the kind of insurance that homeowners hate to pay. Private mortgage insurance
applies to you if you're buying a home with less than 20 percent down. It adds
about $43 per month for every $100,000 borrowed, or $516 per year. Although PMI
doesn't insure you for anything--it simply protects the lender in case you default--it
does encourage lenders to write loans for less than 20 percent down.
many mortgage lenders were taking a laissez faire approach to canceling PMI at
the appropriate time. In other words, when homeowners paid down their principal
to the 80 percent level, lenders weren't exactly jumping on the bandwagon to tell
customers to stop sending the payments. Fortunately, Congress got involved and
passed the Homeowner Protection Act, which among other things requires lenders
to cancel PMI. In addition, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac adopted new guidelines
that make it easier to cancel.
So, how do you find out if you're ready to
cancel? And then how do you do it? Here's a step-by-step approach.
1 - Figure
out how much static equity you've accumulated. In other words, how much of the
original sale price have you paid off (not factoring in appreciation since you
bought the home)? You'll need to know your home's purchase price, the amount you
put down, the loan amount and the interest rate. Your annual escrow statement
should provide the total principal you've paid over the years. Add that figure
to the down payment. Here's the formula: Sale price minus mortgage balance = equity.
Equity divided by sale price = percentage of equity. If the resulting amount equals
20 or more of the original sales price, then congratulations, go to step 4.
2 - Factor in appreciation, i.e., the increase in your home's value from changes
in the real estate market or home improvements you've made. Single family home
prices have gone up an average of about 5 percent per year, so chances are your
home has increased in value since you bought it. If so, that's going to raise
your equity and put you closer to the 80 percent pay-off mark for canceling PMI.
Talk to a real estate agent, check the newspapers, and chat with the neighbors
to find out what homes have been selling for in your neighborhood. Perhaps one
of your neighbors recently had an appraisal to qualify for refinancing their mortgage.
Another barometer is your local property tax assessment. Has it been going up?
But remember that the assessed value, as a dollar figure, probably doesn't reflect
your home's actual market value accurately. Here the formula is similar to step
1: Estimated value minus mortgage balance = equity. Equity divided by estimated
value = percentage of equity. If the resulting amount equals 20 or more, you made
it! Go to step 4.
3 - Pay down your principal. Still not at 20 percent? If
you're reasonably close, consider paying a little extra on your monthly payments
to put you over the top. Tell your lender you want the extra payment applied to
the loan principal.
4 - Contact your lender's customer service department.
Ask them to provide, in writing, the amount the property will have to be valued
at to qualify to have the PMI dropped. Then write a letter requesting cancellation
of your PMI. Include the amount you put down, the loan amount and the interest
BEFORE you write, remember that lenders can escape the cancellation
if you've been late making your payments, depending on how late and how often.
In addition, FHA and VA loans do not qualify--PMI is required for the life of