Mortgage Insurance

DEFINITION of 'Mortgage Insurance'

Mortgage insurance is an insurance policy that protects a mortgage lender or title holder in the event that the borrower defaults on payments, dies or is otherwise unable to meet the contractual obligations of the mortgage. Mortgage insurance can refer to private mortgage insurance (PMI), qualified mortgage insurance premium (MIP) insurance or mortgage title insurance. What these have in common is an obligation to make the lender or property holder whole in the event of specific cases of loss. Mortgage life insurance, on the other hand, which sounds similar, is designed to protect heirs if the borrower dies while owing mortgage payments. It may pay off either the lender or the heirs, depending on the terms of the policy.

BREAKING DOWN 'Mortgage Insurance'

Mortgage insurance may come with a typical pay-as-you-go premium payment, or it may be capitalized into a lump-sum payment at the time of mortgage origination. For homeowners who are required to have PMI because of the 80% loan-to-value ratio rule, they can request that the insurance policy be canceled once 20% of the principal balance has been paid off. Here are three types of mortgage insurance:

Private Mortgage Insurance

Private mortgage insurance (PMI) is a type of mortgage insurance a borrower might be required to buy as a condition of a conventional mortgage loan. Like other kinds of mortgage insurance, PMI protects the lender, not the borrower. PMI is arranged by the lender and provided by private insurance companies. PMI is usually required if a borrower gets a conventional loan with a down payment of less than 20%. A lender might also require PMI if a borrower is refinancing with a conventional loan and equity is less than 20% of home value. (For more, see What Is Mortgage Insurance?

Qualified Mortgage Insurance Premium

When you get an FHA mortgage, you will be required to pay a qualified mortgage insurance premium, which provides a similar type of insurance. MIPs have different rules, including that everyone who has an FHA mortgage must buy this type of insurance, regardless of the size of their down payment.

Mortgage Title Insurance

Mortgage title insurance protects against loss in the event a sale is later invalidated because of a problem with the title. Mortgage title insurance protects a beneficiary against losses if it is determined at the time of the sale that someone other than the seller owns the property. 

Before mortgage closing, a representative, such as a lawyer or title company employee, performs a title search. The process is designed to uncover any liens placed on the property that would prevent the owner from selling. A title search also verifies that the real estate being sold belongs to the seller. Despite a thorough search, it isn’t hard to miss important pieces of evidence when information is not centralized.

Mortgage Protection Life Insurance

Borrowers are often offered mortgage protection life insurance when they fill out paperwork to start a mortgage. A borrower can decline this insurance when it is offered, but you may be required to sign a series of forms and waivers, verifying your decision. The intent of this extra paperwork is to prove you understand the risks associated with having a mortgage.

Payouts for mortgage life insurance can be either declining-term (the payout drops as the mortgage balance drops) or level, although the latter costs more. The recipient of the payments can be either the lender or the heirs of the borrower, depending on the terms of the policy. For more, see Why You Don't Need Mortgage Protection Life Insurance.