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Which Lender Type Is Right for You?

There was a time when most homebuyers obtained their mortgage loans through their bank or credit union. Today, however, there are a number of additional home-financing providers. Which one is right for you? Let's take a look at the options.


A bank is a direct lender; that is, bank employees alone review your application and make the decision to lend you money. Typically, the bank will sell your loan on the secondary market.

Benefits of a mortgage bank are as follows.

  • Reliability: You probably know and trust your local bank. It is regulated by state and federal agencies and likely has strong ties with your community.
  • One-stop shopping: You deal directly with the source of your loan.
  • Savings: As the loan originator, a bank may save you money in the loan process and/or offer you better terms based on your total assets on deposit with the bank.
  • Speed: A bank also may process your loan faster than other providers.

The downside of a mortgage bank is that you have limited choices. Mortgage bankers only offer their own programs. To comparison shop, you need to speak with several lenders.

Mortgage Brokers

A mortgage broker is a middleman who may represent the mortgage loan products of hundreds of different lenders. The broker's goal is to match you up with the loan product that best meets your needs at the best price. Once your loan is approved, you will usually deal directly with the loan originator or their mortgage service provider.

Benefits of a mortgage broker:

  • Variety: By shopping across a range of different programs and lenders, a mortgage broker may find you a better fit than a mortgage bank.
  • Qualifying: A mortgage broker can best steer you to the national or regional lenders that are most likely to accept your application based on your financial and personal information.
  • Savings: You may get a more favorable loan rate.
  • Speed: A broker saves you time shopping for a loan.

Risks of a mortgage broker:

  • Hidden costs: Some mortgage brokers attempt to increase their profit by writing hidden costs into your loan. Best hedge: Know the loan process and ask questions.
  • Professional oversight: Unlike mortgage bankers, mortgage brokers are not subject to licensing and regulation in all states.

Banks, Thrifts, and Credit Unions

Most financial institutions offer a limited menu of loan products just as mortgage banks do. They typically hold mortgages in their portfolios or sell them on the secondary market.

Home Builders and Real Estate Agencies

Many large home builders and real estate agencies now own their own onsite mortgage company to make it easier to buy their properties. These affiliated companies may operate as a mortgage banker or broker.

Internet Lenders

Mortgage lenders have proliferated on the internet in recent years, offering fast, easy loans at competitive rates. Some are online channels of brick-and-mortar financial institutions or mortgage brokers, while others are web-based banks or brokers.

So Which Lender Is Right for You?

Depending on your credit history and circumstances, you may benefit by using one source of mortgage loans over another.