What's the Difference Between PMI and Mortgage Protection Insurance?

What does PMI cover? How is it different from MPI?

By , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

Many homeowners are confused about private mortgage insurance (PMI) and mortgage protection insurance (MPI). These two kinds of insurance are very different, and it's essential to understand the distinction between them.

What Are the Differences Between PMI and MPI?

It's common for homeowners to mistakenly think that PMI will cover their mortgage payments if they lose their job, become disabled, or die. But this belief isn't correct. PMI is designed to protect the lender, not the homeowner.

On the other hand, MPI will cover your mortgage payments if you lose your job or become disabled, or it will pay off the mortgage when you die.

What Is Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)?

PMI will reimburse the mortgage lender if you default on your loan and your house isn't worth enough to repay the debt in full through a foreclosure sale. PMI has nothing to do with job loss, disability, or death, and it won't pay your mortgage if one of these things happens to you.

When Is PMI Required?

With a conventional loan, if your down payment on your home is less than 20%, your lender will most likely require you to get PMI.

How Can I Avoid PMI?

You can avoid paying PMI by putting 20% or more down when taking out a mortgage loan. Again, if you put down less and get a conventional mortgage, your lender will require PMI.

How to Cancel PMI

Once your mortgage balance reaches 80% of the home's value when you bought it, contact your mortgage servicer and let them know you want to discontinue the PMI premiums. Generally, you must have sufficient equity (at least 20%) and a good payment history to cancel PMI.

Under federal law, a lender must inform you at closing how many years and months it will take for you to reach that 80% level so you can cancel PMI. Even if you don't request PMI cancellation, the lender must automatically cancel it once the balance reaches 78%. (12 U.S.C. § 4901).

How Much Does PMI Cost?

The cost of PMI varies but is usually around one-half of 1% of the loan amount. So, it's well worth the effort to get rid of it as soon as you can, if you can.

Also, keep in mind that mistakes often happen, and the servicer might not remember to cancel PMI once your loan balance gets to 78% without you reminding them.

What Are the Pros of PMI?

Because of the protection that PMI provides lenders, it encourages them to approve loans for those with less than 20% to put down. So, the main upside of PMI is that it allows a borrower who doesn't have a 20% down payment to buy a home. You can buy property with a smaller down payment, perhaps as low as 3% or 5% of the home's purchase price.

Also, another benefit is that PMI is temporary; you can cancel it once you get to 20% equity.

What Are the Cons of PMI?

On the downside, paying for PMI increases your monthly mortgage payment. Until you can cancel it, you might have to pay hundreds of dollars more each month.

Another downside to PMI is that you don't get any benefit from it (unlike MPI, see below). Again, PMI protects the lender, not you. If you default, PMI ensures that the lender will get its money back.

What Is Mortgage Protection Insurance (MPI)?

Unlike PMI, MPI protects you as a borrower. This insurance typically covers your mortgage payment for a certain amount of time if you lose your job or become disabled, or it pays the mortgage off when you die.

Lenders Don't Require MPI

While many lenders require PMI when a borrower's down payment is less than 20%, MPI is voluntary.

How Much Does MPI Cost?

The cost of MPI varies widely depending on various factors like age, health, lifestyle, location, and occupation, though you can expect to pay around $50 per month. But premium costs can range from $20 to $100 (or more) per month. Older individuals and those with medical issues typically pay higher premiums than younger, healthy individuals.

The cost might also vary based on your occupation and individual circumstances. You might have to pay more if you have a risky job or dangerous hobbies.

The cost also typically depends on how long the coverage will last and the coverage amount. The higher the coverage amount and the longer the duration, the more you'll probably have to pay. Also, the cost depends on what insurance company you choose.

If you decide MPI would be beneficial, get quotes from several insurance providers to find out exactly how much you'd have to pay in premiums. Review the quotes carefully, including policy terms, costs, and conditions.

What Are the Pros of MPI?

The main upside to MPI is that your mortgage will get paid if you lose your job, become disabled, or have some other unfortunate circumstances that make it impossible to make your mortgage payments. That way, you can be sure to avoid foreclosure. (You might consider getting life insurance or another type of insurance instead. However, it's usually pretty easy to qualify for MPI compared to disability insurance or life insurance.)

What Are the Cons of MPI?

Having MPI will cost you money that you don't need to spend. Again, unlike PMI, this type of insurance is purely voluntary. So, it's an expense you don't have to pay. If you're in good health, relatively secure in your job, have no unusual lifestyle risks, and are adequately otherwise insured—for example, you have life insurance—you might not want or need to purchase this type of insurance.

But if you think your particular circumstances or risk factors could warrant getting this type of insurance, consider contacting an insurance agent.

How to Cancel MPI

It's usually easy to cancel MPI. Follow the specific steps your policy provides. Be sure to comply with any notice requirements and check to see if you'll have to pay a penalty or fee. MPI policies usually you to cancel at any time, but some have specific rules for how and when you can end coverage.

After reviewing the guidelines in your policy, contact your insurance company.

Get Help With Your Mortgage Loan

To learn more about mortgages and different aspects of homeownership, get Nolo's Essential Guide to Buying Your First Home by Ilona Bray, J.D., Attorney Ann O'Connell, and Marcia Stewart.

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