Our top picks of timely offers from our partners

More details
CIT Bank
Learn More
Terms Apply
Earn 15x the national average with a Savings Connect account. Member FDIC
Rocket Mortgage
Learn More
Terms Apply
Rates recently increased and could continue to rise - look into refinancing with one of our top picks
Chime
Learn More
Terms Apply
No late fees, no monthly service fees, and get paid up to 2 days early with direct deposit
Rocket Money
Learn More
Terms Apply
Track your spending and net worth, and cancel unwanted subscriptions
Capital One Shopping
Learn More
Terms Apply
Add the extension to your browser and shop online - it applies coupon codes for free. 
Select independently determines what we cover and recommend. We earn a commission from affiliate partners on many offers. Read more about Select on CNBC and on NBC News, and click here to read our full advertiser disclosure.
Mortgages

What's the difference between Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Both conduct behind-the-scenes work when it comes to mortgages. Here's what you need to know.

Share
Damircudic | E+ | Getty Images

If you've been learning more about mortgages or have recently begun exploring your options for an upcoming home purchase, you've probably encountered the names Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

While not knowing too much about these two entities isn't going to prevent you from buying a home, it's always helpful to have a little more background, especially when it comes to their roles and functions in relation to mortgages and the homebuying process.

Below, Select breaks down what you need to know about Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and takes a closer look at some of the loan products they offer.

Subscribe to the Select Newsletter!

Our best selections in your inbox. Shopping recommendations that help upgrade your life, delivered weekly. Sign-up here.

What exactly are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac?

Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are corporations that buy mortgages from banks — by doing so, they're essentially helping banks to create more cash flow so they can continue originating and processing home loans for everyday people. Each of the two entities then either holds onto those mortgages as part of their own portfolio or repackages them into mortgage-backed securities.

Fannie Mae is actually the nickname for the Federal National Mortgage Association, while Freddie Mac is the nickname for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation.

The first entity, Fannie Mae, was created in 1938 by the U.S. Congress at a time when there was a lack of affordable housing due to the Great Depression, which happened in the U.S. from 1929 to 1939. Its introduction actually led to the long-term, fixed-rate mortgage, a type of mortgage that's still popular today.

More than 30 years later, Freddie Mac was created in 1970 as a way to help expand the secondary mortgage market — a market in which lenders and investors buy and sell home loans — and alleviate some of the interest rate risk for banks.

How are Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac different?

While Fannie Mae was created before Freddie Mac, the differences don't stop there. The two corporations each purchase their loans from different sources — Fannie Mae buys them from large banks and credit unions while Freddie Mac buys them from smaller banks and credit unions.

Both entities purchase and sell conventional loans. And although Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are each backed by the federal government, the loans themselves are not. The conventional loans are backed by private lenders. So, you would not apply directly with Fannie Mae or Freddie Mac for a mortgage, but the mortgage you get may be purchased by either of the companies.

The loans can also be conforming or non-conforming, meaning they'd adhere to, or conform to, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac's funding criteria and wouldn't exceed a certain amount, which changes each year — for 2022, the limit is $647,200 unless you live in a state with a higher cost of living that states otherwise. That said, jumbo loans are an example of a non-conforming loan that can be used to borrow more money than the aforementioned limit.

In terms of loan programs, Fannie Mae offers the HomeReady® Mortgage, which is geared toward low- to mid-income homebuyers and allows them to make down payments as low as 3%. Certain rules apply, however: Applicants must have a debt-to-income ratio of no more than 50% and their income must be equal to or less than 80% of the area's median income.

Since you can't take out a HomeReady® Mortgage directly from Fannie Mae, you'll have to apply through a lender, such as a bank or credit union. Ally Bank is one such lender that offers this loan.

Ally Bank

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included

  • Types of loans

    Conventional loans, HomeReady loan and Jumbo loans

  • Terms

    15 – 30 years

  • Credit needed

    620

  • Minimum down payment

    3% if moving forward with a HomeReady loan

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Ally HomeReady loan allows for a slightly smaller downpayment at 3%
  • Pre-approval in just three minutes
  • Application submission in as little as 15 minutes
  • Online support available
  • Existing Ally customers can receive a discount that gets applied to closing costs
  • Doesn't charge lender fees

Cons

  • Doesn't offer FHA loans, USDA loans, VA loans or HELOCs
  • Mortgage loans are not available in Hawaii, Nevada, New Hampshire, or New York

Freddie Mac, on the other hand, offers the HomePossible® mortgage, which generally requires a minimum down payment of 3%. Note that for this particular loan program, qualifying applicants cannot earn more than their area's average income.

It's worth noting that though the 3% minimum down payment is still a little lower than the 3.5% minimum requirement you'd need for an FHA loan, if an FHA loan is a better fit for your financial circumstances, you should consider going with a lender such as Rocket Mortgage and Chase Bank, which offers that option.

Rocket Mortgage

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    Apply online for personalized rates

  • Types of loans

    Conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans and Jumbo loans

  • Terms

    8 – 29 years, including 15-year and 30-year terms

  • Credit needed

    Typically requires a 620 credit score but will consider applicants with a 580 credit score as long as other eligibility criteria are met

  • Minimum down payment

    3.5% if moving forward with an FHA loan

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Can use the loan to buy or refinance a single-family home, second home or investment property, or condo
  • Can get pre-qualified in minutes
  • Rocket Mortgage app for easy access to your account

Cons

  • Runs a hard inquiry in order to provide a personalized interest rate, which means your credit score may take a small hit
  • Doesn't offer USDA loans, HELOCs, construction loans, or mortgages for mobile homes
  • Doesn't manage accounts for jumbo loans after closing

Chase Bank

  • Annual Percentage Rate (APR)

    Apply online for personalized rates; fixed-rate and adjustable-rate mortgages included

  • Types of loans

    Conventional loans, FHA loans, VA loans, DreaMaker℠ loans and Jumbo loans

  • Terms

    10 – 30 years

  • Credit needed

    620

  • Minimum down payment

    3% if moving forward with a DreaMaker℠ loan

See our methodology, terms apply.

Pros

  • Chase DreaMaker℠ loan allows for a slightly smaller down payment at 3%
  • Discounts for existing customers
  • Online support available
  • A number of resources available for first-time homebuyers including mortgage calculators, affordability calculator, education courses and Home Advisors

Cons

  • Doesn't offer USDA loans or HELOCs
  • Existing customers discounts apply to those who have large balances in their Chase deposit and investment accounts

Catch up on Select's in-depth coverage of personal financetech and toolswellness and more, and follow us on FacebookInstagram and Twitter to stay up to date.

Editorial Note: Opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the Select editorial staff’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any third party.
Enjoy an intro APR on purchases plus, Discover will match all the cash back you've earned at the end of your first year.
Plenty of rewards and benefits including 4X points per dollar for dining at restaurants worldwide