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Commenters Chew Over Fed's Mortgage Form Mock-Ups

BY Nancy Scola | Friday, May 20 2011

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is asking citizens and industry to design a new simplified single mortgage disclosure form.

Earlier this week, the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau launched an innovative online engagement that asked the public to help them figure out how you go about design something new to the consumer finance landscape: a single mortgage disclosure form that potential mortgagees would get as the go through a loan application process. If well designed, goes the thinking, such a document could make it possible for customers to understand the terms of their mortgage without first having to take a two-year diversion through Wharton. CFPB head Elizabeth Warren and others have made the case that having mortgage products actually understandable by the human mind might help us avoid a repeat of the recent American mortgage mess.

The CFPB's experiment -- both consumers and mortgage industry figures are asked to choose between form designs, and then to explain their preference -- has sparked a lively conversation on the ConsumerFinance.gov site. At the discussion is hitting a note that some advocates of open government dream about. Rather than crowd sourcing, it shaping up to be an example of expert sourcing. People writing in to chew over the form have both design sense and, it seems, financial chops, whether as lenders or savvy consumers. "Both of these forms worry me," writes one commenter. "I like them more than the new GFE [Good Faith Estimate], and think these are more simple than the existing GFE and TIL [Truth in Lending Form].  I like the Ficus Bank form more than Pecan Bank because it seems more linear - you move from top to bottom, not down, right, down." Writes another, "I have been in the mortgage business 25+years and consumers do not use APR to shop.  They want to know what the note rate will be and what the P&I payment will be."

That wisdom and insight from the public would, arguably, be pretty difficult for a new agency like CFPB to get through other channels. From the citizens' point of view, they're getting a chance to shape the tangible work product of a federal agency. Take a look.

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