Ultimate Guide to
Mortgage Loan Originators in 2023

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Updated: May 11, 2023
author photo Written by Louis BakerUpdated: May 11, 2023
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If you're planning on buying a new home or refinancing your current mortgage, you'll need to put a call through to a mortgage loan originator (MLO).

They are responsible for initiating loans and they play a key role in ensuring you get through your entire mortgage loan application process in an appropriate and timely manner.

If you're wondering how an MLO could help you, this article goes into detail on the different types of mortgage loan originators, what each of them does, and how to choose the right one for your needs. We will also discuss the requirements to become a mortgage loan originator and what to expect in terms of fees and costs.

Who is a Mortgage Loan Originator?

Simply put, a mortgage loan originator is an individual or entity that is involved in the mortgage loan origination process. This includes the initiation of a loan, gathering borrower information, and submitting the loan for underwriting.

Mortgage loan originators (MLOs) can either be corporate entities like mortgage banks, brokers, or individuals such as loan officers. In order to fully grasp the borrower's financial condition and assist them in locating the ideal mortgage package, MLOs have to work closely with borrowers.

What Are The Different Types of Mortgage Originators?

There are various types of mortgage originators, but the two most common are mortgage bankers and mortgage brokers. While they both play a role in the mortgage process, there are some key differences between them.

Mortgage Bankers

Mortgage bankers are financial institutions that offer and service mortgage loans. They typically have a range of loan products, and they use their own funds to originate and fund loans. Once the loans are originated, they may keep them on their books or sell them to investors.

Mortgage bankers employ loan officers who work directly with borrowers to originate loans. The loan officer will take the borrower's application and guide them through the loan process, from pre-approval to closing.

One benefit of working with a mortgage banker is that they have control over the loan process. They can make exceptions to underwriting guidelines and speed up the process when necessary.

It's important to find out the products that each mortgage originator offers and if they have one that tallies with what you need. Mortgage bankers provide a limited number of loan products and if they do not have the product you're looking for, you may need to consider looking for a lender who does.

Mortgage Brokers

They serve as an intermediary between borrowers and lenders. They do not have their own funds to lend, but they have access to multiple lenders and loan products. Mortgage brokers work on behalf of the borrower to find the best loan product and lender to fit their needs.

The mortgage broker you decide to partner with will be reimbursed in the form of a commission. This commission is a percentage of the loan amount that the broker helps you obtain.

This means the larger the loan amount, the greater the commission your broker will receive. Since the compensation is based on the size of your loan rather than the interest rate or loan terms, some brokers may prioritize their financial gains over the borrower's best interests.

However, mortgage brokers can offer a wider range of loan products, and they can often secure lower interest rates and better terms for their clients. They can also assist with the loan application process and help borrowers navigate any issues that may arise during underwriting.

It's important to note that not all mortgage brokers are created equal. It's essential to work with a reputable and experienced broker who has your best interests in mind.

What Role Does a Mortgage Loan Originator Perform?

Mortgage loan originators play an essential role in helping borrowers through the mortgage application process and loan closing. Here are some of the key responsibilities of a mortgage loan originator:

MLOs Collect Credit and Financial Information From Borrowers

The first step in the mortgage loan process is to collect the borrower's credit and financial information. This includes their credit score, income, debt-to-income ratio, employment history, and other financial information.

The mortgage loan originator will use this information to determine the borrower's eligibility for a mortgage loan and the types of loan products they may qualify for.

Help You Assess Your Needs and Loan Options

Once the mortgage loan originator has gathered the borrower's financial information, they will assess the borrower's needs and recommend loan products that make the most sense for their situation. This may involve considering factors such as the borrower's income, credit score, and down payment amount.

Negotiate Rates and Terms With Lenders

Mortgage loan originators can negotiate with lenders on behalf of the borrower to secure the best possible interest rate and terms for their loan. This can save the borrower thousands of dollars over the life of the loan.

Submit Applications to Lenders for Underwriting

After the borrower selects a loan product and provides all the required documentation, the next step is for the mortgage loan originator to send the application to the lender for underwriting. This means the lender will assess how creditworthy the borrower is and estimate if they would be able to pay back the loan.

Facilitating the Final Closing Process for the Borrower

Last but not least, the mortgage loan originator will then assist the borrower with closing the loan. To guarantee a seamless and prompt closure the MLO coordinates with the title company, the lender, and any other parties involved in the transaction.

Four Key Requirements to Becoming a Mortgage Loan Originator

If you're interested in becoming a mortgage loan originator, there are four key requirements that you must meet. Requirements for becoming a mortgage loan originator vary in each state, so it's important to check with your state's regulatory agency for specific details.

1. You Must Meet the Minimum Age Requirement

To become a mortgage loan originator, you must be at least 18 years old. This requirement is in place to ensure that individuals entering the industry have reached a certain level of maturity and responsibility.

2. Complete Mortgage Originator Education

All states require mortgage loan originators to complete pre-licensing education courses before they can become licensed. These courses cover topics such as federal and state lending laws, mortgage products and underwriting, and ethics.

