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Mortgages

Take more control over the mortgage closing process with technology

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Closing on a mortgage can be one of the most exciting, and one of the most stressful times of your life. It comes after you’ve chosen your home, scoured the neighborhoods, evaluated the neighboring schools, and exchanged countless pieces of paperwork between your lender, realtor, home inspector, and others. You’ve made offers and finally had them accepted. You’ve been approved for a mortgage, and you have one more step to go before that home is yours: sign a mountain of papers at closing.

Recently, we asked you to tell us about pain points in the mortgage closing process. We also conducted in-depth interviews with consumers like you, realtors, loan officers, attorneys, and others involved at closing to better understand what goes on at the closing table. Through this research, we heard about four major pain points.

Four major pain points

Not enough time to review documents. You told us that you don’t get the paperwork until you arrive at the closing table, where there is pressure to rush through and sign your name over and over – with not enough time to ensure that you understand what you are signing.

Overwhelming stack of paperwork. You told us there are just too many pieces of paper in the stack, making the process of closing on a home daunting and overwhelming. The result is that many of you leave the closing table with a nagging feeling that something hidden in the stack might have long lasting effects on your financial well-being.

Documents are hard to understand. You told us that closing documents are full of legalese and technical jargon, and that you often have little help from others in the closing room to gain understanding.

Errors in the documents. You told us that errors in closing documents can often lead to delays. Even common and seemingly minor errors, such as a misspelled names or forgetting to include your spouse, require closing agents to redo the entire closing package.

Finally, we tested ideas for improvements to the closing process that help you play a more active role in the closing process. Before you sign on the dotted line, we want you to be able to fully understand the terms of your loan, have a chance to carefully review the documents you are signing, and feel empowered to ask the right questions and identify errors in the process.

Piloting a solution

From your comments and our research, it’s clear that the current closing process is not ideal. We identified potential solutions to some of the problems you identified. In particular, ideas for how technology can improve the closing process which we want to test over the coming months. Later this year, we plan to launch an e-closing pilot aimed at encouraging lenders to put you in the driver’s seat of your closing.

Some of our ideas include using technology to:

  • Help explain key terms, the closing process, and important documents
  • Give you more time to review the stack of documents
  • Help you find and fix errors in the documents prior to closing

If you want to learn more about the pilot, or are interested in participating, check out the guidelines and solicitation.

We’re excited about some of the promising technologies in the market today and we’ll keep you updated as we learn more about ways that the closing process can be improved. You can check out the report on the current state of closing for more about what we heard.

If you’re facing a specific problem with any part of the mortgage process, you can also submit a complaint online or by calling (855) 411-2372.

Save the date: Join us for a forum on the mortgage closing process in Washington, DC!

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Join us for a forum on the mortgage closing process in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, April 23 at 2:30 p.m. EDT.

The event will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray, as well as a discussion with consumer groups, industry representatives, and members of the public. You can watch a livestream of the event on our blog.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1700 G Street NW
Washington, D.C. 20552

To RSVP

Email cfpb.events@cfpb.gov with:

  • Your full name
  • Your organizational affiliation (if any)

This event is open to the public, but RSVP is required to attend. If you need an accommodation to participate, you can make a request.

Updated on April 15, 2014: The time of the event has been updated.

 

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.

Servicemembers, you have new mortgage protections in 2014

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It’s no secret that the housing crisis in recent years was particularly hard on military families. Servicemembers and their spouses at installations around the country, and even abroad, cited problems with mortgages as some of their most serious financial challenges. But now, the CFPB has written new mortgage rules that can help.

More than a third of the consumer complaints we’ve received from the military are mortgage-related. And at listening sessions around the country, concerned military families have told me about the painful consequences of poor mortgage servicing, sloppy lender recordkeeping, and inconsistent foreclosure practices. Obviously, servicemembers aren’t the only homeowners who have run into trouble with mortgage servicers or faced financial hurdles. But the demands of military service sometimes increase the severity of the problems or limit the solutions available to address them.

So, I’m happy to report that we’ve written new rules that address some of the worst problems in the mortgage servicing industry and bring new rights and protections to borrowers, including servicemembers. For military families, this means that when they seek help for a troubled mortgage or have to move because of Permanent Change of Station (PCS) orders, they will get fewer nasty surprises and face less risk of losing their home.

