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What is mortgage insurance?

Adam Grocke

What is mortgage insurance?

By Adam Grocke | 02 October 2015

Mortgage insurance isn't something to be scared of, but it is something you need to understand in order to make sound purchase decisions.

Blogger: Adam Grocke, business development manager, Johnston Grocke 

Lender mortgage insurance, often referred to as LMI, is an insurance taken out by the lender to protect them against the borrower defaulting on their loan.

It is a one-off payment, paid by the borrower, when the loan is first taken out if the loan is above 80 per cent of the value of the house: e.g. if the house was worth $400,000 then an 80 per cent lend would be a $320,000 loan.

Anything above 80 per cent is considered a higher risk for the bank to lend against as there is less hurt money (equity) in the property if the borrower were to default.


As the loan to value ratio (LVR) gets higher (80 per cent to 95 per cent) the cost of the mortgage insurance premium increases as the risk increases. As a rule of thumb, the cost doubles from 80 per cent to 85 per cent, then doubles again to 90 per cent and again to 95 per cent.

95 per cent is the maximum you can borrow against a house and the mortgage insurance cost can be over $10,000. It’s uncommon for first home buyers to avoid mortgage insurance all together, but it’s not a bad thing.

The following scenario shows that a borrower may be better off purchasing a house now with a smaller deposit and pay LMI, instead of saving a higher deposit to reduce the LMI cost.

John Smith wants to purchase his first home for $400,000. He has saved a $10,000 deposit over the last four years and is happy to use his $40,000 in full to purchase a house. Assuming house prices are increasing at five per cent per year, if John purchased today and paid approx $15,000 in LMI, his house would be worth $20,000 more in a year’s time. This means John has made back his LMI cost in the first year.

Let’s now look at John’s second option, to wait another two years to save an extra $20,000 giving him $60,000 deposit for his house. Again, assuming house prices rose by five per cent per year, this would mean John has $60,000 to purchase the same house that is now worth $441,000. John's LMI cost now is approx $12,000. Only a small saving in LMI for all the effort of saving a further $20,000 over two years and the bigger issue is John missed out on the increase in the house price of $41,000.

If you understand that it allows you to get into the property market with less money, mortgage insurance is not something to be scared of.

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In real estate, insurance is a contract or policy that protects an individual or entity’s property from damages and losses, receiving reimbursement from an insurance company.


Mortgages are loans that are used to buy homes and other real estate where the property itself serves as collateral for the loan.

About the author

Adam Grocke

Adam Grocke

As leader of the Mortgage and Finance Services division, investment property consultant and business development manager for the firm, Adam excels at juggling his time, especially when one considers his significant football commitment with Woodville West Torrens where he has won 2 premierships and played in excess of 200 SANFL games.

His passion for helping clients find the best finance solutions, and buy their next home or investment property is only matched by his passion for surfing and living out of his campervan by the beach.

Finalist Australia's top 30 Brokers under 30 in 2013, Winner of the prestigious 2011 SA/NT business of the year, 2011year on year business growth, Platinum achiever 2010-2014, Rookie of the Year Award... Read more

What is mortgage insurance?
Adam Grocke
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