Just as there are literally hundreds of loan providers in the UK, there are also a large number of loan brokers around that could possibly help you make sense of all the different loan products available today. A good way of understanding what loan brokers do is to think of loan companies as cattle and loan brokers as cowboys - although you could find lenders yourself in the wild, it's far simpler to have a broker round them up into a single ranch so you can see them all at once. Talk to a single lender and you'll get a small number of loan options all provided by one company; talk to a single broker and you could end up with tens, if not hundreds of options all tailored to your specific needs. At least, that's the idea anyway...
Unfortunately, the problem with loan brokers - as is the case in any field of business - is that among all the quality companies striving to provide a service to the best of their ability, there are more than a few firms out there ruining it for everyone simply by looking for a quick buck. Even worse, the rapid expansion of the internet means it's a trend that's got worse in recent years; companies pop up in search engines promising the moon, but ultimately leaving customers out of pocket just because they didn't read the fine print (or, worse, understand it because it was written in a confusing manner).
Not surprisingly then, finding a reputable loan broker is absolutely essential if you want to not only find the best loan for you, but also prevent being taken for a ride and eventually ripped off. Part of finding one relies on good old-fashioned common sense - for instance, if you visit a loan broker's website and it looks like it was put together in ten minutes by a trained monkey, you're probably better off steering well clear. There's also the matter of clarity over any fees or other charges that a loan broker may lay at your feet. These should be listed somewhere on a broker's website, often in a section labelled Terms & Conditions, although an exact amount may not be available until you've been given a quote since the fee can be dependent on the size of your loan and the interest rate. In any case though, the rule is obvious: no mention of a fee (or the fact that there is no fee) means it's probably best to avoid that broker altogether.
Beyond the obvious things though, finding a reliable broker takes a bit of digging. Relating back to fees, for instance, these should only be applied to you AFTER you've been accepted for a loan and have the money in hand - NEVER talk to a broker demanding money up front before it does any work for you, since there's no guarantee you'll end up with a loan that's suitable for your circumstances! Find out this information by speaking to the broker directly, but don't let them fob you off by saying they can't tell you unless you're a customer!
You'll also want to find a broker that has contact with as many lenders across the country as possible, since that's the only way to ensure you're going to get a fair spread of loan options. The problem with some brokers is that by passing you onto a lender, they're earning themselves a slice of commission should you end up taking out a loan through their recommendation; this then means that there's a chance of them making suggestions based upon the commission they'll earn rather than what's right for you. Finding a broker that only asks you to pay a fee then rather than working on both commission AND fees is usually the best way to go.
Finally though, do some research on what other people think of the brokers you're considering. Places like The Review Centre are perfect for getting the lay of the land as far as brokers are concerned, so check out the comments and make a reasonable judgement - while no-one will ever please everyone 100% of the time, positive reviews will always show a good broker in the right light.
Loan Brokers...Can be a good way of collating lots of different loan options as quickly as possible Vary greatly in reliability and competence across the UK Need to have as many different lenders and loan providers on their books Have to be absolutely clear about their charges and other fees BEFORE you agree to anything Shouldn't charge you any money before they've found a loan you're happy with May base their recommendations on the commission they receive, not what's best for you! Could be recommended by previous customers on review-based websites.
Copyright: Individual Finance, 2010
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