Find out what a mortgage broker is and how to find the right one
by Brean Horne, Senior Writer
If you’re a first-time buyer or looking to remortgage a mortgage broker can help you find the best deal to suit your circumstances.
Here, we explain what a mortgage broker is and some important things to consider before deciding to use one.
What is a mortgage broker?
A mortgage broker or mortgage adviser is a specialist that helps you find the best mortgage deal to suit your financial circumstances.
Although the title mortgage broker and mortgage adviser can be used interchangeably, brokers usually look at a range of mortgages from different lenders, while advisers are usually connected to a specific lender.
Whether you’re a first-time buyer or looking to remortgage, mortgage brokers work with you directly to assess your home loan needs before scouring the market for deals you’re most likely to be accepted for. They often have access to mortgage deals that aren’t available directly from lenders too.
Mortgage brokers also guide you through the process and offer advice to help the process run as smoothly as possible.
There are three types of mortgage brokers, tied mortgage brokers, independent mortgage brokers and online mortgage brokers.
Tied mortgage brokers
Tied mortgage brokers or multi-tied mortgage brokers, are linked to specific lenders. This reduces the number of mortgage options you’ll have to work with. However, some brokers may have access to exclusive offers for the lenders they work with.
Independent mortgage brokers
Independent brokers (which are also known as whole-of-market brokers) aren’t tied to any particular lenders and can look for mortgage deals across the entire UK market.
This means that you’ll have a bigger pool of mortgage providers to choose from and it increases the chance of you finding a good deal for your home loan.
It’s worth pointing out that independent mortgage brokers don’t necessarily have access to every single one out there. But they offer a wide enough range of options that are representative of the whole market.
Online mortgage brokers
Online mortgage brokers (which are sometimes called “robo-advisers”) work in a similar way to independent brokers. The only difference is that everything is managed digitally either online or through an app. So you won’t have to speak with a broker in person or over the phone.
How much does a mortgage broker cost?
Mortgage brokers charge for their service and the fees can vary depending on how complicated your mortgage application is. Some brokers charge you a fee while others may just charge the lender. Other brokers may charge both you and the lender.
Brokers are typically paid through commission which breaks down into two parts:
- Brokers fee: you’ll have to pay this and it’s usually charged as a percentage of around 0.3%-1% of the total mortgage amount that you get.
- Procuration fee: this is paid by the lenders to the broker.
Some brokers charge an upfront flat fee instead of a commission. The fixed fee can range anything from £300 for a simple mortgage application to upwards of £1,000 for more complex cases. Others will give you the option to choose whether you pay via commission or a flat fee.
It’s important to confirm a mortgage broker’s fees in advance to avoid getting caught out by any hidden costs. To cover all bases, it’s also worth checking what happens if your house sale falls through.
Most broker’s fees become payable when they’ve successfully secured a mortgage so it’s definitely worth getting clear on it. Some mortgage brokers may offer a reduced fee in those cases but it’s better to confirm before registering with one.
What is a fee-free mortgage broker?
Typically a fee-free mortgage broker won’t charge an upfront fee and just receives commission from the lender. However, it’s always important to check even if a broker says they offer fee-free services.
Sometimes the fee-free part of the broker’s offering is the initial advice on the type of mortgage you should apply for. If they are able to secure you a mortgage deal, you may be liable to pay. If anything is unclear about the mortgage broker’s fee structure, always get in touch with their customer service team to get a detailed breakdown.
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Pros and cons of using a mortgage broker
Some of the advantages of using a mortgage broker include:
- Market expertise: mortgage brokers have a detailed understanding of each lender’s eligibility criteria and the likelihood of you being accepted for a mortgage.
- Access to more deals: independent mortgage brokers have access to the whole of the UK mortgage market, including deals that aren’t available when you apply directly to a lender.
- Guidance and support: a mortgage broker can offer you help throughout the mortgage process including explaining the different types of mortgages and deals, estimating how much you can afford to borrow and preparing your mortgage application.
- Specialist mortgages: mortgage brokers can help find the best lenders to accommodate unique or uncommon financial circumstances such as being self-employed, earning commission-based or seasonal income or if you’d like a self-build mortgage.
Some of the things to be aware of before using a mortgage broker include:
- Limited deals: tied mortgage brokers only offer deals to the lenders that they work with which will limit the deals you’ll be able to access.
- Independent lenders: some lenders don’t offer deals through brokers so you may miss out on exclusive offers that you’d get going to them directly.
- Fees: don’t forget there’s a chance you could be charged for using a broker so you may need to check their costs and factor them into your house-buying budget.
Is it cheaper to use my bank instead of a mortgage broker?
Going directly to your bank or building society for a mortgage isn’t always going to secure you the best value deal, even if you’ve been a long-standing customer.
That’s because the types of mortgages available to you will be limited to what they have on offer. Also, some of the mortgage deals they have may only be available through a broker anyway, so it’s worth comparing deals more widely (whether or not you decide to use a broker) to ensure you get the best one.
Who can use a mortgage broker?
Mortgage brokers can be used by anyone looking to get a home loan. They may be especially helpful if you need support with:
- Applying for your first mortgage
- Finding the best deals for self-employed or irregular income
- Remortgaging and finding the best deal
- Mortgage options for a second property
- Bridging loans
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Should I use a mortgage broker?
Whether or not you should use a mortgage broker depends on your personal circumstances.
Using a mortgage broker can help to take the stress out of the application process and help you access a wider range of deals. It also saves you time trying to work out what you can afford to borrow and comparing deals directly with lenders.
Brokers can also offer helpful advice during challenging times in the housing market. Take the current situation with interest rates, for instance. We’ve seen them rise to record highs over recent months which has made mortgages more expensive.
So if you need help deciding the best type of mortgage to get or how to find the best rates, having a specialist in your corner can be really useful.
Similarly, if you have a unique profile, for example, you’re self-employed, earn seasonal income, or perhaps have a poor credit history, a broker can help you find the most suitable deals quickly.
Having said that, if you feel confident in searching for a mortgage and understand your eligibility for different deals, then going solo could help you save on fees.
Also, it’s worth noting that not all lenders offer rates through mortgage brokers. So it could help to still compare prices of direct-only deals yourself even if you do decide to go down the broker route.
How to find a mortgage broker
Mortgages are one of the largest financial commitments we make, so it’s important to find the right broker for your circumstances. It helps to shop around and compare different brokers including the range of deals they have access to and their fees.
Platforms such as Unbiased and Find an adviser can help you find qualified mortgage brokers in your area. It’s also worth double-checking that a broker is regulated by verifying it on the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) Financial Services Register.
Looking at reviews for brokers can also help you get a better idea of the quality of service you’re likely to receive. Dedicated review platforms, such as Smart Money People, share real-life customer experiences with financial service companies.
You could also try looking at the mortgage broker’s customer rating on their social media page on search engines such as Google. Recommendations from trusted family, friends or colleagues could also be a great way to find a broker that’s right for you.
As with all reviews though, any comments should be taken with a pinch of salt and shouldn’t be the sole reason why you go with a particular broker.
Questions to ask a mortgage broker
Before registering with a mortgage broker, it’s worth asking these questions to ensure you get the right level of service:
- Are you regulated by the FCA?
- Are you whole-of-market?
- What types of mortgage deals do you have access to?
- How many lenders do you have access to?
- What are your fees and charges?
- What is included in the service you offer?