Mortgage Disclosure Is Heating Up

Previously, we talked about participation by people from locations all over the country in the Know Before You Owe project. Today, we want to share some insights about what we heard – or really, what we saw – from your feedback.

The tool we built let users give us feedback in two basic ways:

  • By looking at our two draft disclosures and picking the one that they thought worked best.
  • By clicking on specific parts of the forms and providing comments on what was or wasn’t helpful.
  • More than 14,000 people submitted a choice between the two forms, and we got more than 13,000 individual comments connected to specific elements of the form. While these comments are not a statistically representative sample of all consumers, they are an invaluable source of information.
Sample heatmap. Click to view larger.

Sample heatmap from the first round of Know Before You Owe. Click to view larger.

We have compiled these comments, and our Mortgage Disclosure team is reviewing them for insights as they create the next draft of this important form.

We were also able to compile the 13,000+ clicks into something called a heatmap.

Our feedback tool recorded where users clicked as they reviewed the draft disclosures. A heatmap is a way of displaying those clicks as a graphic that shows which areas were clicked on most. Simply put, it’s a way for us to see, at a glance, what areas of our draft disclosures attracted the most and least attention.

What you see on the right is one of eight heatmaps we made. The white/red sections received the most clicks; the purple/gray sections received the fewest. This particular map aggregates reviews of the “Ficus Bank” form by consumers who said they preferred it to our other prototype, which we labeled “Pecan Bank.”

So, what can this image tell us? Here are a few highlights:

  • Respondents were interested in the bottom line. The full loan amount at the top of the page, the projected payments section at the bottom of the page, and the estimated closing payment on the second page all received a lot of clicks.
  • People had a great deal to say about the “Key Loan Terms” and “Cautions” sections.
  • People commented on the first page of the draft form much more than on the second. This is a pretty common occurrence, and on its own, it serves as helpful advice for our designers about where to put certain important information. But the information on the second page (like closing costs, for example) is also an essential part of mortgage disclosure. That’s why the next round of testing will focus on the second page.

Heatmaps are also easy to compare. Here, for example, are heatmaps of the two forms. These represent clicks from consumers who preferred the form they reviewed:

Sample heatmap. Click to view larger.

Click to view larger. N = 3,676 clicks on the form.

Sample heatmap. Click to view larger.

Click to view larger. N = 2,563 clicks on the form.

These sorts of comparisons can help us see and understand a few things:

  • How the two different formats drew attention to different parts of the form.
  • Differences between what consumers and lenders commented on. (For example, industry reviewers were very interested in applicant or lender information at the top of the form. Consumer reviewers paid less attention to that.)
  • Differences between what positive and negative reviewers noticed on a form.

Of course, heatmaps can only show so much. In this case, the heatmaps raised a number of interesting questions. To find answers, we carefully read and analyzed the comments themselves.

There is symmetry here: heatmaps make it easier to understand and compare data. We want to improve disclosure so it is easier for consumers and lenders to understand and compare when they evaluate mortgage loans. Thanks again to all who provided feedback in helping to move the project forward.

Due to technical issues, the commenting feature of our blog is temporarily unavailable. We’re working to bring this functionality back, and look forward to hearing your feedback and comments about the CFPB’s work soon.