EMERYVILLE, Calif. - Almost three million U.S. homeowners may be needlessly paying for private mortgage insurance, according to a study by HomeGain, an online real estate and homebuying company.

HomeGain, which studied home sale price increases in 61 American cities between June 1997 and June 2000, found that 95% of the increases were sufficient to give the borrowers equity of more than 20%.

Lenders usually require borrowers who make down payments of less than 20% to purchase the private insurance, which typically costs 0.5% to 1% of the loan amount per year.

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