Unless you live under a rock (like I do), you’ve probably heard the term “mortgage broker” get thrown around. You may have heard good things, and you may have heard bad things.
Regardless, a mortgage broker is essentially a middleman between the borrower/homeowner and the bank or mortgage lender. They work directly with both the consumer and the bank to help borrowers qualify for a mortgage, whether it be a purchase mortgage or a refinance.
Borrower/Homeowner <— Mortgage Broker —> Bank/Mortgage Lender
As you can see from my rather rudimentary, yet fairly time consuming diagram above, the mortgage broker acts as a liaison between two important entities. The borrower/homeowner end is the retail side, while the bank/lender end is the wholesale side.
So how does this whole mortgage broker thing work?
Well, once a borrower makes contact with a mortgage broker and agrees to work with him or her, the broker will gather important information. Income, asset, and employment documentation, along with a credit report, are necessary to assess the borrower’s ability to obtain financing. A retail bank would collect the same documentation.
Once the mortgage broker has all the important details, they can determine what will work best for the borrower. This may include setting an appropriate loan amount, loan-to-value, and determining which loan type would be ideal for the borrower.
Of course, the borrower can decide on all these things on their own if they so choose. The broker is just there to help (and make their commission).
Mortgage brokers make money by charging closing costs upfront and also via yield spread premium. They can also offer no cost loans by utilizing a lender credit, which will effectively raise the borrower’s interest rate, but eliminate out-of-pocket costs.
What they charge can vary greatly, so make sure you do your homework before agreeing to work with a mortgage broker. And ask what they charge before you apply!
Mortgage Brokers Can Shop Your Rate for You
After all the paperwork is taken care of, the mortgage broker will work on behalf of the borrower to find the best (lowest) mortgage rates available. This is the key advantage of a mortgage broker. They have the ability to shop with numerous banks and lenders simultaneously to find the lowest rate or the best loan program.
If you use a traditional retail bank, the loan officer can only offer loan programs and corresponding mortgage rates from a single bank. Clearly this would lessen your chances of seeing all that’s out there. And who wants to apply more than once for a mortgage?
Keep in mind that the number of banks/lenders a mortgage broker has access to will vary, as brokers must be approved to work with each individually. In other words, one mortgage broker may have access to Wells Fargo’s wholesale mortgage rates, while another may not. The more options the better. So ask the broker for multiple quotes from as many lenders as possible.
Mortgage Brokers Are Your Loan Guide
Mortgage brokers work with borrowers throughout the entire loan process until the deal is closed. Overall, they’re probably a lot more available than loan officers at retail banks, since they work with fewer borrowers on a more personal level.
This is another big advantage over a retail bank. If you go with one of the big banks, you may spend most of your time on hold waiting to get in touch with a representative. Additionally, if your loan is declined, that’s the end of the line. With a mortgage broker, they’d simply apply at another bank.
Studies have shown that these originate-to-distribute loans have performed worse than loans funded via traditional channels. But the big banks were the ones that created the loan programs and made them available, so ultimately the blame lies with them.
Regardless, you shouldn’t get yourself caught up in the blame game. It is recommended that you contact both retail banks and mortgage brokers to ensure you adequately shop your mortgage. Most borrowers only obtain a single mortgage quote, which certainly isn’t doing your due diligence.
Read more: Mortgage brokers vs. banks.