How to Improve Mortgage Disclosures

Memo to Elizabeth

Warren: Maybe we don’t need a strong new federal regulator, so much as we

just need better disclosure. Kenneth

Harney has found an FTC study with some startling findings:

In a study involving 819 recent prime and sub-prime mortgage customers in

12 locations around the country, the Federal Trade Commission found that,

using current truth-in-lending and good faith estimate disclosures:

• Nearly nine out of 10 borrowers could not identify the correct amount

of upfront charges connected with a loan.

• Four out of five had trouble understanding why the stated interest

rate on the loan note was different from the "annual percentage rate"

highlighted in the truth-in-lending disclosure.

• Two-thirds did not know that they would incur a substantial penalty

if they refinanced within the first two years…

FTC researchers Janis Pappalardo and James M. Lacko

tested the latter hypothesis by developing a new, combined disclosure form

that focused on the main functional categories of costs — and potential

consumer snares — in mortgage originations and settlements…

Eighty percent of those using the new form could answer 70% or more of all

questions about their mortgages correctly, compared with only 29% of those

using the current disclosures.

The executive summary of the report is here,

and the full report is here

(both in PDF format). The full report is very long (282 pages), but it’s worth

skimming for some of the eye-opening anecdotes from the interviews conducted.

It’s definitely worth checking out the last three pages of the executive summary,

which give an example of the proposed new disclosure form – a model of

clarity and excellent information design. Any reputable mortgage lender should

start implementing this standard immediately, even if they’re not officially

required to by the FTC.

(Via Alea)

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