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New tools to explore mortgage data

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Last fall, we released a web-based tool showing basic mortgage statistics for counties and cities across the country. Today, we are adding new features so you can explore the data in more flexible ways.

What are the new features?
The updated tool is loaded with features and flexibility. You can use the new features to analyze trends in your area or across the nation. Software developers can use our Application Programming Interface (API) to build their own tools.

  • Choose custom filters. You can choose to see only the data you want. Filter the data by geography (state, metropolitan area, county, and census tract), loan characteristics, property type, and more. We provide some suggested filters to help you get started.
  • Create custom summary tables. For example, you can compare refinances and home purchases over the past few years, or see county-level trends in federally related mortgages.
  • Download the data. Once you have the data you want, you can download it in the format of your choice. We offer CSV, which is compatible with most spreadsheet programs. We also offer JSON, JSONP, and XML, which are standards commonly used by software developers. You can also preview the first 100 records before you download the data.
  • Save and share results. Each query has a unique web address, so you can save and share your results. Just click on the “share” button to copy the link. Then, paste it into a document, an email, a Facebook post, a tweet, or anywhere else you’d like to share it.
  • Tools for developers. Software developers can use and contribute to our API. Software engineers and developers interested in improving the underlying Public Data Platform (aka, Qu) can get involved on GitHub. API developers who want to build tools using the API can browse the documentation, and if there are technical questions, you can engage with CFPB developers using GitHub issue tracking.

What kinds of information are in the data?
Our tool comes loaded with data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA). HMDA requires certain banks and other financial institutions to collect, report, and publicly disclose information about mortgage loans and applications. In 2012, HMDA data included approximately 18.7 million records from 7,400 financial institutions. The data are publicly released every year, usually in September.

You can use our tool to explore information about loans, lenders, properties, and borrower demographics. For example, the data has information about the type of loan being made, such as whether it’s backed by a government program through the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or Federal Housing Administration (FHA). It’s important to note that the data do not include direct identifying information, like names or Social Security numbers. To learn more, read our Privacy Impact Assessment.

Get started
If you are new to HMDA data, start with our introductory video. You’ll learn about the data, how it’s collected, why it’s useful, and what variables it contains. Then, check out our maps and charts. If you want to do your own analyses, you can explore the data. Software developers should check out our API and documentation.

Making regulations easier to use

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We write rules to protect consumers, but what actually protects consumers is people: advocates knowing what rights people have, government agencies’ supervision and enforcement staff having a clear view of what potential violations to look out for; and responsible industry employees following the rules.

Today, we’re releasing a new open source tool we built, eRegulations, to help make regulations easier to understand. Check it out: consumerfinance.gov/eregulations

One thing that’s become clear during our two years as an agency is that federal regulations can be difficult to navigate. Finding answers to questions about a regulation is hard. Frequently, it means connecting information from different places, spread throughout a regulation, often separated by dozens or even hundreds of pages. As a result, we found people were trying to understand regulations by using paper editions, several different online tools to piece together the relevant information, or even paid subscription services that still don’t make things easy, and are expensive.

“Right now I’m stuck using a combination of paper, e-CFR, online FR, and commercially available tools . . . “

This is a common complaint, and one that we were excited to take a crack at. The above quote came from one of our regulations attorneys. That attorney went on to say:

“…but only (the) eRegulations tool combines it all in one place, and also puts it in a useful, usable, and readable format.”

So, how does eRegulations make using regulations easier?

The public, industry, and the government, including CFPB, all benefit from regulations that are easier to use. With that goal in mind, we set out to build a tool with the following features:

  • Easy to search and navigate.
  • Key terms are defined throughout.
  • Official interpretations are available throughout.
  • Include certain sections of the “Federal Register preambles” to help explain the background to any particular paragraph.
  • Ability to see previous, current, and future versions.

We loved talking to regulators, from CFPB and elsewhere, to prototype, test and improve ideas – it’s how we created the tool that accomplishes these goals. Ideally, using eRegulations will lead to better compliance, more efficient supervision, and improved accessibility.

Here’s hoping that even more people who work with regulations will have the same reaction as this member of our bank supervision team:

 “The eRegulations site has been very helpful to my work. It has become my go-to resource on Reg. E and the Official Interpretations. I use it several times a week in the course of completing regulatory compliance evaluations. My prior preference was to use the printed book or e-CFR, but I’ve found the eRegulations (tool) to be easier to read, search, and navigate than the printed book, and more efficient than the e-CFR because of the way eRegs incorporates the commentary.”

