Buying or Selling your House in Western Newfoundland and Labrador

Understanding Mortgage Insurance

August 30th, 2023
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Purchasing a home is often one of the most significant investments we make. However, accumulating the necessary funds for a substantial down payment can be challenging for many aspiring homeowners in Canada. This is where understanding mortgage insurance plays a vital role in facilitating homeownership and mitigating risks for lenders and borrowers. Let’s learn more about mortgage insurance in Canada so that you can optimize your financial planning, ensure prudent risk management, and embark on your homeownership journey with a sense of security and peace of mind. 

What is Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance is designed to protect lenders and borrowers in the event of default on a mortgage loan. When purchasing a home with a down payment of less than 20 per cent of the property’s value, lenders require borrowers to obtain mortgage insurance. The primary purpose of this insurance is to mitigate the risks faced by financial institutions when extending mortgages with higher loan-to-value (LTV) ratios. 

For lenders, mortgage insurance acts as a safeguard, guaranteeing that they will be reimbursed if the borrower fails to meet their mortgage obligations, such as making timely monthly payments. This assurance enables lenders to offer mortgage loans to a broader range of buyers, including those with limited down payment savings, thus promoting homeownership opportunities for many Canadians. 

From the borrower’s perspective, mortgage insurance allows them to access more favourable loan terms, including lower interest rates, even with a smaller down payment. It reduces the barriers to entry into the housing market, making homeownership a viable option for individuals who might otherwise struggle to accumulate a substantial down payment. 

Types of Mortgage Insurance

In Canada, mortgage insurance comes in various forms, each tailored to specific borrower needs and financial situations: 

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) is a government-owned agency that provides mortgage insurance to lenders nationwide. CMHC insurance is primarily designed for borrowers with down payments below 20 per cent of the home’s purchase price. CMHC offers mortgage insurance with LTV ratios of up to 95 per cent, making it a popular choice for first-time homebuyers. Borrowers can pay the CMHC insurance premium upfront or add it to their mortgage principal.  

Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) is offered by private insurers, not government agencies, and is an alternative to CMHC insurance. PMI is typically required when a borrower’s down payment is below 20 per cent of the home’s value. Depending on the borrower’s financial profile, PMI providers may offer more flexibility in premium structures and eligibility criteria. 

Mortgage Payment Protection Insurance (MPPI), also known as mortgage insurance that covers your payments, provides financial protection to homeowners in case they cannot meet their mortgage payments due to unexpected events or circumstances. If the insured individual experiences an unforeseen event, such as job loss, illness, disability, or accident, and cannot make mortgage payments, the insurance policy covers the payments directly to the lender. MPPI typically offers coverage for a specific benefit period, usually 12 to 24 months.  

Mortgage Life Insurance (LI) is a separate type of insurance that is not required but rather complements traditional mortgage insurance. Unlike CMHC and PMI, LI is designed to protect the borrower’s family in case of their untimely passing. In the event of the insured borrower’s death, LI pays off the remaining mortgage balance, relieving the borrower’s family from the financial burden.  

Factors Affecting Mortgage Insurance Premiums 

When obtaining mortgage insurance in Canada, several factors come into play that can influence the cost of premiums. Understanding these factors is essential for borrowers to plan their finances effectively and make informed decisions about the most suitable mortgage insurance option. The key factors affecting mortgage insurance premiums include: 

Loan-to-Value (LTV) Ratio – The Loan-to-Value ratio is a critical determinant of mortgage insurance premiums. LTV ratio is calculated by dividing the mortgage amount by the property’s appraised value. The higher the LTV ratio, the greater the risk for the lender. As a result, borrowers with a higher LTV ratio are likely to face higher insurance premiums. 

Down Payment Size – The down payment size is inversely proportional to the mortgage insurance premium. A larger down payment reduces the loan amount and decreases the risk to the lender. Consequently, borrowers with a more substantial down payment typically benefit from lower insurance premiums. 

Borrower’s Credit Score and Financial History – Lenders assess a borrower’s creditworthiness and financial history to gauge the risk of default. A higher credit score and a positive financial track record generally result in lower mortgage insurance premiums. Conversely, borrowers with lower credit scores or a history of financial instability may face higher premium rates. 

Understanding mortgage insurance is fundamental to navigating the Canadian housing market and achieving your homeownership goals. Whether you’re a first-time homebuyer or a seasoned investor, a RE/MAX agent can provide valuable insights, help you explore suitable mortgage insurance options, and assist you in finding your dream home. 

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