Record-Setting Year: Private Mortgage Insurers Helped Over 2 Million Low Down Payment Borrowers in 2020

Industry supported $600 billion in mortgage originations for new home purchases and refinance loans  

WASHINGTON — U.S. Mortgage Insurers (USMI), the association representing the nation’s leading private mortgage insurance (MI) companies, today announced the industry helped over 2 million low down payment borrowers secure mortgage financing in 2020, a 53 percent increase from the previous year, according to data from the government sponsored enterprises (GSEs). The industry also supported $600 billion in mortgage originations, according to public filings. Approximately 65 percent of this volume was for new purchases while 35 percent was for refinanced loans. This resulted in nearly $1.3 trillion in outstanding mortgages with active private MI coverage at year’s end, underscoring the industry’s critical role as serving as the first layer of protection against credit risk in the conventional mortgage market backed by the GSEs.

“Despite the unprecedented challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, conventional loans backed by private MI continued to make the dream of homeownership a reality for millions of low down payment borrowers,” said Lindsey Johnson, President of USMI. “The record-high volume in 2020 means that more families were able to become homeowners and existing homeowners were able to reduce their monthly mortgage payments by taking advantage of historically low refinance rates.”

Johnson recently discussed the record volume in the private MI market with Claudia Merkle, CEO of National MI, a USMI member. In the interview, Merkle noted two key factors that contributed to the strong production. “First, there are more and more first-time homebuyers coming into the market. They have good credit but struggle to put 20 percent down on their first house. Private MI is a great fit for them,” said Merkle. “A second factor is attributed to low interest rates, which helped fuel the strong mortgage market momentum in 2020, for both the purchase segment and also for refinances.”

USMI members worked closely with federal policymakers, industry groups, and consumer organizations to support homeowners experiencing financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The industry updated its guides and processes to align with the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) and the GSEs’ policies to implement nationwide forbearance programs.

“The private MI industry was able to serve as a source of strength through the COVID-19 pandemic and support a record number of borrowers because of the enhancements made by the industry—including increased capital and operational requirements,” said Johnson. “All USMI members were well-capitalized prior to the pandemic and continued to raise capital in the debt and equity markets throughout 2020 in order to scale up for increased volume.” 

At the end of 2020, USMI members held more than $6.3 billion in excess of capital requirements set by the GSEs. This furthered the private MI industry’s ability to support lenders and borrowers over the past year while operating in a unique and unpredictable market.  

The MI industry has enabled more than 35 million people to access affordable, low down payment mortgages in its nearly 65-year history. In 2020, nearly 60 percent of purchase loans backed by MI went to first-time homebuyers, over 40 percent went to borrowers with incomes below $75,000, and the average loan amount with MI was approximately $290,000.  

“This data underscores the point that the private MI industry serves a key demographic of low down payment borrowers,” Johnson added. “But the COVID-19 pandemic has further highlighted the significant racial and economic disparities in the U.S. housing market, as well as the need to increase access to affordable mortgage options. We have called on regulators and lawmakers to advance policies that promote equity by ensuring that homeownership is an achievable financial goal for all Americans.” 

In early 2021, USMI sent a letter to Rep. Marcia Fudge,  then the nominee to lead the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The association also joined with several industry groups in sending letters to President Biden and congressional leadership to emphasize the importance of COVID-19 relief for homeowners and housing policies that promote affordable and sustainable access to mortgage finance credit. Further details on the role of private MI in the mortgage market can be found here

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