A mortgage broker is someone who can set you up with a mortgage. Mortgage brokers charge a broker's fee (and are sometimes compensated by the lenders they work with, as well). More than half of all mortgages in America originate with mortgage brokers.

Depending on the fee they charge and the kind of deal they can get for you, mortgage brokers are sometimes your best bet. They have access to a wide variety of lenders and programs and can be especially helpful if your credit history is checkered (or just terrible) or if you have any other special circumstances.

So, should you go with a mortgage broker or not? It depends. See what your alternatives are and go with the best deal you can find. Other options include banks, credit unions, savings and loans, and mortgage bankers.

It's smart to do a bit of research before talking to mortgage brokers, though. You'll delay their hard sell and you'll be more informed as you listen to them. Make sure you learn of all fees involved before making any decisions.

Learn more at our Buying or Selling a Home discussion board and in our Home Center area. Here, you'll also find links to several mortgage lenders offering attractive rates, as well as a bunch of information on mortgages in general and tips on what to look for.

You can also learn a heck of a lot about mortgages and mortgage brokers at The Mortgage Professor's website. (Much to my surprise, when I stumbled onto this website I discovered that the Mortgage Professor is actually a former professor of mine, Jack Guttentag!)

Longtime Fool contributor Selena Maranjian does not own shares of any companies mentioned in this article.