based on your amortization or actual payments you’ve made.

Or second, if you can show with a new appraisal that you have the necessary equity required by the servicer, you could request the servicer to drop the PMI.  Ultimately, cancelation is still up to the servicer.

So, the necessary evil isn’t really evil at all – it’s really a GREAT opportunity for you to buy a home without needing 20% down, without having to scrape and save every penny you earn. And, if you’re eligible, you could even get assistance for that down payment with one of the many first time/subsequent home buyer programs available in Minnesota!

End result: the necessary AWESOMENESS is that you can get into a home sooner than later due to this little necessary evil!