What is Lenders Mortgage Insurance and When Home Refinancing Do I Require It?

Questions often asked, are "Do I need Mortgage Insurance for Home Refinancing?" and "What is Mortgage Insurance?"

In this article I will clarify what Lenders Mortgage Insurance is, how it works and influences you when Home Refinancing.

The function of Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI) is to protect the home loan lender from suffering a loss of money in the event of a borrower defaulting on their mortgage, resulting in foreclosure and a ensuing mortgagee sale. If the proceeds from the mortgagee sale are insufficient to pay back the home loan in full, LMI will pick up the shortfall for the home loan lending institution.

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LMI should not be confused with Mortgage Protection Insurance (MPI), which protects a borrower against their lack of ability to repay their mortgage in the outcome of an unexpected circumstance like unemployment, illness or death. MPI covers payment of your mortgage instalments and/or your home loan balance. CPI insurance is not mandatory and is solely the decision of the borrower. The premium for CPI is paid yearly and usually varies based on the size of the home loan.

Why is Lenders Mortgage Insurance required?

Lending institutions including Banks, Building Societies, Credit Unions and non bank lenders, either use cash from deposits held in savings accounts and term deposits, or borrow money to provide home loans to borrowers for home refinancing, purchasing, construction or equity purposes. By using other peoples' money to fund home loans, the lending institutions create an obligation to repay that money to the suppliers of the funds while at the same time taking on the risk that they may not get all or some of the cash back that they advance.

Even though they hold real estate property as security for the home loan, the value of the real estate property may decline due to market forces, corruption or damage to the improvements, resulting in the security not having an adequate amount of value to cover the size of the home loan. To offset their obligations to the suppliers of the loan funds, the lending institutions effect LMI to offset any likely shortfall.

Do I benefit from Lenders Mortgage Insurance?

Before LMI was offered, lenders desired borrowers to have a deposit of no less than 20% when buying a dwelling or equity of 20% when refinancing a home to minimise the risk of lending and protect them against possible loss in the event of foreclosure. Now with the capability to pass on the risk of loss to an insurance company through LMI, lenders are prepared to allow a lesser deposit for purchases and less equity for home refinancing.

Also, if lenders didn't use LMI to alleviate lending losses, then those losses would need to be recouped from the earnings of other home loans, in effect increasing home loan interest rates. To stay away from this, lending institutions opt to effect LMI and have the insurance company take on the risk and bear any loss.

By lenders using LMI, the benefit to borrowers is that they are able to buy a property using a lesser deposit or refinance a property with a lesser amount of equity and/or obtain lower interest rates than they would otherwise be able to do with no LMI.

Please note, that even though LMI does give some benefits to the borrower, it will not cover the borrower against loss ensuing from foreclosure. LMI ONLY PROTECTS THE MORTGAGEE as in effect, they are the beneficiary of the insurance policy! In the event of a claim for loss, the mortgagee will get the proceeds from the LMI claim, not the mortgagor. Any loss resultant from foreclosure, in spite of of LMI, is a loss incurred by the borrower and will remain as such. The only distinction being is that the borrowers legal responsibility to the finance provider for the loss will move as a legal responsibility to the LMI provider for the loss in the episode of an LMI claim by the mortgagee.

Who pays the Lenders Mortgage Insurance Premium?

The LMI providers contract of insurance is with the lender and the premium is payable by the lender though in certain instances the lender may pass on the cost of the insurance to the mortgagor as a fee of providing the home loan.

Home loans where a deposit or equity of less than 20% is allowed represents a higher risk to the lender, and in this case the lending institution will generally pass the price of LMI on to the mortgagor as a fee for them being able to acquire a home loan that they would generally not have been able to obtain.

What is the cost of LMI and how is it paid?

The premium for LMI is a one off premium due upfront at the time of settlement of the mortgage with payment of the premium being the liability of the lending institution. The lender will subtract the premium from the loan proceeds if and when the cost of LMI is to be met by the mortgagor.

The premium cost will vary depending on the size of the loan and the ratio of the loan size to the value of the security i.e. Loan to Value Ratio (LVR). The higher the LVR the more expensive the premium, also the bigger the home loan amount the more pricey the premium.

Are the providers of Lenders Mortgage Insurance reputable?

LMI providers operate under strict government regulation to make sure they maintain sufficient liquidity to meet claims, as well as hold adequate funds in reserve, in the event that a large number of claims are made in a short length of time or rise substantially.

How is Lenders Mortgage Insurance arranged?

The granting of LMI is not automatic and must be applied for by way of application to the LMI provider. Should your home refinancing require LMI, your Mortgage Broker, Mortgage Planner or Consultant in conjunction with the lender, will organize all the necessary documentation and present you with all the information about the application process.

Provided the borrower, home loan structure, home refinancing purpose and security property meet with the appropriate LMI provider underwriting guidelines an LMI Certificate of Cover will be issued to the mortgagee.

As you can understand, Lenders Mortgage Insurance does offer some benefit to the borrower in the form of lower interest rates however it is principally used as a risk mitigation instrument by the lender. When refinancing a home the benefit of LMI is greatest when the security property equity is less than 20% as the mortgagor would generally not be able to obtain such a home loan. Nonetheless that increased benefit arrives at a cost in the form of increased home refinancing expenses.

So when home refinancing it is crucial to preserve as much security property equity as possible, in effect reducing the price tag and/or requirement for LMI and balance the worth being achieved from the home refinance with the cost of LMI.

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