What Is a Mortgage Broker?

A mortgage broker is an intermediary who brings mortgage borrowers and mortgage lenders together, but does not use their own funds to originate mortgages. A mortgage broker helps a borrower connect with lenders who represent the best fit in terms of the borrower's financial situation and interest-rate needs. The broker also gathers paperwork from a borrower and passes that paperwork along to a mortgage lender for underwriting and approval. A mortgage broker should not be confused with a mortgage banker, which closes and funds a mortgage with its own funds.

How a Mortgage Broker Works

A mortgage broker serves as an intermediary between borrowers and lenders. Whether a potential borrower is buying a new home or refinancing, a broker gathers loan options from various lenders for the borrower to consider, while qualifying the borrower for a mortgage. The broker also gathers income, asset, and employment documentation; a credit report; and other information for assessing the borrower’s ability to secure financing. The broker determines an appropriate loan amount, loan-to-value ratio, and the borrower’s ideal loan type, then submits the loan to a lender for approval. The broker communicates with the borrower and the lender during the entire transaction.

A mortgage broker can save a borrower time during the application process and potentially a lot of money over the life of the loan.

The mortgage funds are lent in the name of the mortgage lender, and the mortgage broker collects an origination fee from the lender as compensation for its services. The broker only gets paid when the loan transaction is completed.

Borrowers should search online reviews and ask for referrals from real estate agents, friends, and family to find a mortgage broker who has the right credentials for the borrower's level of experience. It's important to work with an individual whom you trust and who provides good service.

Mortgage Broker vs. Loan Officer

When consumers are buying or refinancing a home, a first stop is often to a loan officer in a local bank or credit union. A bank loan officer offers programs and mortgage rates from a single institution. A mortgage broker, by contrast, works on a borrower’s behalf to find the lowest available mortgage rates and/or the best loan programs available through multiple lenders. However, the number of lenders a broker accesses is limited by his approval to work with each lender. That means borrowers are generally best served by doing some of their own legwork to find the best deal.

A broker works with a few borrowers at one time and doesn't get paid unless a loan closes, encouraging brokers to work with each borrower on a more personal level. If a loan originated through a broker is declined, the broker applies to another lender. A loan officer from a big bank may keep a borrower on hold for an extended period of time because the officer is working with many borrowers at once. If a loan originating through a loan officer is declined, no further action is taken with the bank.

Some lenders work exclusively with mortgage brokers, providing borrowers access to loans that would otherwise not be available to them. In addition, brokers can get lenders to waive application, appraisal, origination, and other fees. Big banks work exclusively with loan officers and do not waive fees.