Big Gain, Less Pain

With home values rising, see if you've got the equity to dump private-mortgage insurance

Home values in the U.S. are up across the board, and some hot areas, including parts of California, Florida, the Carolinas and the Midwest, have seen torrid price increases of 10% to 15% in the past 12 months. Nationally, the median price for existing homes jumped 5% last year, soundly outpacing an inflation rate of less than 2%. Such numbers are heartening for anyone who stretched to buy a home--most of us, right? Yet for anyone who really stretched, buying with less than 20% down, the gains aren't merely comforting, they're a windfall. This may be their chance to ditch private-mortgage...

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