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Mortgage brokers: What they do and how to find one



What is a mortgage broker?

A mortgage broker is someone who shops for a home loan on your behalf.

Their job is to learn all about your circumstances — down payment, credit, income, and so on — then find the best mortgage loan for you.

Some people choose to work with a mortgage broker because it can be easier than trying to find a loan by yourself.

But you’re also free to shop around on your own if you prefer.

The ability to request rates and apply online makes shopping for a home loan without a broker easier than ever.

Start here to compare home loans (Sep 22nd, 2020)

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What a mortgage broker does

Choosing the right mortgage is almost as important as choosing the right house, since you’ll likely be paying off the loan for years to come.

You want to find the best rates, lowest fees, most reputable lender, and the loan product that best suits your needs — it’s no small task.

A mortgage broker can take on that heavy lifting by identifying loans that are suited to your circumstances and submitting applications for you.

They may even have the inside scoop on which lenders have the best reviews and can recommend products that align with your finances and goals.

Again, it’s possible to do all of this on your own. But if you’re not comfortable learning about mortgages and making the choice on your own, a broker can be very helpful.

Mortgage broker vs. bank

Mortgage brokers work with multiple banks and lenders, so they can help you find the right loan type as well as the best mortgage rate.

A bank, on the other hand, will only recommend loan products from its own portfolio. So a bank can likely help you find the right type of loan, but it won’t help you compare rates from other lenders to see if you’re getting the best deal.

Importantly, mortgage brokers provide access to a broad range of options, rather than limiting you to the products offered by just a handful of lenders.

This may help you secure a better loan and rate than you would have if you had simply looked for lenders on your own.

Should you work with a mortgage broker?

If you find a mortgage broker you trust, they can be a huge asset in the homebuying process.

They can likely source more product options than you’d find on your own, and you may have more luck negotiating with them than directly with a lender.

You might consider working with a mortgage broker if:

  • You’re slammed with work and want someone else to do all the comparisons for you
  • You feel overwhelmed by comparing lenders and want an expert opinion
  • You have a spotty credit history or low credit score and need someone to help you find a lender who is willing to work with you

A broker can also help you pinpoint lenders who offer the specific types of loans you need, such as a VA loan, low down payment mortgage, or a jumbo loan.

However, it can take longer to close a loan through a broker than a lender. A lender can “push your loan through” if you’re on a tight closing timeline. Brokers have less ability to rush processing. After all, they are not on staff at the lending company, but an independent agent.

They also have limited control over what the lender does with your loan, which could be a problem if there is a hold-up or the loan is denied.

Compare mortgage lenders. Start here (Sep 22nd, 2020)

What to look for in a mortgage broker

It’s important to find a mortgage broker you’ll be comfortable working with throughout the home loan process.

Asking the following questions as you evaluate different brokers can help you find one who fits your needs:

Who are the typical clients?

When looking for a mortgage broker, it’s important to think about your goals. That way you can choose a broker who has experience working with similar buyers and knows how best to help you.

For example, if you’re worried about bad credit being an obstacle to homeownership, you’ll likely feel more comfortable with someone who has a history of helping folks like you land a mortgage loan.

Or, if you want to buy a rural fixer-upper, you’re probably going to look for someone who is well-versed in FHA- and USDA-backed mortgages.

On the other hand, if you’re in the market for a luxury home, you could benefit from having a broker who is familiar with jumbo mortgages.

Knowing what type of home you want and understanding your financial profile will help you narrow down which brokers are best for you.

Are they licensed?

You can verify that a broker is licensed through the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System & Registry (NMLS) website.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) notes that you can also contact your state regulator to find out whether the broker has ever been subject to any kind of disciplinary action.

What is it like to work with them?

Applying for a mortgage is an emotional process. There’s a lot riding on your decision about which lender to work with, and you need to ensure you understand the terms of the loan.

You want to work with a broker you’re comfortable with, one you know will walk you through these big decisions. And a lot of that trust and confidence comes down to their working style.

