Answering your Lenders Mortgage Insurance questions


Susan Walters

Home Lending Manager

10 Aug 2021

| Home Loan

In Australia, we’ve seen house prices rise* at a record rate over the past 12 months. This is great news for Aussies who own their own home or have an investment property, but it’s making things a lot harder for first-time buyers looking to get into the property market.

If you’re a first home buyer and you don’t know how you’re going to save hundreds of thousands of dollars for a deposit with housing prices so high, paying Lenders Mortgage Insurance might be an option for you to consider.

And who better to tell you everything you need to know about Lenders Mortgage Insurance than one of our Mobile Lending Managers, Susan Walters, who has 17 years of experience in home lending.

Susan is answering our most frequently asked questions about Lenders Mortgage Insurance, including what it is, what it’s for, how much it costs, how it can affect your home loan and much more.

We'll cover

What is Lenders Mortgage Insurance (LMI)?

Lenders Mortgage Insurance, also often abbreviated to LMI is a one-off fee that you will need to pay if you borrow more than 80% of your home’s value (in other words, if you have a small house deposit). It’s there to protect the lender in case you are unable to repay your loan.

In basic terms:

  • lenders protect themselves with Lenders Mortgage Insurance, and
  • borrowers can buy a home sooner with a smaller deposit.

Who needs to pay LMI?

You usually only need to pay Lenders Mortgage Insurance if you borrow more than 80% of your home’s value. For example, if you take out a loan for $400,000 but only have a $20,000 deposit you can expect to pay LMI.

However, there may be other instances where you’ll be expected to pay LMI. So, it’s always important to talk to your lender – they can tell you everything you need to know about your LMI, especially how much it will cost.

How do you pay for LMI?

You don’t need to arrange Lenders Mortgage Insurance yourself, your lender will sort it for you. In most cases, the LMI fee is bundled in with your home loan amount. However, some lenders may let you pay it upfront, as a lump-sum.

20% Deposit vs LMI

We've teamed up with Emma, founder of The Broke Generation, to take you through the basics of Lenders Mortgage Insurance when buying your first home. We’ll go through what it is, when you pay it, why you pay it, and the difference between paying it and avoiding it.

Why is LMI a good thing?

Saving a 20% deposit for a house isn’t easy for most people. It can take years, and if property prices continue to increase you may find that once you’ve saved your 20% deposit, the prices of the properties you were looking at have gone up, meaning you’d need to keep saving to build that 20% deposit.

With Lenders Mortgage Insurance, you can have as little as a 10% deposit (or 5% in some cases). Yes, you will have to pay LMI, but it’s usually added to your loan, so you won’t have to pay a lump-sum up front. Most importantly, LMI could help you get the keys to your home sooner, and then any increase in property prices will benefit you.

Is LMI the same as Mortgage Protection Insurance?

No, Lenders Mortgage Insurance is there to protect the lender in case you default on your home loan.

Mortgage Protection Insurance protects you, the borrower, in the event you can’t make your repayments due to unforeseen circumstances like unemployment, injury, illness or death. If that’s something you’re interested in, then it might be worth talking to a trusted insurance professional/provider.

How much does LMI cost?

The amount you pay for Lenders Mortgage Insurance will depend on several factors including the size of your loan, your deposit amount, loan type, purchasing purpose and source of deposit.

Loan size

The more you borrow, the more risk your lender takes on, and this is reflected in the cost of your LMI. For example, if you’re buying a property valued at $800,000 and a loan-to-value ratio (LVR) of 85% you can expect to pay over $12,000 more in LMI compared to a property valued at $300,000 with a similar LVR.

Deposit amount

The smaller the deposit, the higher the cost of LMI as there’s more risk for the lender. For example, if you’re purchasing a 30-year home loan for a property worth $400,000. A 10% deposit ($40,000) would result in an LMI of roughly $13,000. With a 15% deposit ($60,000), the LMI will be significantly lower at approximately $7,000.

