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Understanding What A Mortgage Loan Originator Does

Lauren Nowacki4-minute read

February 26, 2021


Purchasing a home or refinancing a mortgage has several moving parts. There are applications to fill out, documents to turn in, fees to pay and questions to both ask and answer. It can be hard to keep track of everything. Luckily, you don’t have to go it alone. Mortgage loan originators will not only fund your loan, but they’ll also help walk you through the process to make sure you make it to the closing table.

What Is A Mortgage Loan Originator?

A mortgage loan originator (MLO) is a person or institution that helps a borrower get the right mortgage for a real estate transaction. The MLO is the original lender for the mortgage and works with the borrower from application and approval through the closing process. An MLO can be a lending company, mortgage broker or loan officer.

Mortgage Loan Officer

The term “loan officer” refers to an individual acting as an MLO. Loan officers can work for a direct lender or work as a mortgage broker, who partners with several different lenders to find you the loan that best aligns with your personal goals, budget and preferred loan terms.

What Does A Mortgage Loan Originator Do?

MLOs will work with you through the steps of getting a mortgage, answering questions, collecting documents and verifying information. If you’re purchasing a home, they’ll also provide an estimate of your loan amount and interest rate based on a review of your income, credit and assets. This mortgage preapproval can help you figure out your home buying budget and show real estate agents and sellers that you’re willing and able to purchase the home.

The MLO will continue to work with you through underwriting and help ensure you make it to closing. Remember, an MLO can be a person and/or institution. While the loan officer is the person who works with you, the lender is the institution that initially funds the loan. This can be a bank or non-bank lender, like Rocket Mortgage®.

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FAQs About Mortgage Loan Originators

Now that you have a surface-level understanding of mortgage loan originators and what they do, you likely have some questions. Below, we answer some of the most common questions about MLOs.

How Much Are Mortgage Origination Fees?

Services provided in a real estate transaction aren’t typically free of charge. You may notice in your closing costs a line item called a “loan origination fee.” These are mortgage origination fees charged by the MLO for processing and underwriting the loan. They typically cost 0.5% – 1% of the total loan amount.

For example, a borrower with a loan amount of $100,000 can expect to pay around $500 – $1,000 in origination fees.

Do Loan Officers Need To Be Licensed?

Mortgages come in several different loan types, have various qualifications, require certain documents and vary in terms by different lenders and state laws. It’s important that you work with an MLO who’s knowledgeable in the mortgage industry and your specific state.

Nationwide banks are required to have federal registrations and do not require individual MLOs to obtain a license.

For non-bank lenders, MLOs are required to be licensed with individual states. An MLO could be licensed in multiple states, even if they work in one state. To become licensed an MLO must:

  • Complete 20 hours of pre-licensing education
  • Score a minimum of 75% on the two-part nationwide SAFE MLO Exam, developed by the Nationwide Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS)
  • Agree to a thorough background check
  • Commit to continuing mortgage education each year

What Is A Mortgage Loan Originator’s Salary?

A mortgage loan originator’s salary will depend on a number of factors, including the company they work for, their level of experience and how many loans they close per month.

If the MLO is a broker, they may be paid by their clients or by commission from the lender they partner with to close the loan. If the MLO is a loan officer, they’ll typically be paid an hourly rate or salary along with a commission earned per loan they close.

How Do You Choose A Mortgage Loan Originator?

MLOs help you navigate the mortgage process, so you’ll want to work with one who is knowledgeable of the industry and knows the ins and outs of your specific state laws. A mortgage can be a big financial commitment, too, one that also involves you sharing personal information, including Social Security numbers, bank statements and tax documents. It’s important to choose an MLO you can trust.

Choosing an MLO who is knowledgeable, helpful and trustworthy may require you to do some research. You’ll want to research your loan officer or broker and their company. First, make sure they’re properly licensed. Then, look through their website, social media pages and third–party review sites to learn more about the company’s mission and what their past and current clients have to say. Ask friends and family for referrals. Talk to potential MLOs on the phone or visit them in person. It’s OK to shop around until you find the right lender, loan officer or broker for you.

The Bottom Line

An MLO should help make the mortgage process easier for you by walking you through the steps of buying or refinancing your home and funding your loan. If you’re ready to work with an MLO and get started with your purchase or refinance, apply for a mortgage with Rocket Mortgage® today.

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Lauren Nowacki

Lauren Nowacki is a staff writer specializing in personal finance, homeownership and the mortgage industry. She has a B.A. in Communications and has worked as a writer and editor for various publications in Philadelphia, Chicago and Metro Detroit.