New rules about international money transfers – also called “remittances” –  in Regulation E will take effect on October 28, 2013, and you can now use the eRegulations tool to check out the regulation.

We need your help

There are two ways we’d love your help with our work to make regulations easier to use. First, the tool is a work in progress.  If you have comments or suggestions, please write to us at CFPB_eRegs_Team@cfpb.gov. We read every message and would love to hear what you think.

Second, the tool is open source, so we’d love for other agencies, developers, or groups to use it and adapt it. And remember, the first time a citizen developer suggested a change to our open source software, it was to fix a typo (thanks again, by the way!), so no contribution is too small.

A note from our lawyers

Please note, eRegulations is not an official legal edition of the Code of Federal Regulations or the Federal Register, and it does not replace the official versions of those publications.

We participated in the National Day of Civic Hacking

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Coders, designers, journalists, data scientists, and entrepreneurs joined representatives from more than 21 government agencies this month to confront complex societal problems affecting our neighborhoods, communities, and country. Why?

It was part of the National Day of Civic Hacking, a collaborative event that took place across the country on June 1 and 2. I was on hand for a locally organized event in Washington, D.C., and seeing representatives from these traditionally disconnected groups work together productively was engaging, inspiring, and fun.

We asked participants to analyze our public Consumer Complaint Database and challenged them to come up with ways to empower consumers by building tools and visualizations using complaint data. Since the launch of the database in June 2012, the number of consumer complaints has increased rapidly, surpassing the 100,000 mark earlier this spring. The breadth of the database has also expanded; it now includes complaints on seven categories of products, ranging from credit cards to mortgages.

Since the launch of the database, we’ve been thinking about how to get the public involved with the data. During the event, I was able to answer questions from civic hackers interested in using the data to build visualizations and applications. Kevin Ohashi, a blogger and self-proclaimed civic hacker, used our publicly available data combined with the Census Bureau’s population statistics to analyze and share which products, issues, and companies consumers are complaining about, as well as where these complaints are most prominent. This is exactly the type of involvement we’re hoping for and illustrates the opportunities we have to expand this type of public engagement.

We hope to connect with other communities interested in engaging with our database. We believe there is opportunity for coders, developers, and others with strong technical prowess to build innovative tools and applications that can enable consumers to live better financial lives.

Project Catalyst, a cross-CFPB platform focusing on supporting innovation in consumer financial products and services, is interested in continuing to engage with more people to see the exciting things that can be done with the data.

Ready to check out the data? Just tweet at @CFPB with #CFPBData and #ProjectCatalyst if you do, and stay in touch with us at projectcatalyst@cfpb.gov.

Twitter: Let’s talk about #SeniorMoney

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We’re excited to host a twitter chat about older Americans and money on May 9, 2013 from 3-4 p.m. EDT.

We’ll have financial experts taking questions on what older Americans can do to find out if their financial advisers are really experts in their needs.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION

To participate, tweet questions with the hashtag #SeniorMoney and follow us @CFPB.

SeniorMoney_sharegraphic

Did you miss our #MoneyTalk on Twitter?

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Earlier this week, we hosted a Twitter chat along with Kids.gov. Financial experts, authors, and parents joined the #MoneyTalk and shared ideas and resources for talking to kids about money.

One question we saw frequently had to do with bringing up the topic of money for young kids. There were great ideas and suggestions in the chat. One thing you can try the next time you’re at the store is showing them the price tags and discussing how much their favorite foods cost. Let them watch as you check out, and if you pay in cash, let them hand the money to the cashier and receive the change.

Several folks brought up the idea of using games to teach preschoolers. Make it a fun learning experience and dump a pile of change in the middle of the floor and count pennies. Make stacks of five and explain that a stack is equal to one nickel, or that five stacks are equal to a quarter.

Other popular questions were about teaching teenagers about credit. It’s a subject that can be confusing even for adults, but here are some things to cover when introducing your teenager to credit. And, before your kid gets ready to leave the nest, here are ways to talk to them about saving and investing.

The most popular question was about finding ways to teach kids to save. We shared a fun way to do that using Pinterest.

There are many great ways to have the #MoneyTalk with your kids and we encourage you to start that conversation and keep it going.

Share your stories on Twitter and Pinterest using the hashtag #MoneyTalk!