I am a relatively new home owner, having purchased my first home in October 2009. Overall, I feel I got an excellent deal on the loan, which was 5% no-cost, no points, and 12% down. I had to take on PMI (mortgage insurance) since I was unable to put down a full 20%. This mortgage insurance is costing me a hefty $1752 per year, and I am wondering if there are any options for refinancing that would allow me to remove the PMI, despite not yet reaching that 80% loan-to-value ratio.
On a 5% mortgage, after 24 months of payments on a 30 yr amortization, you will have paid 3% of the principal, so all else being equal, you have 15% equity. If the value is up, even a bit, the first step is to call the bank. If you are pretty sure it's up enough, ask them to remove PMI in exchange for you paying the appraisal fee. If they hesitate, ask them if you prepay the remaining missing 5%, if they'll pull the fee. 8% of principal is paid by the end of year 5, at which time they have no choice but to remove it. Doing so any sooner is their call. If they agree to the pre-pay deal, I'd find a way to raise the funds. It will save you over $5000 in a short period.
Last, while 5% really is great, especially NPNC, shop around, you may find another no cost deal at the same or lower rate, no harm to look, and they may appraise you at 80% LTV.
Banks are currently a lot less open to 'creative financing' than they were a few years ago, but you may still be able to take advantage of the tactic of splitting the loan into two parts, a smaller 'second mortgage' sometimes called a 'purchase money second' at a slightly higher interest rate for around 15-20% of the value, and the remaining in a conventional mortgage. Since this tactic has been around for a long time, it's not quite in the category of the shenanegans they were pulling a few years back, so has a lot more potential to still be an option. I did this in for my first house in '93 and again in '99 when I moved to a larger home after getting married. It allowed me to get into both houses with less than 20% down and not pay PMI.
This way neither loan is above 80% so you don't have to pay PMI. The interest on the second loan will be higher, but usually only a few percent, and is thus usually a fraction of what you were paying for the PMI. (and it's deductible from your taxes)
If you've been making your payments on time and have a good credit rating, then you might be able to find someone who would offer you such a deal. You might even be able to get a rate for your primary that is down in the low 4's depending on where rates are today and what your credit rating is like. If you can get the main loan low enough, even if the other is like say 7%, your blended rate may still be right around 5%
If you can find a deal like this, it's also great material to use to negotiate with your current lender "either help me get the PMI off this loan or I'm going to refinance." Then you can compare what they will offer you with what you can get in a refinance and decide what makes the most sense for you.
On word of warning, when refinancing, do NOT get sucked into an adjustable rate mortgage. If you are finding life 'tight' right now with house payments and all, the an ARM could be highly seductive since they often offer a very low initial rate.. however then invariably adjust upwards, and you could suddenly find yourself with a monster payment far larger than what you have now. With low rates where they are, getting a conventional fixed rate loan (or loans in the case of the tactic being discussed here) is the way to go.