Google And CFPB Launch Housing, Mortgage App

First-time home buyers and homeowners seeking to refinance have been busy online this year.

Google Trends reports the most searched mortgage-related questions in 2020 in the U.S. include: What is a mortgage? What is PMI? Should I refinance? What is APR? What is escrow?

In May, searches for “how to buy a house” reached an all-time high while “refinancing” reached a record high in March.

Google users need to know about home prices, home loan rates, timing and mortgage options such as 15- to 30-year fixed and variable rate loans.

“Buying a house is a big financial decision and having clear, trustworthy information is important,” Limor Yoeli, Google’s product manager, wrote on Google’s blog.

To help people better understand the mortgage process, Google collaborated with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), the federal agency responsible for protecting consumers in the financial sector, to create a new mobile experience in Google Search.

Now, when users search “mortgage,” they will find a feature that explains the complicated mortgage process in easy-to-follow steps wherever they may be in the process. In addition, it will connect mobile users to resources, including mortgage rates, news stories, industry definitions and terms. There’s a calculator to determine payments, along with average mortgage rates and refinancing information.

The first step, Google said, is understanding mortgage terms. An overview illustrates concepts such as annual percentage rate, adjustable mortgage rate and appraisal fee. For those impacted by the recent economic downturn searching for mortgage relief, there are options from the CFPB to explore.

For those seeking help on how to get started or preparing documents for a closing, CFPB offers tips. No matter what phase of the journey they’re on, consumers can select a step to find a list of relevant documents and  helpful tips from the CFPB, Google wrote.

To provide context about the cost of a home loan, there’s a “mortgage rates” section which breaks down rates. There’s also the ability to filter options inducing location, down payment, credit score and more.

“Buying a home can be among the most important financial decisions in your life, and having clear, trustworthy information is important,” Yoeli wrote. “Even though the process can be challenging and it’s a big commitment, we hope these new features can help you find the right path for you.”

PYMNTS reported mortgage applications surged in June, a sign of the housing market’s surprisingly strong rebound after the coronavirus-triggered shutdown this spring.

The number of mortgage applications from homebuyers improved 33 percent in the week ending on July 3 compared to the same period a year ago, the Mortgage Bankers Association reported in its weekly survey.

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