If you’re buying a home for the first time, you’ll likely come across the terms “principal” and “interest” when referring to a mortgage. These are common terms that describe what you’re borrowing and how much it’ll cost you, but there are other costs in addition to these that make up your whole mortgage payment. Together, these costs are known as “PITI.”

What does PITI mean?

PITI stands for principal, interest, taxes and insurance, all of which make up your monthly mortgage payment. 

Principal

The principal on your mortgage is the amount you borrow from a lender to finance a home purchase. Let’s say you’re buying a $200,000 home and you have 20 percent for a down payment, or $40,000. In order to finance the remaining $160,000 of the home’s price, you secure a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. The principal, in this case, would be $160,000.

Interest

Mortgages come with interest, which is the amount the lender charges you to loan you money. This added cost is determined by your interest rate.

Following the example above, say you put 20 percent down on a home costing $200,000, and you get a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage to finance the remaining $160,000 at 6.6 percent interest. At that rate, your monthly payment would come to $1,022 (excluding homeowners insurance and property taxes). If your rate were 6.8 percent, you’d pay slightly more, $1,043, per month. 

At first, more of your monthly mortgage payment covers the cost of the interest, but as you continue to repay the loan, more of that payment tackles the principal. Mortgages tend to be structured this way because it’s less risky for the lender.

mortgage is an amortizing loan, meaning you’ll repay the loan in installments over a period of time. You can use Bankrate’s amortization calculator to see how your monthly payments change over your loan term, and how much goes to principal and how much goes to interest at different points in your repayment period.

Taxes 

The taxes you pay for in your monthly mortgage payment are property taxes, which are determined by the assessed value of your home or other homes in your tax jurisdiction. Typically, your lender collects these taxes for you through your mortgage payment, holds them in an escrow account and pays them on your behalf when they come due.

Insurance

Lenders require you to purchase homeowners insurance in order for you to obtain a mortgage. Insurance provides coverage for you in the event your home is damaged, and also serves to protect the asset — your home — that your lender is using as collateral to secure your loan.

Your insurance premium is typically included in your monthly mortgage payment. Like your property taxes, your lender will hold the premiums in escrow and pay them to your insurance company for you. The average annual homeowners insurance premium for $250,000 in coverage stands at $1,383.

Homeowners insurance might not be the only premium included in your monthly mortgage payment, however. Depending on the type of mortgage you’re getting and the amount of your down payment, you might also need to pay for mortgage insurance, which protects the lender if you default on your loan. This extra cost will increase your monthly payment.

Other costs

Aside from PITI, you might also pay for homeowners association fees in your monthly mortgage payment. If the home you’re buying is in a homeowners association, you’ll have to pay these dues to help fund everything that keeps the community maintained.

Likewise, you might need to pay mortgage insurance premiums, depending on the type of loan you get and the size of your down payment. These aren’t always included in the PITI calculation.

How to calculate PITI

You can use Bankrate’s PITI calculator to estimate your monthly mortgage payment with taxes and insurance. To do this, enter your information into the following fields:

  • Mortgage amount
  • Term in years
  • Interest rate
  • Annual property taxes
  • Annual home insurance

For example, if you were to take out a 30-year fixed-rate mortgage for $240,000 at 6.7 percent interest, and pay $1,383 annually for homeowners insurance and $2,375 in annual property tax, your PITI would be about $1,346. The principal and interest payments alone would be $1,032.

If you want to calculate PITI in a simple way or without the help of an online calculator, you can divide your annual property taxes and homeowners insurance premiums by 12, and add that to the combined principal and interest payment on your amortization schedule.

Why is PITI important?

Aside from looking at your credit score, lenders take into account PITI and your other debt obligations to calculate your debt-to-income (DTI) ratio, which helps them determine whether you’ll be able to repay the loan based on your financial situation. The DTI ratio is the amount of debt you owe on a monthly basis, including the PITI payment, divided by your monthly income.

The ideal DTI ratio for lenders is 36 percent or less, but many accept up to 43 percent or even higher.

Frequently asked questions about PITI

  • PITI doesn’t account for any mortgage insurance premiums you might need to pay, nor HOA fees if you’re buying in a homeowners association. It also doesn’t include closing costs, unless you financed them with your loan as a no-closing-cost mortgage. In this case, they’d be included in the principal and interest (PI) portion of your payment.
  • Maximum PITI limits your monthly mortgage payment to what you can afford. If your lender requires a DTI ratio of no more than 36 percent, for example, your maximum PITI would be your gross income multiplied by 0.36, minus all other debt payments. If your income totals $7,500 a month, say, and you also pay $230 toward student loans, your maximum PITI would be $2,470.
  • You can lower your PITI in several ways. The mortgage principal and interest likely make up the largest portion of your payment, so get the lowest loan rate possible by improving or maintaining a strong credit score and shopping around with at least three mortgage lenders. If you can make a bigger down payment, that’ll help lower your PITI, too, because you won’t need to borrow as much. You can also comparison-shop for homeowners insurance. While you won’t have much say over your property tax bill, you can keep your taxes low overall by buying a smaller home, or a home in a town with lower taxes.

Bottom line

Before getting a mortgage, it’s important to make sure you can afford not only the monthly principal and interest payments on the loan, but also the property taxes and homeowners insurance, mortgage insurance or HOA fees. Together, these make up your PITI payment, and represent a more accurate view of what your total costs will be.