How to Remove PMI

Before you go looking for a mortgage lender willing to let you buy your next home without a significant down payment, there’s a set of initials you should know about: PMI. Short for private mortgage insurance, this is extra mortgage insurance that’s tacked on to conventional home loan purchases made with less than 20% down. Any time you make a down payment of less than 20% on a home purchase with a conventional loan, you’ll likely need to pay for this insurance.

In this post, we talk about what is PMI, who has to have it, and how to get rid of mortgage insurance.

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      What is private mortgage insurance?

      Private mortgage insurance is a form of insurance coverage that protects your lender if you stop paying your mortgage. The trouble is that for borrowers, it could potentially add $100 or more to every mortgage payment. It only protects the lender in case you default; it doesn’t cover anything on your end. You’ll be paying for it, though. If you default on your mortgage, PMI makes your lender whole, but does nothing for you.

      The typical mortgage insurance policy will cost you between 0.41% and 1.61%, though the amount will vary based on a number of factors. In general, that averages to about 1% for PMI. Using a median rate of 1% mortgage insurance, a $300,000 mortgage will cost you another $3,000 per year (or $250 per month) in PMI.

      How do people get PMI?

      Lenders figure that the less money you have invested in a home, the easier it is for you to walk away from the mortgage without paying and stick them with the bill. If you’re planning on buying a home and putting less than 20% down, expect to be seen as risky by lenders. You’ll need to pay PMI on your mortgage loan.

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      Your lender will make all the arrangements for the extra mortgage insurance. In most cases, you’ll need to pay for PMI monthly, and it will be tacked onto your mortgage bill. In some cases, you may need to pay the premium in full upfront, although that’s less likely of a scenario. If you need to pay for mortgage insurance, it will show on your loan estimate at closing.

      How to remove private mortgage insurance

      When you consider the thousands you may pay in PMI over the long run, saving up for a larger down payment often makes more fiscal sense. You may want to consider that prior to getting a mortgage with PMI tacked on.

      If you’re already paying for mortgage insurance, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Once you have built at least 20% equity in your home through mortgage payments or property appreciation (or both), you can ask the lender to remove the private mortgage insurance. Don’t assume that once you hit the magic number of 20% a bank or mortgage company will stop billing you for PMI, though. They’re not legally required to do so until you’ve hit 22% equity.

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      You might be able to get rid of PMI by starting the process yourself at 20%. Some lenders will remove it at that point. To get rid of PMI at 20% equity, you’ll need to write a letter to your lender asking to have the PMI removed. The letter should explain why you’d like the private mortgage insurance canceled.

      Some valid reasons you can provide include:

      • You’ve made enough payments and now have built up between 20% to 22% equity in the home.
      • You noticed property values in your neighborhood have shot up and you suddenly have more equity in your home. Say your home purchase was $300,000. You still owe $280,000 but the similar house next door just sold for $350,000. You can have your home appraised and if it comes in close to $350,000, you now have enough equity to ask the lender to stop with the mortgage insurance.
      • You recently remodeled the home, upgrading your kitchen and bath, adding significant value to your property. Contact your lender about getting a new appraisal to show the increased value of your home.

      Should you get rid of your PMI?

      There are usually two sides to everything — the benefits and the drawbacks. In the case of private mortgage insurance, there really isn’t any good reason why you should keep paying for it if you no longer have to. PMI doesn’t provide you with any protection or benefit — other than to let you buy a home with less than 20% down with a conventional loan.

      You should definitely try to get rid of PMI as soon as you can. There are better ways to spend the money, such as towards an emergency savings fund. Or to make extra mortgage payments. Or to fund your retirement account.

      [ More: How to Calculate Your Mortgage ]

      To get rid of mortgage insurance, you’ll need to stay on top of your equity. Calculate the number you need to hit as your loan principal before you can request PMI to stop. You can use a loan amortization calculator to guesstimate the date of when you’ll reach the target amount to mark. You can also sign up for neighborhood updates on recent sales or check out the recent sales data for your neighborhood every now and then to see how your home’s value is doing.

      We welcome your feedback on this article. Contact us at with comments or questions.

      Cynthia Paez Bowman

      Contributing Writer

      Cynthia Paez Bowman is a finance, real estate and international business journalist. Her work has been featured in Business Jet Traveler, MSN,, and

      She owns and operates a small digital marketing and public relations firm that works with select startups and women-owned businesses to provide growth and visibility. Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, California, and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women’s NGOs about small business development

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      • Angelica Leicht
        Angelica Leicht
        Mortgage Editor

        Angelica Leicht is an editor at The Simple Dollar who specializes in mortgages, mortgage refinancing, home equity loans, and HELOCs. She is a former contributing editor to and