Here are some changes that should help servicemembers:

  • Restrictions on dual tracking. In the past, servicemembers dealing with mortgage troubles sometimes found that their mortgage servicer had moved forward to foreclose on their home at the very same time it was working with the servicemember on a potential loan modification. That’s called “dual tracking” and our new rules set up clear guidelines that restrict this practice.
  • More help for troubled borrowers. Too often servicemembers have had to apply over and over again for programs that might help them keep their homes, being asked to send in the same paperwork repeatedly. Our new rules require mortgage servicers to evaluate a borrower who files a complete application for help for all the options that are available to that borrower. That means no more multiple rounds of applications and wasting of precious time and resources for the homeowner seeking help!

    You can find out about options for helping servicemembers with a troubled mortgage by watching our Military Educator Forum on the subject, finding a HUD-approved housing counselor , or calling 888-995-HOPE (4673). You can also Ask CFPB for answers to your mortgage related questions.

  • No more runarounds and missing documents. Our rules require mortgage servicers to train their people to answer your questions and, if you do run into trouble, the servicer has to assign people to help you. The servicer also has to have policies in place to make sure they don’t lose your paperwork.

Those are some of the new rules. In addition, servicemembers should know that we issued guidance in June 2012, along with other regulators, saying that mortgage servicers should have processes in place to handle requests for assistance from servicemembers with PCS orders, and that they should clearly communicate their policies.

In 2011, two important players in the mortgage market —Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac —updated their policies to say that a PCS move is considered a “qualifying hardship” for mortgage assistance options for servicemembers. In other words, servicemembers do not have to be behind on their mortgage payments before they can ask for help. It was also announced that a homeowner with a Fannie or Freddie loan and PCS orders will automatically be eligible for a short sale.

Also, those servicemembers who do a short sale (selling their home for less than they owe on the mortgage) will not have to pay the difference between the original loan amount and the proceeds from the sale if the property is their primary residence and it was purchased on or before June 30, 2012.

Finally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also has provisions for a short sale called a “compromise sale.” Servicemembers should contact their lender or the VA for more information on this program.

We work closely with the military community to get the word out about any policy changes that affect servicemembers. We encourage servicemembers and their spouses to talk to their JAGs or military Personal Financial Managers (PFM) about these issues, too.

We hope our new mortgage rules will allow servicemembers to spend more time on their important mission and less time worrying about their mortgages. Learn more about our work on mortgages.

Live from Phoenix!

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Today, we held “Protecting homeowners: New tools for empowering consumers and advocates” in Phoenix.

The live event has ended.

This event was a training for housing counselors, legal aid attorneys, and other advocates on the new mortgage servicing rules that take effect today. The training also featured remarks from Director Richard Cordray.

Find out more about our work on mortgages.

A recording of the event is available below.

If you’re having trouble paying your mortgage, here’s how you can take control

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The most important thing you can do when you’re having trouble paying your mortgage is take control. There is nothing worse than doing nothing. Taking control means taking two steps:

  • Talk to your mortgage servicer about possible solutions.
  • Contact a professional HUD-approved housing counseling agency for no-cost assistance to figure out your options. Find a housing counselor online or call 888-995-HOPE (4673).

Housing counselors are trained to help you fill out the documents you will need to submit to get help. They can also walk you through the choices you will face. It’s also very important that you read the notices and information your mortgage servicer sends you.

There are many programs out there that can help you either keep your home or leave it with relocation assistance and potentially less damage to your credit. Depending on when you took out your mortgage and how delinquent you are, programs like the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) and the Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP) can help you lower your mortgage payment or avoid an unnecessary foreclosure. If you’re unemployed, you may also be eligible for short-term help.

Also, new rules require your mortgage servicer to contact you soon after you become delinquent and let you know about options that may be available to you to avoid foreclosure. To get this help, you’ll need to fill out an application for mortgage assistance or “loss mitigation” as it is often called. It’s important that you provide all the information that your servicer asks for, otherwise the servicer can’t complete its evaluation.

Learn more about the new mortgage rules and the procedures mortgage servicers must follow in dealing with borrowers facing foreclosure.

You can submit a complaint about your mortgage online or by calling (855) 411-2372 and we’ll work to get you a response.