Know Before You Owe: Where Did the Online Participants Come From?

We received thousands of comments in response to the first phase of our Know Before You Owe project, which asked the public for input on a single, simpler mortgage disclosure. Right now, someone who applies for a mortgage gets two disclosure forms, the Truth In Lending disclosure and the Good Faith Estimate. Congress tasked the CFPB with creating a single integrated mortgage disclosure form.

It’s going to take us time to digest the feedback we got, but we wanted to start sharing what we’re learning. (If you did not participate in this round of Know Before You Owe don’t worry. Over the coming months, we’ll ask for input several more times. Sign up here to receive notifications.)

One of the first questions we’ve looked at is: Where are the people who weighed in?

To answer this, we looked the zip code information that most users provided. (Users did not have to enter their zip codes to give us feedback, but 1,514 did so.) One thing we are proud of is that we received feedback from far beyond Washington, DC. People from all over the United States weighed in through Know Before You Owe.

This question – where are the people who took part in this project? – fascinated us, so we dove a bit deeper into the numbers. Here’s what we found:

Weighing in on Know Before You Owe involved a series of steps. Users could stop at any of these points:

  1. Choose between this form and this form .
  2. Review one of the forms to say what worked or did not.
  3. Decide whether to review the other form.
  4. Tell us a bit about yourself, including your zip code.
Locations with 15+ Know Before
You Owe Zip Code Submissions
Location Submitted
Washington, DC 36
Columbus, OH 18
Minneapolis, MN 18
Chicago, IL 18
Austin, TX 18
Orange County, CA 17
Portland, OR 17
Downtown Manhattan, NY 16
East S.F. Bay, CA 16
Plano, TX 15
Beaverton, OR 15

To the right is a list of the most common locations based on the number of people who submitted zip codes. Only people who completed all four steps above reached this point.

Not surprisingly, the number who came to the page in the first place was much larger than the number who completed that last step. Overall, Know Before You Owe received more than 78,845 visits from 35,168 unique visitors. (In web-speak, a “unique visit” counts each user once no matter how many times they visit.)

We decided to take a closer look at the unique visitor count to learn more. The greatest number came from Washington, D.C., where many consumer groups, industry groups, regulators, and journalists are based. Generally, the next highest numbers came from some of the nation’s largest cities.

However, when we scaled visit counts by city size, the picture looked a little different, as you can see in the list below. The cities do not show an obvious pattern. They range from suburbs to hub cities, from dense to sprawling. Their populations range from just over 100,000 to more than 800,000.

Unique Visits Per 1,000 Residents*
Location Visits
Washington, DC 9.10
Richmond, VA 6.48
Columbia, SC 4.60
Billings, MT 4.52
Cambridge, MA 3.07
Wilmington, NC 3.00
Minneapolis, MN 2.98
San Francisco, CA 2.96
Overland Park, KS 2.71
Portland, OR 2.68

*minimum 100,000 residents

The differences between the cities emphasize that people who are interested in mortgage disclosure come from different regions. (Even more to this point, nearly half our comments came from places other than cities with more than 100,000 residents.) The team that is developing the new form has planned to test the forms with people from different areas and backgrounds. These data serve as an illustration of why that testing plan is so important. (Read more about our testing program.)

Stay tuned for more!

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