What is Lender’s Mortgage Insurance

In a nutshell, lenders mortgage insurance is insurance that protects the lender (not the borrower) in the event the borrower can't make repayments on their home loan. If you've borrowed more than 80% of the value of the property from a financial institution, you will need to pay LMI. Even though it may seem like LMI only benefits the lender, it actually benefits the borrower too because without it, you may be unable to secure finance for your property purchase.

Historically, lenders wouldn't approve where the loan to value ratio (LVR) was higher than 80% as it was considered too risky. The introduction of LMI means lenders can now approve home loan applications with higher LVR (90% for loans.com.au) allowing borrowers to access finance so they can purchase property. 

Lenders mortgage insurance is not to be confused with mortgage protection insurance, which covers borrowers for their mortgage repayments in case of unemployment, disability, sickness or death.

What is lenders mortgage insurance (LMI)?

Lenders mortgage insurance is an insurance policy which covers the mortgage lender against any losses they may incur in the event the borrower can no longer make their mortgage repayments (an event known as a default on the loan).

LMI is only charged in instances where borrowers have smaller sized deposits to put down against their property.

While the deposit % used to trigger LMI can differ from lender to lender, the average figure in the Australian market is around 20% (eg. having a deposit of less than 20% of the loan value would trigger LMI having to be paid by the borrower). 

LMI helps thousands of people each year to purchase a home who otherwise may not have satisfied individual lender criteria. Lenders usually provide borrowers with the option of either paying their LMI upfront or alternatively by adding it onto their loan amount (which is sometimes referred to as 'capitalising' the fee).

Any home loan application where the LVR is higher than 80% results in LMI being required. How much the LMI costs will depend on how much money is borrowed for the home loan. Essentially, the higher the loan value ratio, the higher the mortgage insurance will be. 

In the event the borrower defaults on their mortgage, the lender can recover what's owed to them by repossessing the property the home loan is tied to. If the value of the property has fallen, the lender can suffer a loss - this is the risk that LMI covers. As the risk of loss has been passed on to lenders mortgage insurance, lenders are more willing to approve mortgage applications at a higher loan-to-value ratio.

What is loan-to-value ratio (LVR)?

A loan-to-value ratio (LVR) is the value of the property in comparison to the amount of money being borrowed (through a home loan) and is calculated as a percentage. The LVR is used by lenders to assess the risk factor of a home loan. The lower your LVR percentage, the less of a risk that loan is to a lender. Conversely, the higher your LVR percentage, the riskier the loan is to a lender.

For many lenders, the sweet spot is an LVR of 80% (20% deposit).

How is lenders mortgage insurance calculated?

Lenders mortgage insurance is calculated as a percentage of the loan amount and will vary depending on your loan-to-value ratio and the amount of money you want to borrow. 

LMI costs can differ depending on the loan, the lender, and the LMI provider. The factors that determine the cost of your LMI can also include a few other factors, including whether or not you have 'genuine savings', if you're applying for the First Home Owner Grant, or if you're self-employed - among other things.

How to avoid lenders mortgage insurance

Typically, if you have a deposit of at least 20% you won't need to pay lenders mortgage insurance. This is because lenders perceive borrowers with a deposit of at least 20% as being less likely to default on the loan. A 20% deposit is also a big enough buffer to protect lenders from a drop in the value of the property.

With that said, there may be some instances which require a bigger deposit for suburbs the lender perceives as having high default rates and/or drops in property values. 

Borrowers may also be exempt from paying LMI for other reasons, such as having a guarantor or from working in a highly regarded profession (doctor, lawyer, etc). 

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