In addition to pre-licensing education, many states also require mortgage loan originators to complete continuing education courses to keep their license current.

Continuing education courses typically cover updates to federal and state lending laws, new mortgage products and underwriting guidelines, and other industry developments.

3. Take the Mortgage Originator Licensing Exam

Once you've completed the pre-licensing education courses, you must pass a licensing exam. The exam covers topics such as mortgage loan origination, ethics, and federal and state lending laws.

The exam is typically administered by the National Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS), which is a nationwide database that tracks the licensing and registration status of mortgage loan originators.

4. Apply for NMLS Registration

Finally, you must register with the NMLS and obtain a unique identifier, which is used to track your licensing and registration status. The NMLS is the central database used by state regulatory agencies to manage licensing and registration of mortgage loan originators.

In addition to meeting these four key requirements, there may be additional requirements that you must meet, depending on the state where you plan to work.

  • For example, some states require mortgage loan originators to undergo a background check, credit check and fingerprinting before they can become licensed.

    NMLS performs this background and credit check to ensure that individuals that are applying for a license meet certain requirements and are free from past fraudulent activities like theft, foreclosure e.t.c that could make them a liability and not trustworthy.

    Another verification requirement is fingerprinting which is done on prospective mortgage loan originators to verify their identities and ensure they do not have any criminal history that could hinder them from working in the financial sector.

  • For example, some states require mortgage loan originators to have a certain number of years of experience working in the financial industry or a certain level of education, such as a bachelor's degree in finance or a related field.

  • Furthermore, some states require mortgage loan originators to obtain a surety bond, which is a type of insurance that protects consumers in case of fraud or other misconduct by the mortgage loan originator.

    The bond ensures that the consumer will be reimbursed for any losses incurred due to the actions of the mortgage loan originator.

It's important to note that licensing requirements can vary widely from state to state, so it's crucial to research the specific requirements in your state before pursuing a career as a mortgage loan originator. You can check with your state's regulatory agency or the NMLS to get the most current information on licensing requirements.

And becoming a licensed mortgage loan originator is just the first step in a successful career. Ongoing education and professional development are critical to staying up-to-date with industry developments and providing the best possible service to your clients.

What is an Origination Fee for a Mortgage Loan?

When obtaining a mortgage loan, borrowers may encounter a variety of fees, including an origination fee. An origination fee is a fee charged by the lender in exchange for processing a loan.

This fee is used to compensate the lender for the work that goes into processing the loan, including underwriting and documentation.

According to Rocket Mortgage, origination fees vary from 0-1.5% of the total loan amount. This fee is usually charged at closing during the final stage of the loan application process when you're buying the house.

Apart from mortgage origination fees, there are other closing costs that you'll have to factor into your overall mortgage costs, they include title fees, appraisal fees, and prepaid interest.

How Much is a Mortgage Origination Fee?

Typically, the origination fee is anywhere between 0.5% and 1% of the loan amount, but this can vary based on the lender, loan program, and other factors.

For example, if a borrower is obtaining a $300,000 mortgage loan and the lender charges a 1% origination fee, the borrower would pay $3,000 at closing as an origination fee.

It's important to note that in addition to the origination fee, borrowers may also be charged other fees, such as discount points, which can lower the interest rate on the loan. Discount points are also typically charged as a percentage of the loan amount.

When Do You Have To Pay The Mortgage Origination Fee?

The mortgage origination fees are usually included in the closing costs when buying or refinancing a home.

In most cases, your closing costs include other expenses in addition to the down payment. However, the specific expenses can vary depending on whether you are purchasing a new property or refinancing an existing one.

Here are some additional closing costs you may incur:

  • Loan origination fees.
  • Appraisal fees.
  • Title fees.
  • Escrow fees.
  • Prepaid interest.
  • Homeowners Insurance.
  • Property taxes.

Borrowers should carefully review their loan estimate and closing disclosure documents, which are required by law, to understand all the fees associated with their mortgage loan.

What Types of Closing Costs Do We Have?

The closing costs for a mortgage loan can vary depending on the type of loan and the state where the property is located. Here are some of the most common types of closing costs:

  • Loan Origination Fees

    During the loan application, the lender charges a loan origination fee. This fee is used to cover the costs of processing your loan application, and it's usually a percentage of the loan amount.

    The fee serves as compensation for the lender's effort and typically falls between 0.5% and 1% of the loan amount. Keep in mind that the actual fee may vary depending on the lender and the type of loan program.

    However, it is important that you factor this fee into your overall costs to have a clear understanding of your financial obligations.

  • Appraisal Fees

    An appraisal is required to determine the value of the property being purchased or refinanced. The appraisal fee is typically paid by the borrower and can range from $300 to $600 or more, depending on the size and complexity of the property.

  • Title Fees

    This fee is charged by the title company for conducting a title search and issuing title insurance.

    The title search ensures that there are no liens or other issues with the property's title, while the title insurance protects the lender and borrower from any title-related issues that may arise. Title fees can vary depending on the state and the size and complexity of the transaction.

  • Escrow Fees

    Escrow fees are part of the closing cost you'll have to pay when you purchase a home. This fee can either be paid directly to the escrow company in charge of setting up escrow for your earnest money or to a title company.