Type of loan

The type of loan you apply for can also change your LMI. For example, most lenders will charge LMI on a low-documentation home loan, when a borrower takes out more than 60% of the property’s value. Whereas, with a traditional home loan, LMI is only usually charged if a borrower takes out more than 80% of the property’s value. Fixed and variable rate home loans don’t attract different LMI amounts if everything else is the same.

Purchasing purpose

If you’re purchasing an investment property, lenders may charge you more for LMI than they would if you were planning to live in the property. This is due to associated investment risks such as tenants not paying rent, refusing to move out or maliciously damaging property.

Source of deposit

Lenders tend to be more trusting if you have used ‘genuine savings’ for your house deposit as it demonstrates your commitment to making loan repayments after you buy a property. If you use a gift or a lump-sum from selling something instead, it’s considered riskier for the lender and you’re likely to pay more for LMI.

For these reasons, an accurate cost of your LMI can’t be given until you’ve chosen a property and lender. That’s why it’s always important to only use LMI calculator estimates as a rough guide.

How do I calculate LMI?

Our Buying and Selling Costs Calculator can give you a rough idea of your LMI costs. Here are some example estimates taken from our buying costs calculator:

Property ValueDeposit amountDeposit percentageEstimated LMI costs

These are estimates only, taken from the Credit Union SA Buying and Selling Costs Calculator. All estimates are for first home buyers, LMI costs are slightly higher for non-first home buyers.

To get the exact cost of your LMI, make sure you speak with your lender.

How does LMI affect my home loan?

Regardless of whether you pay for LMI upfront or bundle it into your home loan, it still increases the overall cost of your home loan. That’s why it’s always a good idea to chat with your lender about what you will actually end up paying and what you will need to budget for, to determine whether it’s the best option for you.

Approval process

Having to pay LMI may also make the home loan approval process more complex and lengthier, as the insurance company that provides LMI to your lender may also need to approve your application. However, your lender should be able to tell you the likelihood of LMI approval, and roughly how long the application will take.

How can I avoid paying LMI?

There are a few ways you can avoid paying LMI, including:

Saving for a bigger deposit

If you can save the minimum deposit for your property (which is usually 20%), then you will more than likely avoid paying LMI.

Getting a guarantor

A family guarantee could help you avoid paying LMI and get you into the property market sooner by leveraging equity from a family member’s property.

Your guarantor would accept legal responsibility for your monthly repayments if you can’t pay, which reduces the risk for lenders. However, there’s both pros and cons to this option, so it’s always a good idea for the potential guarantor to chat with a financial advisor before making a decision as it may affect their future borrowing capacity and ability to sell their own property.

Getting a cash gift

Cash gifts from family members can be used towards your deposit and might help to lower your LMI premium or avoid paying LMI all together.

A cash gift may not always guarantee a loan by itself. Some lenders may also want to see that you can support yourself and make repayments. They may look for a steady income as well as evidence of a good savings history. In most cases, you will need a minimum of 5% genuine savings (your own savings) to qualify for a home loan.

Lenders can accept a cash gift as genuine savings, however there will be a wait involved. You will usually have to leave the cash sitting in your bank account for three to six months. This is to show you can save the gifted funds and are not reckless with money.

Also, most lenders will want to make sure the cash is a gift and not a loan. So, you will more than likely need to present a letter to your lender that states that the giver has no stake in the property, no commercial interest, and no expectation of repayment.

Applying for the First Home Owner Grant (FHOG)

If you’re a first-time homebuyer in South Australia, you may be eligible for the FHOG. Through the FHOG, you can apply for a grant of up to $15,000 on the purchase or construction of a new residential home in South Australia. This could help lower the cost of your LMI or eliminate it altogether if you have additional savings.

Find out if you’re eligible for the grant by visiting the SA Government website.

Disclosing your occupation

If you work in certain industries such as healthcare or law, you may be able to borrow up to 90% of a property’s value without incurring LMI– 10% more than people in other professions (if you have proof of employment and income).

