When you buy a home, there is typically an amount of money paid as a “down payment.” This amount is part of the purchase price of the home that you pay immediately out-of-pocket instead of increasing the amount of a loan. You can pay as much as you want in a down payment including up to the purchase price of the home, but the typical amount paid is 20 percent. If you pay more, you won’t have to get as large of a loan, and you won’t spend as much in interest over the life of the loan.

            In many cases, private lenders will require a down payment in order for them to approve a loan. The bigger the down payment, the less risk to the bank because there is less money they’d have to recover if you defaulted on the loan. Those who foreclose on their loans cause lenders to try to recoup the loan amounts through foreclosure sales, and these homes often sell significantly under market value. Therefore, a higher down payment equals less risk to the bank.

            A first-time home buyer may not have the funds available to put down a significant down payment. In this case, a bank or lender may reduce their risk by requiring mortgage insurance. Mortgage insurance covers the lender for a portion of the principal balance on a loan in case the borrower cannot make payments.

FHA Loans

Federal Housing Administration (FHA) loans are a typical type of loan for first-time home buyers, and they may only make a person pay a down payment of 3.5%. They will also accept lower credit ratings. The Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP) is a requirement for this loan type, it will be 1.75% of the loan amount. You pay this monthly for the life of the loan or up to 11 years if you put down a larger down payment.

Conventional Loans

Private mortgage insurance may be available for conventional loans when a person only has to put down 3% for a down payment. This can be cancelled after 20% of the home value has built up in equity.

USDA Loans

The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers loans with no down payment, but you have to pay an upfront fee of 1% of the loan amount and an annual fee of 0.35% of the balance of the loan. Similar to all other mortgage insurances, it reduces the risk to the lender.

Should You Get a Loan with Mortgage Insurance?

Sure. If it is the only way you are going to get a loan. The better option is to wait for better financial circumstances or save money for a down payment, but some realities don’t produce this as an option. It does not hurt your credit to have mortgage insurance, but it does hurt your pocketbook. Discuss your options with your lender and a financial adviser, and make sure you make the responsible decision.