Who must pay
What's notable is that for the first time, the fee will be imposed on people higher up the credit spectrum. Fannie and Freddie "are moving to risk-based pricing even in higher credit tiers," Findlay says.
Today, with one small exception, the fee does not apply to borrowers with FICO scores of 720 or above. Under the new structure:
-- Borrowers with scores in the 720-739 range will be subject to a 0.5 percent fee if their loan-to-value ratio is higher than 75 percent or a 0.25 percent fee if the ratio is between 70.01 and 75 percent. They will pay nothing if their LTV is 70 percent or lower.
-- Borrowers with credit scores of 740 or higher will be subject to a 0.25 percent fee if the ratio is higher than 75 percent. They will pay no fee if it's 75 percent or lower.
To see Fannie Mae's before-and-after pricing matrix, go to sfg.ly/dLDTlZ. Freddie Mac's can be found at sfg.ly/dF2jlC on pages 4 and 5.
Findlay says the fees will hit a wide swath of high-credit-score borrowers for the first time. As of April, 37.4 percent of borrowers had FICO scores of 750 or higher.
The new fees will apply to most loans that Fannie and Freddie buy or guarantee, with a few exceptions.
Fannie calls this fee a loan-level price adjustment and Freddie calls it a post-settlement delivery fee.
The last time these fees went up was in April 2009.
Freddie announced its most recent increase in late November. "These delivery fee changes address the current increased risk and costs associated with certain higher loan-to-value mortgages," it said in a press release.
Fannie announced its increase two days before Christmas. "The changes are intended to more accurately reflect changing risks in the housing market," Fannie spokeswoman Amy Bonitatibus says.
But Gumbinger says, "I'm not so sure the risk profile has changed." He notes that credit scores on new Fannie and Freddie loans "are way up there."
According to a study by Inside Mortgage Finance, the average FICO score on new Fannie and Freddie mortgages hit 765.6 and 764.8, respectively, in the fourth quarter of 2010. That is the highest since the publication began keeping track in 2005.
'They need the fees'
"If most are coming in the 760s, Fannie and Freddie aren't collecting fees (on them). They need fees for profitability. It's not that these people are riskier. They need more fees from people coming in the door," Gumbinger says.
Freddie Mac spokesman Brad German denied that assertion. The risk-based fees "are based on the loss experience of loans in the portfolio," he says.
Freddie noted that "generally, these increases will have a nominal effect on consumer affordability." For example, it said that if a lender applied a 0.25 percent delivery fee to an interest rate, it would increase the rate by about 0.05 percent on a fully-amortized, 30-year mortgage. For a $200,000 mortgage, this would add less than $10 to the monthly payment.
Gumbinger agrees that a 0.25 percent fee does not have a huge impact, but when you add it to all the other fees that lenders and third parties have been adding to mortgages, it adds up.
In addition to the risk-based fee, in March 2008, Fannie began imposing what it calls an adverse market delivery charge on all mortgages, to make up for the fact that home prices are declining. This fee is 0.25 percent of the loan amount regardless of the credit score or loan-to-value ratio.
Freddie also charges what it calls a market condition fee equal to 0.25 percent of the loan amount.
These fees are not changing, as of now.
Net Worth runs Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays. E-mail Kathleen Pender at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read her blog at sfgate.com/pender. This article appeared on page D - 1 of the San Francisco Chronicle