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Understanding Mortgage Insurance

Understanding Mortgage Insurance

Date Posted: June 19, 2024





When embarking on the journey to homeownership, one often encounters various forms of insurance that can sometimes be confusing. Among these is mortgage insurance, a crucial element for many homebuyers in Canada. Understanding what mortgage insurance is, why it’s necessary, and how it affects your home-buying process is essential. This article will demystify mortgage insurance and help you decide if you need it.


What is Mortgage Insurance?

Mortgage insurance is a policy that protects lenders against losses if a borrower defaults on their mortgage. It is typically required when a homebuyer makes a down payment of less than 20% of the property’s purchase price. The primary purpose of mortgage insurance is to mitigate the risk to the lender, allowing them to provide mortgages to buyers who may not have significant upfront capital.


Types of Mortgage Insurance

In Canada, there are two main types of mortgage insurance:

  1. Mortgage Default Insurance
  2. Mortgage Life Insurance


Mortgage Default Insurance

Mortgage Default Insurance, also known as CMHC insurance (named after the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation, one of the main providers), is required by lenders for high-ratio mortgages—those with a down payment of less than 20%. This insurance allows buyers to purchase homes with a smaller down payment by protecting the lender in case of default.

Key Providers:

  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC)
  • Sagen (formerly Genworth Canada)
  • Canada Guaranty

Cost: The cost of mortgage default insurance is a percentage of the loan amount and is typically added to your mortgage principal. The premium rate varies depending on the size of your down payment, ranging from 0.6% to 4.50%.

Premium Calculation Example:

  • Home Price: $400,000
  • Down Payment: $20,000 (5%)
  • Mortgage Amount: $380,000
  • Premium Rate: 4% (for a 5% down payment)
  • Premium: $380,000 x 4% = $15,200

The $15,200 is added to your mortgage, resulting in a total mortgage amount of $395,200.


Mortgage Life Insurance

Mortgage Life Insurance pays off your mortgage in the event of your death. This insurance ensures that your family or dependents will not have to worry about mortgage payments if the primary income earner passes away.

Cost: The cost varies based on factors such as the amount of coverage, your age, health status, and the insurance provider. Unlike mortgage default insurance, premiums for mortgage life insurance are usually paid separately and not added to the mortgage principal.


Why is Mortgage Insurance Important?


For Lenders: Mortgage insurance protects lenders from financial loss due to borrower default. This protection allows lenders to offer mortgages to a broader range of customers, including those with lower down payments.


For Homebuyers:

  • Enables Lower Down Payments: Mortgage default insurance allows buyers to purchase homes with as little as 5% down.
  • Increases Buying Power: By enabling lower down payments, buyers can afford more expensive homes than they otherwise might be able to.
  • Peace of Mind: Mortgage life insurance provides financial security to your family, ensuring that the mortgage will be paid off in case of your untimely death.


Do You Need Mortgage Insurance?


Mortgage Default Insurance:

  • If your down payment is less than 20%, mortgage default insurance is mandatory.
  • If you have a 20% down payment or more, you do not need mortgage default insurance, although some lenders may still require it under certain circumstances.


Mortgage Life Insurance:

  • Mortgage life insurance is optional but recommended for those who want to ensure their family can stay in the home if they die unexpectedly.
  • Alternatives include term life insurance or a personal life insurance policy, which might offer more flexible coverage.



Understanding mortgage insurance is a crucial step in your home-buying journey. Mortgage default insurance enables many Canadians to achieve homeownership with smaller down payments, while mortgage life insurance provides financial security for your loved ones. It’s important to evaluate your financial situation and discuss with your mortgage advisor to determine the best options for you.

By being informed about mortgage insurance, you can make confident decisions that align with your financial goals and provide peace of mind for your future. If you have any questions or need personalized advice, feel free to reach out to our mortgage experts for guidance.