So, you’re putting less than a 20% down payment on the house you are buying and you are getting a conventional loan. Your lender has given you the option of paying a monthly private mortgage insurance (PMI) premium or offering you a higher rate where the lender pays it, known as lender paid mortgage insurance (LPMI). Which scenario is better for you? You’re confused and don’t really understand it all; you’d prefer to just have the decision made for you rather than weigh the options yourself. However, if you don’t consider all the options, you could be making a financial mistake.

PMI protects the lender against default and is required on loans that are deemed higher risk If you are investing less than 20% of your own money into a home, a lender considers it easier for you to walk away from your debt obligation if you find yourself in a pickle and can’t pay your mortgage. Your lender can buy/pay your mortgage insurance for you, but to do so, they charge you a higher rate plus a profit margin. To make a decision as to which route to take, you need to weigh the pros and cons.

You have more interest to deduct on your taxes because of your higher rate when you have LPMI. But if you and your spouse make $100,000 annually or less, or individually you make $50,000 annually, your monthly mortgage insurance is deductible. Depending on your tax bracket, the higher interest rate may or may not benefit you. You should crunch the numbers or ask your accountant’s advice.

PMI automatically terminates when your loan to value (of the original property value) reaches 78%, and but you can request it terminated when it reaches 80%. Some lenders will allow you to terminate the insurance when the appreciated loan to value reaches 80%. So, how long are you keeping this loan? Will you be paying down the principal balance rapidly? Is this your forever home and your forever mortgage rate? Then perhaps LPMI isn’t such a hot option. You can review an amortization schedule when making this decision to figure out just what payment will get you to that target loan to value (LTV). If you know that you will be making extra principal payments regularly, your lender should be able to help you analyze that scenario as well. However, if you’re going to be in the house a short time, than LPMI might just be the way to go.

Finally, just look at your basic payment both ways. Which way is more affordable for your current needs? The pricing on these products fluctuates. One product may be cheaper than another based on loan amount, term, down payment and other factors. You may also qualify for a second mortgage to make up the remaining 20% down payment and avoid private mortgage insurance altogether. What works best for your needs?

When considering your options, discuss your plans with your lender. Consider the above points and discuss them with her/him. By doing so, you should be able to clear the fog and make an educated decision.