Your lender will be able to tell you whether you’re eligible for a LMI exemption or discount based on your profession.

What about stamp duty and taxes on LMI?

If you’re buying a home, both stamp duty and GST are usually included in the quoted price of your LMI.

If you’re buying an investment property, a portion of your stamp duty and GST can be claimed as tax-deductible.

Are there any LMI alternatives?

If you’re borrowing more than 80% of your home’s value, most lenders will ask you to pay LMI to protect themselves in case you’re unable to repay your loan.

However, some lenders have created their own LMI alternative in the way of a once off ‘risk fee’, also sometimes known as Reduced Equity Fee (REF) or Low Deposit Premium (LDP).

Although a risk fee (compared to LMI) is usually cheaper, it can often come with a higher interest rate or limited protection, which could end up costing you more in the long run.

Before you jump into a home loan, make sure you speak with your lender about LMI or risk fee costs, so you can determine what’s the best option for you.

Are there exemptions to LMI?

A lender may waive LMI if you meet specific criteria such as:

  • your LVR is only slightly over 80%,
  • you work in an industry (medical, law) that qualifies for a LVR of up to 90%, or
  • you’re using an internal LMI substitute – like a risk fee – with your lender.

Your lender will be able to tell you whether you’re eligible for a LMI exemption or discount.

What professions are exempt from paying LMI?

In most cases, you will have to pay 20% of the property purchase price upfront to avoid LMI. However, if you work in certain industries you may only have to pay 10% of the property’s value to avoid LMI.

These professions include:

  • Medical professionals such as doctors, surgeons, dentists, veterinarians, optometrists, specialists.
  • Lawyers, solicitors and barristers.

Your lender will be able to tell you whether you’re eligible for an LMI exemption or discount based on your profession. Please note that LMI waivers based on professions are not offered by Credit Union SA.

Do I need to pay LMI when refinancing or purchasing my next home?

If you have a variable rate home loan, you may decide to refinance your loan if you find a better deal somewhere. Unfortunately, LMI can’t be transferred to a different lender, so if you’re refinancing more than 80% of the property value, you’re likely to have to pay LMI again.

The same goes if you’re looking to buy your next home, you may have to pay LMI again to get a new home loan.

The best way to know for sure what you will have to pay, is to chat to your lender. They will tell you everything you need to know about your LMI costs.

Can I get a refund on LMI?

No, LMI is non-refundable or transferable. However, some lenders may give you a partial refund if you repay the loan within two years.

Check in with your lender, to find out their rules around LMI reimbursements.

What happens if I default on my loan?

If you happen to default on your home loan, your lender could repossess your property and sell it to cover the unpaid balance. If the money from the sale isn’t enough to cover all the losses, a lender can make an LMI claim with their insurer. Afterall, that’s what LMI is for.

However, keep in mind that you will still be responsible for any outstanding debt. Your lender will usually create a new repayment agreement with new terms.

In conclusion

There’s no denying that Lenders Mortgage Insurance can help first home buyers get into a home quicker with a smaller deposit, however it’s an additional fee that can be avoided by saving a bigger deposit, getting a guarantor, or having family chip in.

Whether you should pay for LMI or wait until you have a bigger deposit will depend on your individual circumstances. Ultimately your decision should be based on your own financial needs and goals.

Our lending experts can help talk through your options.

So why not make an appointment with one of our friendly Mobile Lending Managers, like Susan, who can come to your home or office at a time that suits you. Call us on (08) 8202 7777 or visit us at 400 King William Street, Adelaide between 8am – 8pm weekdays or 8am – 2pm Saturdays. We’re here to help!

*source: ABC News

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This article is intended as general information only and has been prepared without taking into account the personal financial situation, objectives or needs of the reader. Before acting on this information, you should consider its appropriateness, having regard to your objectives, financial situation and needs. You should always seek professional advice or assistance before making any financial decisions.