FHFA Approves Use of Classic FICO Credit Scores for Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Mortgages

What's the most important credit score? If you’re seeking a new conventional, conforming mortgage, it’s Classic FICO.

By , Attorney · University of Denver Sturm College of Law

On November 10, 2020, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) announced that it issued a final rule giving Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac the stamp of approval to continue using the Classic FICO credit score model for mortgage-loan underwriting.

So, the lender will look at your Classic FICO score if you're seeking a conventional, conforming home loan.

What Are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are government-sponsored entities (often called "enterprises") that own or guarantee many, around half, of the mortgage loans in the United States. But these enterprises don't make loans. Mortgage companies, banks, and other lenders sell the loans they originate to investors, like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, on what's called the "secondary mortgage market."

If lenders want to sell their loans to Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac, they must meet the enterprises' guidelines. Conventional loans that adhere to these guidelines are called "conforming loans." As part of the process of making conforming loans, lenders look at an applicant's credit score, which they get from a credit scoring company, like FICO.

What Is a Credit Scoring Company?

Credit scoring companies calculate credit scores using an algorithm or mathematical model. Scores are based on what's in a person's credit history from a credit reporting agency, like Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion.

FICO is the dominant credit scoring company when it comes to consumer lending. FICO has many different scoring models. So, a person's score will likely vary depending on:

  • the model used to produce it—like FICO, FICO 8, or FICO 9—and
  • which credit reporting agency provided the underlying credit report.

FICO also offers industry-specific variations of its scoring models, like for the auto, credit card, and mortgage-lending industries. FICO scores generally range from 300 to 850.

Another type of credit score is VantageScore. Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion introduced VantageScore as a joint venture in 2006 to compete with FICO. VantageScore used to have a different range for scores than FICO, but now it uses the same range, which is 300 to 850.

Which Credit Score Is Used for Mortgages?

FICO is the most common score used in the mortgage-lending business. Again, FICO has many different scoring models. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have, in the past, and will, for now, require lenders to use the "Classic FICO" credit score to measure credit.

The Classic FICO score is also called these names at the major credit reporting agencies:

  • Equifax Beacon® 5.0
  • Experian/Fair Isaac Risk Model V2SM, and
  • TransUnion FICO® Risk Score, Classic 04.

What Credit Score Do I Need to Get a Conforming Mortgage Loan?

As of October 2022, Fannie Mae generally requires borrowers to have a credit score of 620 or 640, depending on how the loan was underwritten. Depending on the circumstances, Freddie Mac requires a score of 620 or 660 for a single-family primary residence. Of course, lenders may also have requirements that are more strict than the enterprises.

How to Find Out Your Classic FICO Score

The FICO website offers access to up to 28 of the most widely used FICO scores, including mortgage-lending (Classic FICO), auto, and credit card versions, and access to a copy of credit scores based on your Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion file.

But the downside is that you have to pay for credit monitoring to the tune of $29.95 per month, which will automatically renew unless you cancel, to get them. You may cancel at any time, but partial month refunds aren't given. Also, FICO might change the terms of this program and the scores offered in the future.

Learn More

To learn more about Fannie Mae and how it works, go to the Fannie Mae website. For information about Freddie Mac, go to the Freddie Mac website.