Think about your expectations for how you’ll communicate with a broker.

  • Do you want them to be in touch regularly, checking in with you throughout the process?
  • Do you expect them to be available after-hours to answer questions?
  • Do you prefer texts or phone calls?
  • How big is their typical workload; will you be a top priority?

You might find a great broker but opt not to work with them if you’re not going to get the personalized support or type of customer service you need to put your mind at ease.

What is their availability?

If you’re in a hurry to buy a home, you want to know that your mortgage broker is ready to move as fast as you are.

Ask how many clients they typically work with at one time and when they will be available to begin looking for loans for you.

Someone who has their hands full is not going to be able to give you the attention you need if you want to buy right away.

But if you’re not on a tight timeline, you can focus more on finding someone who suits your customer service and personality expectations and start the homebuying process in earnest when they have availability.

>> Related: How to shop for a mortgage in one day

How to find a good mortgage broker

You have a few options for finding a mortgage broker:

Websites and online reviews

You can search for a broker through sites like or search for brokerages in your area.

Check reviews on Google, Yelp and other review platforms to source a range of people’s experiences.

Be sure to look for comments about:

  • Closing times
  • Loan success
  • Customer service
  • Responsiveness

This will help give you an idea of how communicative and helpful the broker is.

Recommendations from friends and family

Ask your loved ones whether they’ve used a mortgage broker and if they would recommend them.

People you’re close to will give you candid feedback about whether they liked a particular broker and the overall impression they had from working with them.

They may also give details about professionalism or personality that you won’t find in other reviews but which might heavily influence your decision.

One question you definitely want to ask is whether they felt the broker put their needs first.

If a friend or family member felt that their broker pushed a certain lender or product even when the client felt reluctant, treat that as a red flag.

You’re the one taking out a mortgage, and you should feel confident that your broker is helping finding the best product for you, rather than working in their own interest.

Referrals from a real estate agent

Your real estate agent can be a great resource for referring mortgage brokers. The agent likely knows the type of home you’re looking for and can recommend brokers who work with buyers similar to you.

They may even have long-standing relationships with brokers and be able to make trusted recommendations based on years of professional interactions.

Agents have a vested interest in recommending a top-notch broker: if the broker can’t close the loan on time, the sale might not go through and the agent doesn’t get their commission.

The bottom line

The decision really comes down to your homebuying timeline and whether you think you can get a better rate or loan through a broker.

If you’ve worked with certain lenders before and feel confident with them, or you’ve already sourced solid recommendations from friends and family, going directly to lenders may be your best bet.

But if you want a broker’s expertise, they could be a great addition to your homebuying team.

Verify your new rate (Sep 22nd, 2020)

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Is There a Difference Between No Credit and Bad Credit?



The short answer is yes, and understanding the difference could be instrumental in getting better credit.

No credit and bad credit often get grouped together. It’s understandable why, as they both sound similar enough. And if you have either, the next step forward is to focus on improving your credit.

The two situations aren’t the same, though. It’s important to know the difference, because the right way to build your credit often depends on whether you have no credit history or bad credit.

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The difference between no credit and bad credit

Having no credit means that there’s not enough information on your credit file to calculate a credit score for you. It’s also known as being credit invisible. Sadly, this is an issue that affects millions of Americans.

There aren’t any problems on your credit file; the credit bureaus just don’t have enough data on you. That means when a lender or any other third party checks your credit, there’s nothing to go on.

Meanwhile, “bad credit” is a common term used to describe a low credit score. That low score is because of negative items on your credit file, such as not paying your credit card bill.

When you have no credit, the solution is to build your credit. When you have a low credit score, the solution is to rebuild your credit. Now, let’s look at how you can do each one.

How to build credit for the first time

Here’s the simplest way to build credit:

  • Open a credit card.
  • Use the credit card for at least one purchase per month.
  • Always pay your credit card bill on time and in full.

It’s that easy; that’s all you need to do to get a good credit score. When you use a credit card and pay the bill on time, you establish a positive payment history. That’s the biggest credit scoring criteria.

