If you have a Metro Atlanta mortgage and didn't make at least a 20% down payment, you probably have private mortgage insurance (PMI.) PMI protects the lender if the borrower is unable to make the mortgage payments. Because PMI premiums are paid monthly in the mortgage payments, they can add up. So, how can you avoid PMI or drop it later?
Avoid Metro Atlanta Mortgage Insurance
The first way is easier said than done. To avoid PMI make sure you borrow 80% or less of the home's value. In other words, put 20% down when you purchase. Some people – even if they have the money – are hesitant to wipe out their savings or spend the money they were planning to use to make improvements to their new purchase.
Sometimes, your mortgage lender will pay the PMI for you. Lender-paid PMI involves the Metro Atlanta mortgage lender paying for the insurance in exchange for a slightly higher interest rate. The lender pays the PMI company directly, while the borrower "repays" the premium in higher monthly principal and interest payments. Many homeowners like that because they can deduct all the interest paid, while the PMI premiums are not deductible. One word of caution, however: while you can request the mortgage insurance requirement be dropped in time, the higher interest rate will remain until you sell the home, pay off the mortgage or refinance.
Lenders are required by the Homeowners Protection Act to remove PMI once the mortgage loan balance has dropped to 80% or less of the home's original sales price. That could take a while, but there's a way to remove it more quickly. By watching the marketplace you can get an idea of your home's value. As your home appreciates, the remaining loan amount you owe is a lower percentage of your home's new value. This ratio – called the loan-to-value ratio, or LTV – will over time be at or less than 80%. When that happens, request that your lender drop the PMI requirement.
For documentation, your lender may require an updated appraisal of your home and will require you to pay for it. But remember, only approach your lender when you're confident your home's value qualifies for the 80% or lower LTV. Consult a real estate agent or use the Internet to monitor comparable homes in your neighborhood. An appraisal will probably cost $300-$500, so make sure you qualify to remove the PMI before you contact your Metro Atlanta mortgage lender. Lastly, some lenders require the borrower to keep the PMI coverage for a minimum of two years. Check with your lender to find out what they require.
Sometimes, simply asking your lender to do away with PMI won't work. An FHA loan, for example, requires PMI for the entire loan term. In that case, you'll need to refinance – either with a non-PMI required FHA loan or a conventional loan. However, be smart. Refinancing just to get rid of the PMI insurance premium probably isn't a good idea since closing costs aren't cheap. It may cost more out of pocket than it's worth. Consider refinancing only if it makes good financial sense.
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