Many consumers assume that “mortgage companies” are banks that lend their own money. In fact, a company that you deal with may be either a mortgage banker or a mortgage broker.
A mortgage banker is a direct lender; it lends you its own money, although it often sells the loan to the secondary market. Mortgage bankers (also known as “direct lenders”) sometimes retain servicing rights as well.
A mortgage broker is a middleman; he does the loan shopping and analysis for the borrower and puts the lender and borrower together. Many of the lenders through which the broker finds loans do not deal directly with the public (hence the expression, “wholesale lender”).
Using a mortgage banker can save the fees of a middleman and can make the loan process easier. A mortgage banker can give you direct loan approval, whereas a broker gives you information second-hand. However, many mortgage banks are limited in what they can offer, which is essentially their own product. In addition, if you present your loan application in a poor light, you’ve already made a bad impression. I am not suggesting you lie or mislead a lender, but understand that presenting a loan to a lender is like presenting your taxes to the IRS; there are many ways to do it, all of which are valid and legal. Using a mortgage broker allows you to present a loan application to a different lender in a different light (and you are a “fresh” face).
A mortgage broker may charge a fee for his service, but has access to a wide variety of loan programs. He also may have knowledge of how to present your loan application to different lenders for approval.
Some mortgage bankers also broker loans. These are generally your best bet as you will have access to a multitude of mortgage products and can be sure that you are getting the best loan at the best price for your individual needs.