The Cost Of Mortgage Insurance

May 12th, 2011 22 Comments
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A lender is at risk for financial loss when they agree to grant a home loan to a borrower. If the borrower should default on the loan, the lender will lose the amount left on the mortgage at the time of the borrower’s final payment. In order to prevent losses on mortgages and maintain a payable business venture, the lender will often take out mortgage insurance, especially if a large amount of the home’s purchase price is financed. 

A lender’s mortgage insurance policy will compensate the lender for losses incurred in the event that the borrower cannot repay the loan. The coverage offered by the insurer is typically between 20% and 50%, but it sometimes may be higher. The premium for mortgage insurance could be paid by the lender, but it is usually paid by the borrower in situations with less than 20% equity on the home in question. 

The cost of the mortgage insurance is determined by three different risk-related variables. The first variable considered is the amount of the loan. Higher loan amounts are associated with increased risk for the lender, and thus for the insurer. The second variable considered in the calculation of lender’s mortgage insurance premiums is the loan to value ratio. The loan to value ratio is the amount of the loan expressed as a percentage of the property value. Higher loan to value ratios indicate higher risk of loss for the lender and insurer. The final variable considered in the determination of the mortgage insurance premium is the type of loan involved. Loans with less documentation are considered to be more risky to the insurer than loans with full documentation. The premium will be charged as a percentage of the amount borrowed. The higher the risk of default (as perceived by the insurer), the higher the mortgage insurance premium will be. 

Mortgage insurance will typically be imposed on borrowers of full documentation loans that have a loan to value ratio of 80% or more. In the case of lo doc loans, mortgage insurance may apply for loans with a loan to value ratio of 60% or more. Many lenders choose to insure all of their loans without consideration for the loan to value ratio, but if the ratio is less than the aforementioned percentages, the lender will typically pay the premiums themselves. 

Not all lenders have the same mortgage insurance premiums. In fact, the cost of mortgage insurance can differ by as much as $10,000 between banks. When choosing the best loan for any scenario, how much you will pay for mortgage insurance should be a serious consideration. The price of mortgage insurance imposed on a borrower can differ for several different reasons including the way the lender calculates the premium, the loan amount, and the lender’s chosen insurer. 

Most lenders determine the cost of their mortgage insurance premiums by adding the premium to the loan instead of asking the borrower to pay the premium out of pocket at the loan’s settlement. This method of “capitalising” the premium can save the borrower a significant amount since the premium amount will be calculated based on a lower loan to value ratio. A bank that chooses not to use this method will charge significantly more for its mortgage insurance premiums. 

Another huge difference in mortgage insurance premiums is related to the loan amount. The middle loan amount range is considered to be $300,000 through $500,000 by one lender. Loans under $300,000 are in the lower loan amount band, while loan amounts over $500,000 are in the higher loan amount range. However, another major lender’s bands are slightly different with the middle loan amount range going up to $600,000. For someone borrowing between $500,000 and $600,000, the choice of insurer would make a significant difference in the cost of the mortgage insurance premium. 

In fact, if a borrower is using one of the banks that don’t choose to capitalise the premium, the fact that the loan amount used includes the premium may actually push the loan into the higher loan amount range, thus dramatically increasing the mortgage insurance premium. For example, a borrower who wants a loan in the amount of $495,000 will pay significantly more if the premium is not capitalised. The premium amount, which will surely be more than $5000, will push the loan amount into the higher range, thus causing a dramatic increase in insurance cost. These differences must be considered when choosing a lender. 

The two main mortgage insurance companies in Australia are QBE and Genworth. Some lenders may choose to insure some of the loans themselves, but this is rare. In the case where a lender does insure some of their own loans, they will typically insure loans with high loan to value ratios through an outside company. 

Determining the amount of mortgage insurance you will pay for your home loan can be a difficult process. It will depend on the lender you choose, as well as the insurer used by your lender. However, with the dramatic difference that can be made by something as simple as whether or not the lender uses the capitalisation procedure, it is important to shop around before making a final decision on the lender you will use. The easiest way to work out your premium is to use a mortgage insurance calculator.

If you have the money available, it may even be in your best interest to make a large enough deposit to avoid mortgage insurance altogether. If you cannot make such a deposit but would still like to avoid paying mortgage insurance, another option is to use a guarantor. A guarantor is someone who agrees to take responsibility for the repayment of your loan in the event that you cannot make the payments yourself. This is usually a family member, but in some cases could be a friend. He or she will use owned assets as collateral, which can lower your loan to value ratio enough to keep you from paying mortgage insurance.

In some cases, it may even be possible to have the guarantor sign a limited guarantee, which means that he or she will only be responsible for a portion of the loan. For example, if your loan to value ratio is 95% and the lender requires mortgage insurance for all loans with a loan to value ratio of 80% or more, you could ask a friend or relative to sign a guarantee for 16% of the loan amount, which will bring your loan to value ratio under 80%, thus eliminating the need for mortgage insurance.

Mortgage insurance can be very costly for home buyers. The cost of mortgage insurance is determined by the loan amount, the loan to value ratio, and the type of loan. The cost of mortgage insurance premiums also varies by lender based on the mortgage insurance company they use, as well as whether or not they capitalise the premium. Due to the fact that it is possible for premiums to vary by $10,000 or more, it is important to explore all of your options before deciding on a lender. Cheaper mortgage insurance can make one lender’s offer much more appealing than that of another. The borrower is usually only required to pay mortgage insurance premiums if the loan to value ratio exceeds 80% for standard loans or 60% for lo doc loans. If you want to avoid mortgage insurance altogether, you could put down a large enough deposit to bring your loan to value ratio under the applicable limit, or you could use a guarantor.


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