Understanding Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)

Mortgage Insurance, Bicton

Understanding Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)

Mortgage Insurance, BictonLenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)is a financial product often required by lenders when a borrower applies for a mortgage with a relatively small down payment. This insurance protects the lender in case the borrower defaults on the loan. While it doesn’t directly benefit the borrower, LMI enables borrowers to secure a mortgage with a lower down payment, often as low as 5-20% of the property’s purchase price, making homeownership more accessible.

The Purpose of Lenders Mortgage Insurance

The primary function of LMI is risk mitigation for lenders. When a borrower defaults on their mortgage, the lender risks financial loss, especially if the loan-to-value ratio (LVR) is high. The LVR is a percentage that reflects the loan amount relative to the property’s appraised value. A higher LVR indicates higher risk, as the borrower has less equity in the property. By requiring LMI for high LVR loans, lenders transfer some of this risk to an insurance company.

How LMI Works

When a borrower takes out a high LVR mortgage, the lender typically arranges the LMI policy. The cost of LMI, known as the premium, can be a significant upfront expense or can be added to the loan amount, spreading the cost over the loan term. The premium is calculated based on several factors, including the LVR, the loan size, and the borrower’s credit profile. Once the premium is paid, the insurance policy is active for the life of the loan, covering the lender for any potential losses due to borrower default.

Benefits of LMI for Borrowers

  1. Lower Down Payment: One of the most significant advantages of LMI for borrowers is the ability to purchase a home with a smaller down payment. Without LMI, many lenders would require a down payment of at least 20% to offset their risk, Mortgage Insurance products allow people to enter the market that would not be able to with out this feature.
  2. Faster Access to Homeownership: For individuals with steady income but lack substantial savings, LMI allows them to enter the property market sooner without saving for a sizeable down payment over several years.
  3. Potential for Property Appreciation: Entering the housing market earlier can allow borrowers to benefit from potential property value increases over time. This can be especially advantageous in rapidly appreciating markets. In a rising market, paying LMI premiums can be wiser than trying to save for a larger deposit, as a growing market may offer more benefits than delaying your purchase to save more.

Drawbacks of LMI for Borrowers

    1. Cost: The primary downside of LMI is the cost. Premiums can be expensive, adding thousands of dollars to the total home purchase cost. This cost doesn’t benefit the borrower directly, as it protects the lender.
    2. No Coverage for Borrower: LMI protects the lender, not the borrower. In default, the borrower remains responsible for the outstanding debt, and their credit rating can be adversely affected.
    3. Increased Debt: If the LMI premium is added to the mortgage, the borrower ends up borrowing more, which means paying more in interest over the life of the loan.

    LMI vs. Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI)

In some regions, such as the United States, a product similar to LMI is private mortgage insurance (PMI). While both serve the same purpose of protecting the lender, there are differences in their implementation:

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  • Payment Structure: PMI premiums are often paid monthly as part of the mortgage payment, whereas LMI premiums can be paid upfront or capitalized into the loan.
  • Termination: PMI can often be canceled once the borrower’s equity reaches a certain threshold (usually 20%), while LMI typically remains in place for the life of the loan.
  • Regulation: The regulation of PMI can be more stringent in some areas, providing more standardized protections for borrowers.

 Regulatory Aspects and Market Variations

The requirements and specifics of LMI vary by country and region. For example, in Australia, LMI is a common feature of the mortgage market and is regulated by the Australian Prudential Regulation Authority (APRA). In contrast, in countries like Canada, mortgage default insurance (the equivalent of LMI) is mandatory for down payments between 5% and 19.99% and is regulated by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) alongside private insurers.

Alternatives to LMI

For borrowers who wish to avoid LMI, there are a few potential alternatives:

  1. Larger Down Payment: By saving up to meet the 20% down payment threshold, borrowers can avoid needing LMI.
  2. Guarantor Loans: Some lenders offer loans where a family member can act as a guarantor, providing additional security and potentially eliminating the need for LMI.
  3. Shared Equity Schemes: Some government programs offer shared equity schemes, where the government or a non-profit organization helps cover part of the purchase price in exchange for a stake in the property. This expanded on further down.

Waived Mortgage Insurance

There are some cases where clients can waive mortgage insurance. Certain professions, such as Medical, Lawyers, and Accountants, can have the LMI waived with as little as a 10% deposit. Initially,  this was referred to as the medical package, but recently, lenders have included other professions in this feature, and this list seems to be evolving.
There are a small number of lenders that offer other initiatives around mortgage insurance. A couple of lenders offer 85% loans without LMI. There are also lenders like Keystart that the Government backs. They offer 98% loans with no mortgage Insurance. Usually, the interest rate is higher than the traditional home loan lender’s to cover the risk, and the lending policies are stricter.
Additionally, there are State Government Schemes such as shared equity, where the Government provides a percentage of the deposit for shared ownership in the property or Low Deposit Schemes where the Government guarantees mortgage insurance to the lender to help the consumer, reducing the deposit requirement to just 5%. While there are strict policies to adhere to, these schemes offer a secure and reassuring path to homeownership.

It’s important to note that not all lenders provide the aforementioned features, and they are not always well advertised. This underscores the necessity of seeking advice from a professional Mortgage Broker, who can guide and support you in navigating these complex options.


Lenders Mortgage Insurance plays a crucial role in the mortgage industry by facilitating higher-risk loans, enabling more individuals to achieve homeownership. While it adds cost for borrowers, the benefits of entering the property market sooner can outweigh the disadvantages for many. Understanding the specifics of LMI, including its costs, benefits, and alternatives, is essential for prospective homeowners to make informed decisions about their mortgage options.


Contact us now to learn more about Lenders Mortgage Insurance.