mortgage

Banks cut off mortgage brokers

Are lenders trying to get rid of mortgage brokers?

Not surprisingly, mortgage brokers aren't happy being cut off. Marc Savitt, president of The Mortgage Center in Martinsburg, W. Va., and the National Association of Mortgage Brokers in McLean, Va., has even suggested there has been collusion among some lenders to push mortgage brokers out of the business altogether.

"Some of the banks cutting off the brokers has nothing to do with consumer protection. This is all about market share," he says. "They are trying to get rid of the competition."

Savitt says borrowers will still be able to shop for a mortgage but will have fewer choices. Borrowers in states -- such as Savitt's -- that are less well-served by banking institutions may feel the loss more than borrowers who live in urban areas that are heavily populated with bank branches. Unlike banks, mortgage brokers "are in every community in this country," Savitt says.

Savitt is especially aggrieved by Chase's argument that loans originated through brokers have performed poorly compared with loans originated through the lender's direct-to-consumer channels.

"I find that (claim) interesting considering that we are selling your (i.e., the lender's) products. You developed these products. You set the guidelines, and you have 100-percent control over who gets approved and who gets denied. We, as brokers, have no say in the approval process, so tell me how this can be our fault," he says.

A world without mortgage brokers?

Some mortgage brokers are so convinced that lenders no longer want their business that they've even contemplated a future in which borrowers won't have the option of getting a loan through a broker.

Among those who are so concerned is Janet Guilbault, a mortgage lending specialist with RPM Mortgage in Alamo, Calif. Her sense that mortgage brokers are being squeezed out of the business is based on three trends she's observed:

  • Some lenders have completely cut their ties to mortgage brokers.
  • Others have closed their doors to new brokers, though they may still accept applications from brokers with whom they have an existing relationship.
  • Lender's loan representatives are no longer a fixture in brokers' offices. In the heyday of mortgage originations, these loan "reps" used to shower brokers with cookies and gifts and help newer brokers complete borrowers' loan applications just to get their business, Guilbault recalls.

Collectively, those trends suggest that "the writing is on the wall" for mortgage brokers, Guilbault says.

The disappearance of brokers would be "a losing proposition" for borrowers, she says, because brokers:

  • Offer borrowers more choices of lenders and loan products.
  • Can more easily switch a loan application to a different lender to help the borrower qualify for a loan.
  • Can be contacted during evening and weekend hours when banks are closed.
  • Are compensated only when they close a loan.

"We only get paid if we complete the loan, and we are trying to build a database of clients that can sustain our business. I personally think that path lends itself better to the kind of service (borrowers want)," Guilbault says.

But Guilbault also believes that lenders want to blame brokers for the subprime mortgage mess and that they want to have more control over the mortgage business. Again, she suggests, that's bad news for borrowers.

"Banks can charge more when brokers are out of the game," she says. "I won't say they will, but whenever you remove competition, prices are not going to go down. They are going to go up and service is going to go down."

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