A Guide to Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance

By Pam O’Brien · July 03, 2023 · 6 minute read

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A Guide to Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance

When homebuyers take out a conventional mortgage but don’t have a 20% down payment, they will likely need to get private mortgage insurance. PMI is usually required when the down payment is less than 20% of the home’s value.

In some situations, a lender may arrange for PMI coverage. It then becomes known as lender-paid mortgage insurance. For some homebuyers, LPMI can work in their favor. But for others, having a lender secure private mortgage insurance can end up costing them.

Read on to learn more about LPMI and the pros and cons for homebuyers.

How Does Lender-Paid Mortgage Insurance Work?

Unless 20% or more of a home’s value is paid upon closing, homebuyers can typically expect to be required to purchase private mortgage insurance, or PMI.

While government-back loans tend to have their own insurance programs (for instance, most FHA loans require a mortgage insurance premium for 11 years or the life of the loan), most loans not provided by the government with a loan-to-value ratio higher than 80% require PMI to protect the lender in case of default.

PMI is typically purchased in one of four ways, and it’s a home-buying cost you’ll want to budget for. PMI can be paid:

•   Along with monthly mortgage and insurance payments

•   In one annual premium

•   With one large payment and corresponding monthly payments

•   By the mortgage lender in a LPMI policy

While it may seem that the last option, LPMI, eliminates a task on a homebuyer’s to-do list, there is some fine print to be aware of.

Having LPMI for a loan doesn’t mean the cost is absorbed by the lender. A homebuyer will still pay for the coverage in one of two ways:

•   A one-time payment due at the beginning of a loan.

•   A slightly higher interest rate — usually 0.25% — which increases the monthly mortgage payment. This is the more common arrangement of the two.

So while many homebuyers accept an LPMI arrangement in hopes of saving money, that isn’t automatically the case. Sometimes LPMI is more about convenience than savings.

In fact, unless they’re paying a one-time lump sum, homebuyers could end up spending more for LPMI over the life of their loan than if they had chosen a traditional PMI route. That’s a potential home-buying mistake you’ll want to avoid.

LPMI might be a good choice for a homebuyer planning to keep the mortgage for five to 10 years or stay in the home. It usually takes 11 years to build enough equity to cancel a borrower-paid PMI policy.

💡 Quick Tip: SoFi Home Loans are available with flexible term options and down payments as low as 3%.*

A Pro of LPMI

Before a homeowner writes off lender-paid mortgage insurance altogether, it’s best to look at a potential benefit the arrangement offers over traditional monthly mortgage insurance.

More Affordable Monthly Payment

With LPMI, the monthly payment could be more affordable because the cost is spread out over the entire loan term rather than bunched into the first several years.

Here’s an example. If Sarah buys a home with a 10% down payment and it takes her 10 years to get the loan-to-value ratio down to 78% (a lender automatically drops PMI payments at this percentage if the borrower is in good standing), those 10 years of payments could all include several hundred dollars in addition to her premium and interest payments.

While LPMI may not save Sarah money overall, she may have smaller monthly payments because the additional payments for coverage are stretched out equally over the entire life of her loan rather than the start.

Recommended: How to Get a Mortgage in 2023

… and Potential Cons

In the right situation, LPMI can make sense. But there are potential downsides homebuyers should know about as well.

Rate Never Drops

While having mortgage insurance stretched out over the life of a loan can save some homebuyers money, it can cost others. The higher interest rate — as mentioned, a 0.25% rate increase is common — will never drop, even once the loan balance is less than 80% of a home’s purchase price.

LPMI can end up costing homebuyers more than if they had bought PMI on their own. Much depends on how long the borrower expects to hold the mortgage.

Refi Costs

Some homebuyers navigate toward LPMI because of the initial savings and hope they can refinance in the future.

While this may be a possibility, they must consider the sizable out-of-pocket costs that go along with refinancing, and that refi rates may be higher in the coming years.

No Itemizing

LPMI can’t be itemized if you deduct mortgage interest at tax time.

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There are several numbers to take into consideration when choosing between traditional PMI and LPMI, including:

•   the down payment

•   remaining mortgage

•   interest rate (for LPMI, a 0.25% rate increase is common)

•   average mortgage insurance rate (PMI is typically 0.5% to 1.5% of the loan amount per year)

•   anticipated life of the mortgage loan

•   monthly budget.

A borrower may want to not only consider the monthly payment but also the lifetime loan costs.

The difference between PMI and LPMI is different for every homeowner and situation. Taking the time to crunch the numbers is the only way to fully understand the pros and cons of each option.

LPMI Alternatives

LPMI isn’t always the clear winner when choosing between mortgage insurance options. There are alternatives to consider.

Put More Down

A down payment of at least 20% will eliminate the need for PMI entirely. There are several other benefits that go along with larger down payments as well, such as a better loan rate, making this a great option for those who can afford it.

Shop Around

One main disadvantage of LPMI is that the homeowner has little to no control over the price and provider. So when homeowners are responsible for their own PMI, shopping around for the best price becomes an option.

Piggyback Mortgage

A piggyback mortgage makes it possible to avoid PMI with a combination of loans.

It’s important to understand the pros and cons of a piggyback mortgage before deciding on one as an alternative to LPMI to avoid potential financial pitfalls.

Recommended: Second Mortgage Explained: How It Works, Types, Pros, Cons

The Takeaway

If mortgage insurance is necessary to secure a loan, understanding all the options is the first step any house hunter should take. This includes lender-paid mortgage insurance vs. PMI. While LPMI may serve as an overpriced convenience for some, it can be the financially smarter option for others.

Looking for an affordable option for a home mortgage loan? SoFi can help: We offer low down payments (as little as 3% - 5%*) with our competitive and flexible home mortgage loans. Plus, applying is extra convenient: It's online, with access to one-on-one help.

SoFi Mortgages: simple, smart, and so affordable.

*SoFi requires Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) for conforming home loans with a loan-to-value (LTV) ratio greater than 80%. As little as 3% down payments are for qualifying first-time homebuyers only. 5% minimum applies to other borrowers. Other loan types may require different fees or insurance (e.g., VA funding fee, FHA Mortgage Insurance Premiums, etc.). Loan requirements may vary depending on your down payment amount, and minimum down payment varies by loan type.

Third-Party Brand Mentions: No brands, products, or companies mentioned are affiliated with SoFi, nor do they endorse or sponsor this article. Third-party trademarks referenced herein are property of their respective owners.

Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.

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