Setting the Record Straight on Mortgage Pricing: A Comprehensive Look at FHFA’s Recent Changes and Their Impact


The Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has recently made changes to the mortgage pricing framework of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. Some argue that these changes socialize mortgages by increasing fees for borrowers with high credit scores. The FHFA claims the primary goal is to create a more inclusive and equitable housing market for low- and moderate-income borrowers and those from historically disadvantaged groups. Borrowers, particularly those with great credit but smaller down payments, should carefully explore their options and compare loan products to find the best solution for their specific situations.

Lately, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has implemented several adjustments to the pricing framework of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the Enterprises). These changes have led to controversy and confusion about the fees charged by the Enterprises and the reasons behind the updates. This article aims to offer a balanced and accurate perspective on these changes, delving into their implications and addressing misconceptions directly.

Understanding the “Enterprises” (aka Fannie and Freddie) and their role

Congress established the Enterprises to facilitate responsible access to mortgage credit in the secondary market by providing liquidity, stability, and affordability. They charge fees to guarantee borrowers’ mortgage payments, attracting investors worldwide and ultimately reducing interest rates for homeowners. A portion of these fees are “upfront” and based on the risk characteristics of borrowers and their loans, thus engaging in risk-based pricing.

The comprehensive review and its changes

FHFA initiated a comprehensive review in 2021 to ensure the Enterprises’ pricing framework maintained support for purchase borrowers limited by income or wealth, ensured a level playing field for large and small lenders, fostered capital accumulation, and achieved commercially viable returns on capital over time. Over 18 months, the agency introduced targeted fee increases, eliminated upfront fees for specific borrower groups, and recalibrated upfront fees for most purchase and rate-term refinance loans.

The Biden administration’s new mortgage fees, effective May 1, have led to debates on whether they penalize house hunters with high credit scores. Before the change, a borrower with a credit score of 740 and a 15% down payment would have faced a 0.25% fee on their mortgage. After the change, that fee will rise to 1%. Conversely, a borrower with a score of 640 and a 15% down payment would have paid a 3.25% fee before the change, and after the change, it will fall to 2.5%.


Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.

  • Increased opportunities for low- and moderate-income borrowers
  • Better alignment with expected financial performance and risks
  • Support for affordable, sustainable mortgage credit
  • Some high-credit borrowers may pay more
  • Confusion and misconceptions surrounding changes
  • Shift in competitive landscape between mortgage types

What do the changes mean for borrowers?

The FHFA aims to increase opportunities for homeownership for low- and moderate-income borrowers and those from historically disadvantaged, traditionally underrepresented groups. The changes are a result of the FHFA re-estimating the costs associated with bearing risks, based on data about what characteristics are most likely to lead to default losses. The table below shows the winners and losers of the pricing changes.

Changes in Loan-Level Price Adjustments

Some people with strong credit scores will pay more, but mostly those with lower down payments. Risk-based pricing is not new, and the two key drivers of default risk include equity (loan-to-value ratio or down payment) and credit history. The bottom line is that some borrowers with high credit scores and low down payments will pay more, but the cost is still aligned with credit scores with the new pricing model.

Mortgage Insurance and Loan-Level Price Adjustments Are Combined, the Cost to the Borrower Aligns with the Risk


Buyers should react to fee adjustments by talking to their lenders and comparing options, including the costs upfront and over time for a conventional loan and a Federal Housing Administration loan. These changes have shifted the competitive landscape between the two types of mortgages, and borrowers could save significant amounts of money by comparing their options.

What is the downside of these changes?

No matter how you spin it, there are disadvantages associated with these changes.

Higher fees for some borrowers

Borrowers with higher credit scores and lower down payments may see an increase in upfront fees, making it more expensive for them to obtain a mortgage. This could be perceived as penalizing responsible borrowers who have worked to maintain good credit.

Market uncertainty

Any significant changes in the mortgage industry can create uncertainty among lenders, borrowers, and investors, potentially affecting housing market stability in the short term.

Unintended consequences

As with any significant policy shift, there may be unintended consequences that could arise from these changes. For example, if the new pricing framework inadvertently discourages some creditworthy borrowers from entering the housing market, it could have a negative impact on overall homeownership rates.

Perception of government intervention

Some critics may argue that these changes represent increased government intervention in the housing market, potentially leading to concerns about market distortion or inefficiencies.

Do these changes involve the socialization of mortgages?

The FHFA’s primary goal is to increase opportunities for homeownership among low- and moderate-income borrowers and those from historically disadvantaged, traditionally underrepresented groups. In other words, you could argue the purpose of the FHFA has been to “socialize” mortgages from day one, whatever your view is of these changes.

By adjusting the pricing framework, the administration aims to make home loans more accessible and affordable for these borrowers, thereby promoting a more inclusive housing market. However, the updated pricing framework does not represent a complete socialization of mortgages. Instead, it seeks to recalibrate risk-based pricing to better align with the expected long-term financial performance and risks of the underlying loans.

The changes are based on the FHFA’s review of data on borrower characteristics and default risks, and they reflect a more accurate estimation of the costs associated with bearing those risks. In summary, while the Biden administration’s changes to mortgage fees may seem to lean towards a more socialized approach, they claim the primary objective is to create a more inclusive and equitable housing market. According to the FHFA, the adjustments are based on risk assessment and are intended to improve the overall stability and soundness of the mortgage market.

Key takeaways

  • New mortgage pricing changes by FHFA aim to support low- and moderate-income borrowers.
  • Risk-based pricing is a key aspect of the updated framework, considering factors such as down payment and credit history.
  • Changes have led to a shift in the competitive landscape between conventional loans and Federal Housing Administration loans.
  • Borrowers should compare their options and understand the implications of these changes on their specific situations.
View Article Sources & Recommended Reading
  1. Loan Level Price Matrix  – Fannie Mae
  2. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac New Pricing – Urban
  3. FHFA Announces Updates to the Enterprises’ Single-Family Pricing Framework – FHFA
  4. Buying a Home – U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
  5. What is a GSE Mortgage? – SuperMoney
  6. What Is a Conforming Loan? – SuperMoney