Is using a mortgage broker worth it for a first-time buyer [NJ]?

we're first-time buyers, looking to buy within the next year and a half, likely through an FHA or PMI loan… average house prices here (north Jersey/NYC suburbs) are around ~350k and neither of us wants to rent until we're 40+ just to save up a 20% down payment, especially considering that among the houses we've looked at so far, mortgage + property tax + PMI fees would all be about equal with our current rent.

we've currently got enough saved for at least a 3.5% down-payment and our plan is to spend the next 12-18 months clearing out current debts (ie: my remaining $8k car loan, his $10k student loan balance, both scheduled to be paid off in the next year-ish) and saving additional money.

I was curious as to what the consensus was on mortgage brokers, though… is it still worth it in the age of internet research, or would we be better off saving the potential $3500 fee on top of everything else and just doing the leg work ourselves?

my current game plan is: pay off debts/save more -> get preapproved for FHA or PMI loan -> find real estate agent -> start seriously looking once we're prepared to put in an offer at the drop of a hat -> buy house

would having a broker make any of that easier or help guide us along in the process?

More real estate tips at Program Realty Wix site

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