The tricky part when you have no credit is finding a credit card you can qualify for. Secured credit cards are one of the most common options for consumers in this situation. You pay a security deposit for this type of card, so it’s possible to open a secured card even if you have no credit.

If you’re in college, credit cards for students are available. These are often an option for applicants without any credit history.

How to rebuild a low credit score

It’s a little more complicated to rebuild your credit. First, you need to find out what negative items are affecting your credit score. Here’s how to start:

  • Use an online credit score tool to check your score and learn about any items damaging your credit. If you have a credit card, there may be a credit score tool in your online account. If not, there are plenty of free ways to get your credit score.
  • Request your credit report from the three consumer credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can pull a free annual credit report from each bureau, and through April 2022, you can get free weekly credit reports. Your credit report will show you exactly what’s affecting your credit.

Once you know what’s affecting your credit, you can work on correcting it. Below are a few of the most common issues and how to fix them.

Problems with your payment history

This includes anything related to not paying a bill on time, from late payments to having accounts go to collections.

The first step is catching up on your payments. If you can’t pay in full, contact your creditors and see if you can set up a payment plan with them. They may be willing to work with you if that means you’ll be making regular payments.

Next is rebuilding your payment history. The easiest option is to use a credit card at least once per month and pay in full by the due date. Why do you need to use a credit card? Credit card companies report on-time payments to the credit bureaus, which helps your credit score. With other types of bills, your on-time payments typically don’t get reported to the credit bureaus. That means you may not be able to improve your payment history with rent, utilities, or other monthly bills.

If you already have credit cards, you can continue using them to rebuild your payment history. If you don’t, look for secured credit cards and apply for one you like.

Using too much of your credit

A big factor in your credit score is your credit utilization ratio — your credit card balances divided by your credit limits. If this number gets too high, it can lower your credit score. The standard recommendation is a credit utilization ratio of under 30%.

Let’s say you have one credit card with a $4,000 balance and a $5,000 credit limit. That would put your credit utilization at 80% ($4,000 divided by $5,000 is 80%), a very high number that would decrease your credit score.

Fortunately, only your current credit utilization matters. Once you pay down your credit card balance, your credit score will bounce back.

Errors on your credit history

A low credit score may be due to an error and not any action on your part. This is why it’s so important to pull your credit reports from each credit bureau. By reviewing those, you can see if there are any mistakes.

If there are errors on your credit report, you can go to the credit bureau’s website to dispute them online and get them removed.

A low credit score and a nonexistent credit score are both things you can change. After you determine exactly what the issue is, you’ll be able to choose the best solution to fix it.

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‘There is no new normal’: Worcester small business owner pivoted during COVID-19 and expects only more change after pandemic



It took about eight minutes for the bank to reject Natalie Rodriguez’s application for a loan through the Small Business Administration.

Rodriguez opened Nuestra, a Puerto Rican inspired restaurant in Worcester, in January of 2020. When COVID-19 arrived months later she discovered Nuestra wasn’t eligible for the federal or state funding that thousands of other establishments received.

To qualify, restaurants were required to show payroll and salary for years before 2020. Those figures didn’t exist for a restaurant that weren’t open in 2019.

“[I was] determined and knew that ‘no’ is not an OK answer,” Rodriguez said. “A door may close but you may need to kick down another door.”

Rodriguez then applied for conventional loans only to be led to more closed doors. Less than 10 minutes after applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, she received notice that her poor credit score resulted in her application being denied.

Rodriguez used the dead end with the SBA to create a new path for herself and Nuestra.

She not only learned how to improve her credit but wanted to ensure others didn’t have to follow her journey as an entrepreneur.

Rodriguez extended the “Nuestra” brand to include financial advising. She started Nuestra Financial in April of 2020.

“Now I’m helping others. I’ve been able to restore my credit,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been able to help others restore their credit and be able to help them make a business themselves if they so choose. I’ve been able to survive.”

