Mortgage brokers have fewer lenders to work with

House on mortgage

Mortgage brokers have always cultivated the image that they work for their customers.

But they don't. They work for the lenders that provide the loans they sell.

A broker's ability to provide you with a good loan has always depended on two things:

At one point, lots of banks and mortgage companies had "wholesale lending" operations that sold mortgages through brokers because it was cheaper than opening new branches and hiring more loan officers .

Brokers also proved themselves to be quite willing to push buyers into costly and dangerous loans -- particularly subprime loans -- because they paid higher fees than less profitable mortgages.

Now many of those lenders are out of business and a record number of foreclosures has made the banks and mortgage companies that survived far more concerned about who they're lending to.

They're suddenly worried that brokers are more concerned about earning commissions than carefully vetting potential borrowers -- a trait they once valued -- and refusing to lend through brokers any more.

JPMorgan Chase -- the second-largest U.S. bank by assets -- recently became the latest lender to quit selling mortgages through brokers. That leaves only two national banks, Wells Fargo and Bank of America (though its Countrywide subsidiary), still making wholesale loans.

Fred Arnold, president of the California Association of Mortgage Brokers, told the Los Angeles Times that there are only 30% as many wholesale lenders in California as there were a few years ago.

That's an important fact for consumers looking to buy or refinance a home. With fewer lenders to choose from, it's harder for brokers to insure you'll pay the lowest possible interest rate and fees.

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