Also known as "Primary Mortgage Insurance ," PMI is the lenders (banks) protection in the event that you default on your primary mortgage and no longer make payments and the home ends up going into foreclosure. When applying for a home loan, lenders typically require that a borrower provides a 20% down payment on the home. If the borrower is unable to put down 20% or more, or does not have the required funds to do so, then lenders will typically look at the loan as a riskier investment for their balance sheet and will require a PMI payment from the borrower.
The PMI payment is usually paid monthly as part of the overall mortgage payment to the lender. Over several years of paying on the loan and once the borrower has paid enough towards the principal amount of the loan (to cover
the 20%), they can contact their lender and ask that the PMI payment be removed. Many borrowers either forget or do not know that PMI can be removed once the accepted level is achieved.
Another way to avoid the PMI payment is by taking out a smaller loan (typically at a higher interest rate) to cover the amount of the 20% down, this is commonly known as "Piggybacking". Now the borrower is committed on two loans, but since the funds from the second loan are used to pay the 20% deposit, the borrower can avoid the PMI payment. The borrower can typically deduct the interest on both loans on their federal tax return if they are itemizing deductions, which most homeowners do anyways. (For related reading, take a look at Outsmart Private Mortgage Insurance .)
This question was answered by Steven Merkel.