Without grants and other funding, Rodriguez managed to keep her restaurant open through funds generated from Nuestra Financial.

“I was very quiet about it in the beginning. I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh look at this girl, she just opened a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic,’ and talk smack,” Rodriguez said. “About a month or two later, a light bulb hit and I was like, nobody pays my bills but me. I needed to mind my own business and not worry about what other people thought.”

In creating Nuestra Financial, Rodriguez said she’s helped Worcester residents restore their credit and purchase new vehicles and homes.

Rodriguez said financial literacy is rarely taught to children in school and wasn’t something she learned. When a situation arises like a rejection notice for an economic disaster loan, many don’t know how to respond or where to find answers.

Rodriguez said she’s helped young and old people, along with those who have bad credit or no credit.

“We lack the confidence, including myself, because we weren’t taught,” Rodriguez said. “So if you don’t know something, you weren’t taught, you’re not going to be confident about it.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Rodriguez remains confident about both her businesses. Nuestra, the restaurant, while closed for daily service continues to provide catering services. Rodriguez is still preparing what the future holds for the restaurant but plans to announce an update soon.

As masks start to become less a part of daily routines, Rodriguez, as a small business owner, doesn’t envision many differences from this year to last.

So many aspects of life remain uncertain from rising food costs to a potential third booster for vaccines and whether the country will ever reach herd immunity for COVID-19.

The pandemic arrived with Rodriguez immediately pivoting. As it approaches its potential end, Rodriguez will continue to do what helped her to navigate it.

“I feel like there is no new normal just yet,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’re all just trying to adjust and pivot at the same time and getting creative. I think it’s where we all are.”

Related Content:

Owner of Worcester’s Nuestra restaurant, closing due to COVID impact, has something she’d like to say to Gov. Baker

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Columbus Mattress Wholesale moves to newer, larger Gahanna store



More than four years back, Cathryn Clark’s boyfriend, Christopher Robbins, was on the hunt for a new mattress. He just couldn’t find one at an affordable  price. 

Clark, 29, and Robbins, 34, who are now engaged, were living in Franklinton, where they still live today.

They had no experience owning or operating a small business; Robbins worked as a retail assistant for SAS Retail Services while Clark worked as the communications director for two Methodist churches. 

But in 2017, Robbins, with Clark at his side, took the leap and opened Columbus Mattress Wholesale on the West Side, with the goal of  helping low-income consumers secure mattresses and other bedtime products.  

“We really wanted to bring a store to people that, you know, they weren’t paying an arm and leg, but they still could get a good night’s sleep,” Clark said.

Customers at Columbus Mattress Wholesale can pay cash or credit, for example, but the business also works with financing companies that serve people without credit scores, with bad credit or who are lower income. 

Last month, the business made a big move. It expanded from its original location on Harrisburg Pike to a store double the size at 435 Agler Road in Gahanna.

Clark said she and Robbins saw a need in the broader area, with many of their customers coming from outside the Hilltop, such as Linden.

Nestled between Dollar Tree and the Ohio BMV in Gahanna, the new storefront opened Memorial Day weekend and sells mattresses, bed bases, bed frames and pillows. Mattress prices range from under $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the size and brand, which includes some well-known names such as Serta, Beautyrest and Casper.

Clark said while she and Robbins originally sold solely Ohio-based brands, they’ve branched out to national brands as business has grown.

Columbus Mattress Wholesale also offers free same-day delivery on most orders from customers living in Columbus. 

Clark does a little bit of everything for the business, from running communications, to working on the sales floor, to managing the sales team, to ordering what they sell. 

She said a big mission for herself and Robbins, beyond doing business, is aiding the community.

“We’ve seen a lot of people struggle,” Clark said.

Clark said she and Robbins work to mentor other people who are hoping to open or currently own a small business. She added that the store starts employees at $17 per hour.

She and Robbins haven’t decided yet what they will do with the original location — which is currently closed — but said they might shift it into an accessory store.

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