Mortgage Broker vs Direct Lender: What’s the Difference?

By Jody McMaster · August 19, 2022 · 5 minute read

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Mortgage Broker vs Direct Lender: What’s the Difference?

You’re ready to buy a house, and you need financing. There are two main options: direct lenders and mortgage brokers.

Which should you shop for a mortgage with? If you have credit issues or other needs, considering a broker’s array of options would make sense. If your financial health is solid and you want to save time and money, applying with a direct lender could be a good course of action.

In any case, it’s smart to get a few quotes and compare offers for the same type of loan and term.

What Is a Mortgage Broker?

A mortgage broker is a middleman between the mortgage seeker and lenders, including banks, credit unions, and private mortgage companies.

With a single application, a broker will provide you with access to different types of mortgage loans and, if you choose one, will walk you through underwriting.

Mortgage brokers are licensed and regulated. You’ll want to ensure that any broker you’re interested in working with is credentialed by checking the Nationwide Multistate Licensing System & Registry consumer access site. You can also check platforms like the Better Business Bureau and Yelp to see what past clients say.

Brokers are compensated by the borrower or lender. Borrower fees typically range from 1% to 2% of the total loan amount. Lender commissions may range from 0.50% to 2.75% of the total loan amount, but lenders usually pass the costs on to borrowers by building them into the loan.

How to Find a Mortgage Broker

You could ask your current lending institution, friends, family members, or real estate agent for a referral to a mortgage broker.

After checking licensing, you may interview more than one broker before deciding on one. You might want to ask about their fees, lenders they work with, and experience.

First-time homebuyers can
prequalify for a SoFi mortgage loan,
with as little as 3% down.

What Is a Direct Lender?

In the mortgage broker vs. lender dichotomy, a direct lender is the bank, credit union, or mortgage company that originates, processes, and funds mortgages.

Mortgage loan officers, processors, and underwriters work for the company. Loan originators usually work on commission.

A loan officer may offer a mortgage at various price points, from a loan with discount points for a lower rate to a no-closing-cost loan, which is when the lender agrees to pay the closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate.

Recommended: First-Time Home Buying Guide

How to Find a Direct Lender

Most people have a relationship with a bank or credit union, which they might want to expand on by getting a mortgage quote. Then there are myriad online mortgage lenders.

Pulling up the day’s mortgage rates online will conjure a list of direct lenders advertising their rates.

What Are the Pros of Working With a Mortgage Broker?

Because they are able to offer a variety of quotes from different sources, brokers can be useful if you’re looking to easily compare mortgage options.

They may offer specialized loans.

Loan brokers set their own profit margins, so negotiating could be easier.

A broker could be useful if you have concerns like a fair or bad credit score or student loan debt.

What Are the Cons of Working With a Mortgage Broker?

Brokers may have preferred lenders that don’t necessarily offer the best interest rate. And some lenders won’t work with brokers at all.

If paid by lender commission, a broker could be tempted to steer a borrower to a more expensive loan.

Brokers’ loans may take longer to close.

Broker fees tend to be higher, but that could be because the mortgages offered are sometimes more complex. And mortgage brokers may charge borrowers directly (the fee of 1% to 2% of the total loan amount).

What Are the Pros of Working With a Direct Lender?

By working with a direct lender, you’ll skip the broker fees, and you may get a better rate with lower closing costs (although both lenders and brokers can offer “rebate pricing” — a higher interest rate in exchange for lower up-front costs).

A direct lender typically does all the loan processing, underwriting, and closing in-house.

You may be able to negotiate underwriting or origination fees.

What Are the Cons of Working With a Direct Lender?

Comparing rates and terms on your own from a sample of lenders takes time.

You’re limited to the loan programs of the institutions where you decide to shop.

What Works for My Situation?

You’ve probably toyed with at least one home affordability calculator and gotten pre-approved for a loan.

Once you’ve found a home and your offer has been accepted, it’s decision time on a lender. You are not required to stay with the lender you used for pre-approval.

If you have a sparse credit history, subpar credit, or other challenges, a mortgage broker might be able to find a loan program that’s a good fit.

But if you have solid credit, a strong income, and assets, you may be able to save time and money by working with a direct lender.

What about rates? In weighing mortgage broker vs. bank, there might be no difference to speak of. The rate you’re offered depends more on your qualifications than on the lender.

The mortgage loan process can seem mysterious, and a broker or a loan officer at a direct lender can act as a loan seeker’s guide.

That guide should be willing to answer all of your mortgage questions, including those about points, fees, mortgage insurance, and the closing timetable.

You’ll receive loan estimates after applying. When comparing mortgage offers, it’s important to look at more than the interest rate. Be sure to compare APRs.

Look at the fees in the “loan costs” section, and compare closing costs.

Gain home-buying insights
with the latest housing
market trends.

The Takeaway

If you’re in the market for a mortgage, you might think the choice comes down to mortgage broker vs. direct lender. But you may get loan quotes from both and compare them. It’s called shopping, and a home is a rather important purchase.

You might find that the fixed-rate mortgage loans from SoFi stand up to the competition nicely.

Finance a primary home, second home, or investment property. Live large with a jumbo loan.

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Financial Tips & Strategies: The tips provided on this website are of a general nature and do not take into account your specific objectives, financial situation, and needs. You should always consider their appropriateness given your own circumstances.


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