Buying a home is an exciting step in your life, but the process of shopping for a mortgage can be complicated and confusing. Mortgage specialists are loan officers or brokers who help home buyers compare available mortgages and educate them about what to expect from each type of loan. A skilled mortgage specialist can help a borrower make a responsible financial decision by providing guidance and expert knowledge.
There are two major types of mortgage specialists. The first group consists of loan officers who work for commercial banks. These loan officers specialize in mortgage loans and work with customers to select from among a bank's mortgage offerings. They process mortgage applications and guide customers through the process.
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The second type of mortgage specialist is an independent broker. Brokers collect mortgage offers from multiple sources and help borrowers compare their options. Unlike loan officers who work for a single institution, brokers can suggest loans from a wide range of banks and lenders. This gives borrowers more choice, but brokers also charge additional fees for their services.
Both types of mortgage specialists need to understand the complex details of the mortgage loans that are available at any given time. Commercial lenders change their mortgage loan interest rates on a regular basis to reflect changing rates in the economy and demand from borrowers. Lenders also offer different rates and terms to borrowers based on the borrowers' credit. Mortgage specialists examine the credit report of a prospective borrower and find loans for which the borrower is likely to qualify. Mortgage specialists deal with pre-approved mortgages and work with borrowers to finalize a mortgage deal to buy a house.
Not all mortgage specialists have the same background in terms of education and experience. All need at least a high school degree. While loan officers receive on-the-job training from their employer, independent brokers generally need a four-year college degree. In both cases a knowledge of accounting, economics, mathematics and general finance is useful. Some mortgage specialists have experience as real estate agents, which gives them an understanding of the entire home sale process.
The career prospects for mortgage specialists vary based on the type of employer and the health of the housing market. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, mortgage specialists who work as bank loan officers earned a median wage of $54,700 as of 2008, though wages ranged from just $30,850 to as much as $106,360 a year. Loan officers and independent brokers also earn a large portion of their salaries from commission on each mortgage they sell, which rewards successful mortgage specialists and keeps wages low for those who have fewer sales opportunities.