The Truth About PMI: Understanding Its Diminishing Cost Over Time

When you embark on the journey of homeownership with a conventional mortgage and a down payment of less than 20%, private mortgage insurance (PMI) becomes an unavoidable companion. While the initial cost of PMI may seem daunting, it’s essential to understand that this financial burden gradually lightens as you diligently pay down your mortgage. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore the dynamics of PMI and how its cost decreases yearly, providing you with a clearer picture of this often-misunderstood aspect of homeownership.

PMI: A Temporary Safeguard for Lenders

Private mortgage insurance is a type of policy that protects lenders in case you default on your mortgage. When you make a down payment of less than 20%, lenders perceive a higher risk, and PMI serves as a safeguard against potential losses. While it may seem like an additional expense, PMI enables many homebuyers to enter the housing market sooner, without having to wait years to accumulate a larger down payment.

The Diminishing Cost of PMI

One of the most overlooked aspects of PMI is that its cost is not static; it decreases annually as you pay down your mortgage balance. This is because PMI is calculated as a percentage of your outstanding loan amount, and as your loan balance decreases, so does the cost of your PMI.

For example, let’s say you have a $200,000 mortgage with an annual PMI rate of 1%. In the first year, your PMI cost would be $2,000 (1% of $200,000). However, if your loan balance decreases to $190,000 in the second year, your PMI cost would drop to $1,900 (1% of $190,000). This pattern continues year after year, resulting in a gradual reduction in your PMI expenses.

How Much Can You Save?

To illustrate the potential savings, let’s consider a scenario where you have a $300,000 mortgage with a PMI rate of 1%. In the first year, your PMI cost would be $3,000. However, by the fifth year, assuming an annual loan balance reduction of $6,000, your PMI cost would have decreased to $2,700 – a savings of $300 compared to the first year.

Over the course of a 30-year mortgage, the cumulative savings can be substantial. For instance, if your PMI rate remains constant at 1%, and you consistently pay down your loan balance by $6,000 annually, you could potentially save over $10,000 in PMI costs throughout the life of your mortgage.

Factors Affecting PMI Costs

It’s important to note that while the loan balance is the primary factor influencing PMI costs, other elements can also play a role. These include:

  • Credit Score: Borrowers with higher credit scores generally qualify for lower PMI rates.
  • Loan-to-Value Ratio (LTV): The higher your down payment, the lower your LTV, which can result in a lower PMI rate.
  • Loan Type: PMI rates can vary depending on whether you have a fixed-rate or adjustable-rate mortgage.

By understanding these factors and working to improve your credit score and LTV, you can potentially secure a more favorable PMI rate, further reducing your overall costs.

When Can You Stop Paying PMI?

While the decreasing cost of PMI is a welcome relief, homeowners often wonder when they can stop paying it altogether. Generally, you can request PMI cancellation once your loan balance reaches 80% of the original value of your home. However, there are specific requirements and timelines that vary depending on your lender and loan type.

For instance, with a conventional loan, PMI will automatically cancel once your loan balance drops to 78% of the original home value. Additionally, you can request PMI cancellation once you reach 80% loan-to-value ratio, provided you have a good payment history and meet other eligibility criteria.


Private mortgage insurance may seem like an added financial burden, but its diminishing cost over time can provide significant relief for homeowners. By understanding how PMI works and how its cost decreases yearly, you can better plan your finances and make informed decisions about your mortgage. Remember, PMI is a temporary expense that can open the door to homeownership and the potential for long-term wealth building through equity accumulation.

Should You Put 20% Down on a House or Pay the PMI?


Does PMI decrease over time?

Be mindful that your PMI is recalculated using your current loan balance. So, the amount you pay decreases as you pay down the loan until PMI is completely removed.

How much is PMI on a $300 000 loan?

If you buy a $300,000 home, you could be paying somewhere between $600 – $6,000 per year in mortgage insurance. This cost is broken into monthly installments to make it more affordable. In this example, you’re likely looking at paying $50 – $500 per month.

Does PMI automatically drop off?

Even if you don’t ask your servicer to cancel PMI, in general, your servicer must automatically terminate PMI on the date when your principal balance is scheduled to reach 78 percent of the original value of your home. For your PMI to be cancelled on that date, you need to be current on your payments.

Can I drop my PMI if my home value increases?

The amount you pay in PMI is a percentage of your principal mortgage loan amount. It is not impacted by appraisal. However, if your home increases in value to the point that you have gained substantial equity, a home appraisal will help prove to your lender that you qualify for PMI removal.

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