How to Avoid PMI on a Mortgage (2024 Update)

Steve Nicastro's PhotoThomas O'Shaughnessy's Photo
By Steve Nicastro & Thomas O'Shaughnessy Updated June 10, 2024

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This article was reviewed by David Naimey, a loan officer at Society Mortgage.
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Buying a home with less than a 20% down payment often means dealing with private mortgage insurance (PMI). This extra monthly fee is added to your mortgage payment and is attached to nearly half of all mortgages.

The cost of PMI depends on your credit score and finances. It can be 0.1–5% of the loan amount, potentially adding $10–500 or more to your monthly payments. 

Thankfully, you can reduce or bypass PMI altogether, even without making a big down payment.

🏡 Exploring low- or no-PMI options for your home purchase? Connect with a local buyer's agent through Clever's Concierge Team. Our experts offer free, tailored advice to help you find the best mortgage options with minimal PMI. Get free advice from a licensed expert today — no obligations!

What is PMI, and how much does it cost?

PMI example: $450,000 mortgage 

Principle and interest (6% rate)$2,698/mo
PMI (1%)$375/mo
Total payment$3,073/mo
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PMI protects the lender (not you) if you stop making payments on the mortgage.

The most common way to pay PMI is through a monthly premium added to your mortgage payment, although sometimes lenders may charge a one-time premium at closing.

The cost of PMI varies based on factors like your credit score, down-payment size, loan amount, and the type of mortgage. A lower debt-to-income ratio and higher credit score will help reduce the amount of PMI you pay, according to David Naimey, a loan officer at Society Mortgage.  

PMI can make a mortgage unaffordable for some borrowers. For example, on a $500,000 home with a 10% down payment, PMI could add $375 monthly if the rate is 1%.

Can I get rid of PMI?

You can eliminate PMI on a mortgage after you close on a home purchase, but you would have to take the following actions: 

  • Pay down your mortgage to achieve 20% equity, then request PMI removal (which may require an appraisal to confirm your home's value)
  • Reach 22% equity through mortgage paydown, at which point lenders must cancel PMI per the federal Homeowners Protection Act

Unfortunately, starting with 10% equity and reaching 20–22% can take 5–10 years with standard payments and no significant property value change.

How to get a no-PMI mortgage

1. Research lenders with no- or low-PMI loans

Several loan programs and financial institutions offer mortgages without PMI, and some lenders help their clients navigate the complexities of PMI before securing a loan. 

For example, Society Mortgage allows borrowers to pay a portion of the PMI upfront and then finance the rest into the borrower's monthly payment. 

"This will reduce the monthly PMI if they get a conventional loan," says Jeremy Szozda, a loan officer at Society Mortgage. 

Here's a rundown of some no- or low-PMI options.

No PMI mortgage loans

VA loans: No-PMI mortgage loans are available only for veterans, active military members, and spouses. VA loans also don't require a down payment, reducing out-of-pocket home-buying costs.

USDA loans: These are ideal for home buyers in rural areas. USDA loans often waive PMI. However, they require a guarantee fee that is essentially the same as mortgage insurance.[1]  USDA loans require the property to be located in an eligible location and might also require at least a “fair” credit rating (minimum FICO score of 620) and income.

Low PMI mortgage loans

FHA loans: PMI is required on all FHA loans. However, in early 2023, the Biden administration announced the reduction of annual mortgage insurance premiums from 0.85% to 0.55% on FHA loans, estimated to save borrowers an average of $800 annually.[2] 

"If you put 5% down [on FHA loans], this fee reduces to 0.5%, and with 10% down it will automatically get removed in 11 years," says Naimey. 

Bank loans with no PMI

Bank of America Affordable Loan Solution: This program offers a fixed-rate mortgage with as little as 3% down. While it requires mortgage insurance, the bank says its rates are typically lower than conventional loans. Be aware of income and loan limits that may apply.

Citi HomeRun Mortgage: Like Bank of America's offering, Citi's program requires a down payment of just 3%, but it comes with no PMI. It's available for purchases and refinancing and covers single-family homes, condos, co-ops, and two-unit properties.

Credit unions and nonprofits

Navy Federal Credit Union: The Homebuyer Choice program provides 100% financing for purchases without PMI, catering to first-time home buyers. Membership extends beyond veterans and active military, so you might qualify even if you don't have a military background.

NASA Credit Union: Offering a $0 down, no-PMI mortgage for first-time buyers, NASA Credit Union opens its doors to non-NASA employees through membership in the National Space Society. The lender even offers a complimentary first-year membership.

Neighborhood Assistance Corporation of America (NACA): This organization has a unique mortgage program that requires no down payment, no closing costs, and no PMI. However, it does require some commitment: You'll need to attend a home buyer workshop, become a NACA member, and work with a counselor to access this mortgage product.

2. Get a piggyback mortgage on a conventional loan

How a piggyback mortgage works

A piggyback loan, often referred to as an 80/10/10 loan or combination loan, is a savvy strategy for home buyers looking to avoid PMI without putting 20% down. 

You start by making a 10% down payment. Then, instead of covering the remaining 90% with a single mortgage, you split it further: You take a second mortgage for another 10% and a primary mortgage for the remaining 80%.

This strategy allows you to bypass PMI because you effectively meet the 20% threshold. However, you'll have to manage and make monthly payments on two separate loans, which may work best if you have strong credit and a stable income.

Piggyback loan: $500,000 house example

First mortgage80%$400,000
Second mortgage10%$50,000
Down payment10%$50,000
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Here's an example: You buy a house for $500,000. You make a down payment of $50,000 (10%), secure a second mortgage for an additional $50,000 (10%), and then cover the remaining $400,000 (80%) with your primary mortgage.

Next steps: It's best to compare and weigh the costs of a piggyback loan vs. paying PMI. Tools like MortgageCalculator's PMI vs. second mortgage tool can help you understand the financial implications. You may also want to consult a mortgage lender for more specific advice.

3. Consider a lender-paid mortgage insurance (LPMI) loan

An LPMI loan presents an alternative route for home buyers looking to avoid PMI. There's no PMI, but you'll pay a higher interest rate on the mortgage.

While this arrangement frees you from making separate PMI payments, it could lead to higher total costs over the lifespan of your loan, particularly if you don't plan to refinance your mortgage or sell soon. 

Consider the long-term financial implications of an LPMI loan before proceeding. Weigh the immediate benefit of avoiding PMI against the potential for increased costs over time due to the higher interest rate. This calculation often depends on how long you intend to stay in the home.

LPMI loans may work best for:

  • Short-term homeowners. If you intend to live in your home for only a few years, the higher interest rate may have less impact over a shorter period.
  • Refinancers. If you plan on refinancing your mortgage shortly after purchasing the home, you'll likely pay the higher interest rate for a short time before refinancing, so an LPMI loan could be a cost-effective strategy. But this option is also risky because it relies on the assumption that mortgage rates will fall in the future, which isn't guaranteed. Contact a mortgage lender for more specific advice.
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