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When financing a home purchase, a mortgage broker is like a matchmaker in a relationship: They can help you find a lender with the best mortgage for your needs, secure a competitive interest rate and save you time and money.
But just like a good matchmaker can make a big difference in finding the right partner, you’ll want to choose the right person to partner with when financing a home. While a mortgage broker isn’t essential to the homebuying process, you may find their guidance helpful. Follow these steps to find the right mortgage broker for you.
» MORE: See the best mortgage lenders
As with any important financial decision, thorough research is the first step to making sure you choose wisely. Here's how to get started:
Reach out to friends and family. Ask your family and friends if they have used a mortgage broker. Were they satisfied with the service they received? Was the broker knowledgeable and attentive?
Get referrals from your real estate agent. Your real estate agent should have a pulse on local mortgage brokers in your area and be able to recommend qualified individuals. Real estate agents make a commission after a home is sold, so they have a vested interest in recommending a good broker.
Read online reviews. Read reviews on Google or Yelp to get a better understanding of the kind of experience you could expect from your candidates. For example, how long did it take for the customer's loan to be approved? If there were any stumbling blocks in the transaction, how did the mortgage broker deal with them? You should also pay attention to what reviewers are saying about the mortgage broker's skills in communication, organization and problem-solving (or lack thereof).
You can verify if a mortgage broker is licensed by checking your state regulator or the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry. The Better Business Bureau can also indicate if there have been any complaints about the broker and whether those issues were resolved.
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Just as NerdWallet recommends shopping around when comparing mortgage lenders, you should do the same when choosing a mortgage broker. After doing your research, narrow down your list to at least three candidates. Then, ask them these questions:
What types of products do you offer? One benefit of working with a mortgage broker is that they partner with many lenders and provide borrowers with various mortgage options. But just like with a lender, a mortgage broker may not have access to every loan type. So if you are interested in a specific one, make sure the broker offers that option.
What lenders do you work with? A mortgage broker may work with a set of preferred lenders, potentially limiting the savings you could expect from shopping around. Some lenders don’t work with brokers at all, meaning that it may be in your interest to do some lender research on your own. If you want a connection to a specific lender, make sure your broker can offer it — or point you in a similar direction that might be a good fit.
What are your fees? Mortgage brokers are required to disclose their fees. Typically, they are paid 1% to 2% or more of the loan amount as a salary or commission (by law, the maximum fee mortgage brokers can charge is 3% of the loan amount). Mortgage brokers can either be paid by lenders or borrowers, but they can't be paid by both parties. If the borrower pays the fee, it can be paid upfront or rolled into the loan amount. You can avoid mortgage broker fees altogether if you choose not to work with a broker and instead find a lender yourself.
Are you experienced working with borrowers in my situation? Find out if the mortgage broker has worked with borrowers who match your specific needs, such as having bad credit or wanting a particular type of loan. Of course, there's no guarantee the mortgage broker will get you the best deal, but if they're familiar with your situation, they might offer money-saving options you haven’t considered.
If you have a problematic credit history and know that you’ll want to focus on lenders with flexible requirements, you can start with NerdWallet’s list of the best mortgage lenders for low or bad credit score borrowers.
Make sure you’re financially prepared
A mortgage broker can make getting a home loan easier by connecting you with a lender. But you can also make the entire process smoother by ensuring you are financially prepared before selecting your mortgage broker.
To get started, pull your credit report. You can access yours from all three credit reporting bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — at AnnualCreditReport.com for free each year.
It also helps to familiarize yourself with some common types of loans and get an idea of what may be a good fit. Do you have limited savings for a down payment? Maybe a loan insured by the Federal Housing Administration — called an FHA loan — is right for you. Do you prefer an aggressive strategy for paying down debt? You may want to consider a 15-year loan. The more you know about what you want and what you can realistically afford, the more productive your conversations with the mortgage broker can be.
Speaking of which, you can also prepare by figuring out how much house you can afford with a home affordability calculator, which considers your income, debts, and how much money you have for a down payment.
You can also begin compiling documentation the broker may need. These documents may include personal information like your Social Security number, driver's license, and financial information such as recent bank statements, federal tax returns, and W-2 forms.
Choosing the right lender can ensure that you get the best available deal on your mortgage. A knowledgeable and experienced broker who understands your needs can present a range of options for you to compare, making the mortgage application process much smoother — and potentially saving you thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.