Portland Mortgage Broker: What Are They and Should You Use One?

August 20, 2020
Last updated:
January 11, 2024
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A Portland mortgage broker may seem like a tempting option if you’re buying a home, but while brokers have networks of lenders, that doesn’t mean they can give you the best advice or hook you up with the best loan. You need unbiased help from a mortgage professional who you can trust.

Online mortgage loans can be confusing, from the applications themselves to talk of  “discount points”, amortization, and rates. While there is no lack of mortgage brokers in Portland you can utilize to get a bunch of lender quotes, there are some things you need to know about Portland mortgage brokers before you put your confidence in one to find you a home loan provider.

Who a Portland Mortgage Broker Is

A mortgage broker is a specialist in loan origination. They aren’t an underwriter, a loan approver, or an actual entity that funds your mortgage loan amount; that’s the lender’s job.

Mortgage brokers usually have some sort of degree, typically a bachelor’s in finance, business, or accounting. They’ve completed a pre-licensure course or certification, and passed the National Mortgage License System (NMLS) Loan Originator exam.

Brokers may have a business license for the state(s) in which they practice, and Portland mortgage brokers also are required to be bonded, whether they practice independently or as part of a larger brokerage.

What a Washington Mortgage Broker Does

Mortgage brokers connect borrowers with lenders and originate loans. They are responsible for gathering your information, matching your financial profile and mortgage needs with appropriate lenders, and acting as a go-between. Mortgage brokers don’t have involvement in setting your interest rate,, underwriting or approving your home loan, or arranging funding for your home purchase.

The best mortgage brokers will go to bat for you, ascertaining your specific financing needs, researching various loan options to find the best fit, making lender recommendations based on your best interests, and negotiating with lenders about the interest rate, down payment, and closing costs.

However, there’s one major pitfall when it comes to mortgage brokers, and that’s whose side they are really on when it comes to helping you find a home loan. If they are getting kickbacks from a lender based on how big a loan you receive, doesn’t that open the door for bias in their recommendations and referrals?

How Mortgage Brokers Get Paid

How mortgage brokers get paid can affect the quality of their advice to you and how they decide which lenders to match you up with.

There are two ways a mortgage broker can collect their fee: one, from you, at closing, or two, from a lender after closing. If they get paid by you, they are prohibited by the Dodd-Frank Act from getting any compensation from the lender, including any fee for loan origination or a commission, and vice versa.

There are also two ways a mortgage broker can calculate their fee: one, as a flat fee, or two, as a commission. A commission is usually between .05%, and 3% (which is the federal cap on broker fees.)

If your Portland mortgage broker gets paid by the lender, that means they may find themselves always choosing the same couple of lenders who give them the biggest fee or percentage. Likewise, if they are paid via commission, they may push you to get the biggest loan you can, to fatten that payout.

Online Mortgage Application and Pre-Approval

Do you really need a mortgage broker to apply for a home loan online? That answer would be no. Today’s mortgage loan industry is full of reputable mortgage banks that offer modern, digitized online loan application processes, and you can get fully pre-approved for a mortgage in as little as a few days.

At Sammamish, we’ve made this process easy and confidence boosting by providing an online loan application, a secure portal through which you can upload the documents needed for verification, and access to our salaried, professional pain officers (LOs) who can guide you through each step from pre-approval to closing on your very own home.

It’s the easy, fast way to get an accurate loan amount pre-approved and a pre-approval letter that you can show sellers and real estate agents. This bolsters your offer, showing them you are serious about buying a home and that your loan is already on its way to full approval.

Using a Loan Officer vs. a Portland Mortgage Broker

Should you use a broker, or an LO? The broker choice has its pitfalls, as noted; they don’t have hands-on familiarity with all phases of the home loan process, and they may have bias affecting their recommendations for what lender you use or what loan type you get.

An LO who is paid a salary rather than a commission works with the mortgage bank’s transaction coordinators and  underwriters to keep your loan application moving through the system until it’s approved, funded, and you get to close on your home.

Questions to Ask a Mortgage Broker

If you simply must give a Portland mortgage broker a shot, ask these questions to find out what they really know about home loans and how committed they are to providing one-on-one customer care for you::

  • Who pays you, and is it a flat fee or a commission?
  • What is your history as a broker and are you certified and bonded?
  • What types of home loan do you recommend?
  • Why would that be the best loan for me?
  • I need a pre-approval letter, will I get one?
  • I want a rate lock, when does that happen?
  • I want to close in the next 45 days, is that possible?
  • I need support from start to finish, can you give me that?

Some mortgage brokers do very little to personalize the lending experience. They utilize an algorithm to estimate what loan amount you might qualify for, spam your information out of a bunch of lenders for pre-qualification. And submit the offers to you to select one before digging deeper. That’s no way to get the best loan terms.

You need to commit to doing the groundwork to find the best lender and best loan program for you, and it helps if you have a committed professional by your side, whether that’s a Portland mortgage broker, or a salaried LO from a well-reputed mortgage bank.

Portland Mortgage Rates

Important Loan Limits Information

Loan limits are dollar amount caps placed on a mortgage. Different types of loans have different limits.

  • Conforming loan limits are caps placed on loans that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae will acquire.
  • FHA loan limits are caps placed on loans that the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backs.
  • VA loan limits have been eliminated since 2020. Some borrowers may still be subject to them if they currently have a couple of VA loans, or have defaulted on one in the past.

Loan limits are assigned to (and vary across) each county in every state across the country. They typically increase at the start of every year to reflect the growth in home prices.

Check out our mortgage loan limit tool for conventional, FHA, and VA loans.

Portland Mortgage Broker Alternative: Sammamish Mortgage

Sammamish Mortgage is a family owned, local mortgage bank serving the broader Pacific Northwest region, including Washington State, Idaho, Colorado, California, and Oregon. We are proud to offer a wide variety of mortgage programs and loan products with flexible qualification criteria.

Please contact us if you have any questions or are ready to apply for a home loan. One of our salaried loan officers (LOs) will be happy to help you get pre-approved for the Portland mortgage that is right for you.

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