    Escrow fees cover paper word, the exchange of funds, and the recording of deeds. The actual fee amount varies and is largely dependent on the size of your transaction or the price of the home you plan to purchase.

  • Prepaid Interest

    The interest that accrues on the loan from the date of closing to the end of the month is called prepaid interest. Borrowers are typically required to prepay the interest for the remaining days in the month in which the loan is closed.

  • Homeowners Insurance

    This insurance is required by lenders to protect the property and the borrower from any damages or losses. The insurance premium is typically paid annually, but lenders may require borrowers to pay a portion of the premium at closing.

  • Property Taxes

    Property taxes are taxes assessed on real estate by taxing authorities. Homeowners typically have to pay their property tax twice a year and when you purchase a home, the property tax will be included in your final closing costs.

    The percentage of property tax you have to pay largely depends on the time you purchase your home. In most cases, this amount is prorated between you and the seller of the house. Lenders may require borrowers to pay a portion of the tax at closing to ensure the taxes are paid on time.

When You're Negotiating Closing Costs

Borrowers may be able to negotiate some of the closing costs, such as the loan origination fee or the appraisal fee, with the lender. However, other fees, such as title fees and escrow fees, are typically set by third-party service providers and are not negotiable.

It's important to note that some lenders may offer to cover some or all of the closing costs in exchange for a higher interest rate or other concessions. While this may seem like a good deal, borrowers should carefully consider the long-term costs and benefits of such an arrangement.

To ensure you're getting the best deal on your loan and that you fully understand all the terms, conditions, and closing costs, it is mandatory to review your loan estimates and closing disclosure documents.

Doing this will help you avoid unexpected and unnecessary fees. Another good idea is to compare the rates and closing costs of different lenders so you can choose a deal that's more tailored to your needs.

How Can You Choose the Right Mortgage Loan Originator?

Choosing the right mortgage loan originator can be a crucial step in the home buying or refinancing process. Here are some factors to consider when selecting a mortgage loan originator:

Look Out For Experience and Reputation

Look for someone with a proven track record of success and a good reputation in the industry. You can check online reviews or ask for references from previous clients to get a sense of the originator's experience and reputation.

They Must Have Good Communication Skills

Effective communication is essential in the mortgage loan origination process. Look for an originator who is responsive, communicates clearly and frequently, and keeps you informed throughout the process.

Proven Knowledge and Expertise in the Subject Matter

Ensure that any mortgage loan originator you will be using shows a proper and in-depth understanding of the necessary details in the mortgage industry. An expert in the field should also have the ability to break down difficult terms into more simple ideas for you to understand.

In addition to this, your mortgage loan originator should be able to recommend beneficial loan programs that match your financial needs at the moment.

Easy to Reach and is Accessible

Accessibility is another important factor to consider when selecting a mortgage loan originator. Look for someone who is easily accessible and available to answer your questions and concerns throughout the process.

Licensing and Credentials

Make sure that the mortgage loan originator you choose is licensed and in good standing with the National Mortgage Licensing System (NMLS) and any state regulatory agencies.

You can check the originator's licensing and credentials on the NMLS website or by contacting your state's regulatory agency.

Fees and Costs That Allaign With Your Needs

The most common fee lenders charge borrowers is the loan origination fee. In addition to this, you may be asked to pay other fees and commissions by your loan originator. To avoid paying for unplanned expenses you should check and understand all fees associated with your mortgage loan.


Is a mortgage loan originator the same as a loan officer?

While the terms mortgage loan originator and loan officer are sometimes used interchangeably, there is a difference between the two.

Note that the key difference between both terms is that a mortgage loan originator is specifically licensed by the state to initiate only mortgage loans.

They can be an institution or individual that works with borrowers to process loan applications, which includes collecting the borrower's financial information, assessing their needs, and submitting the loan application for underwriting.

However, loan officers guide borrowers through their mortgage applications, including underwriting and closing. They ensure that all the documents are duly completed and submitted. Loan officers have more extensive roles and can be responsible for originating and managing other types of loans.

How do mortgage loan officers get paid?

Mortgage loan officers are typically paid a commission based on the loan amount. The commission is typically a percentage of the loan amount and can vary depending on the lender and the loan program.

What is a mortgage loan originator's salary?

The salary of a mortgage loan originator can vary depending on factors such as experience, location, and the size of the lender.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for loan officers, including mortgage loan originators, was $63,040 as of May 2020. However, commission-based pay structures may result in higher or lower earnings, depending on the individual's success in originating loans.


A mortgage loan originator (MLO) initiates the mortgage loan origination process. Mortgage bankers and mortgage brokers are two common types of mortgage originators.

To become a mortgage loan originator, individuals must meet the requirements mentioned above. Mortgage origination fees are charged by lenders in exchange for processing the loan, and borrowers should review their loan estimate and closing disclosure documents to understand all fees.

author photo

Written by

Louis Baker


Louis Baker started his career in 2017 by contracting with Experian. He also became a part-time content creator in various fields such as insurance, personal finance & investment, etc.

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