Google and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) have joined forces to launch a new set of tools designed to help homebuyers learn about and shop for mortgages. The lineup includes a mortgage calculator, recent mortgage rates, key terms, and answers to commonly searched questions like "What is a mortgage?" and "What is PMI?"

To access the tools, search for "mortgage" on your smartphone—so far it's a phone-only feature—and scroll down past the ads. Here's a quick look at the information you'll find.

Key Takeaways

  • Google has teamed up with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to launch a set of tools that makes it easier for homebuyers to learn about mortgages.
  • To access the tools, search "mortgage" in Google on your phone and scroll down past the ads.
  • The information comes from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and includes mortgage lingo, rates, and a calculator.

What Is a Mortgage?

According to Google Trends, one of the most searched mortgage-related questions in the past year was "What is a mortgage?"

The overview page in the new Google mortgage feature answers this and explains that a mortgage "is an agreement between you and a lender that allows you to borrow money to purchase or refinance a home and gives the lender the right to take your property if you fail to repay the money you've borrowed." The description is followed by a link to the CFPB, where consumers can find more information.

Below that, you'll find a list of key mortgage terms listed in alphabetical order—from APR (annual percentage rate) to subprime mortgage. Each term includes a brief definition plus a "search the web" button to find more information. To make it easier to find specific terms, you can filter by category:

  • Popular terms
  • Interest rates
  • Planning
  • Loan types
  • Mortgage process
  • Home purchase process

Mortgage Rates

The rates page has an interactive tool that shows the current average rates for a variety of popular loans, including:

By default, the page shows three types of mortgage (30-year fixed, 15-year fixed, and 10/1 ARM). You have the option to compare more loan types by clicking the "+Add loan type to compare" link and selecting up to five plans. Here's what it looks like:

Google mortgage rates
Image source: Google.

To view rates, use the dropdown menus to select a loan amount (available in $100K increments), the down payment you plan to make, your state, and your credit score. If you scroll down, you'll see popular next steps such as "Calculate your monthly payments" and "Learn about credit," as well as more top news stories.

Mortgage Calculator     

The calculator page helps you figure out what your monthly mortgage payment will be, taking into consideration the loan amount, loan term, interest rate, your state, and the credit score that you enter.

You have the option to include property taxes, homeowners insurance, private mortgage insurance, and homeowners association (HOA) fees (toggle the "Include taxes & fees" switch) to get a better picture of your total monthly house payment.

Google mortgage calculator
Image source: Google.

The "Purchase budget" tab (next to the "Monthly payment" tab) gives you an idea of how much house you can afford, based on details you enter regarding your:

  • Yearly household income (before taxes)
  • Monthly debts (credit cards, loans, etc.)
  • Down payment
  • Loan term
  • Interest rate
  • State
  • Credit score

The purchase budget total estimates how much you can afford based on a debt-to-income (DTI) ratio of 36%. Your mortgage payment and other monthly debt payments, such as student loans and credit cards, should not be greater than 36% of your household's pre-tax annual income.

The Mortgage Process

The process page will be especially helpful to first-time homebuyers and those who need a refresher on how the mortgage process works. According to Google, "No matter what phase of the [mortgage] journey you're on, you can select a step to find a list of relevant documents and helpful tips from the CFPB. And to help you determine the next phase, you'll find a list of popular and recommended next steps to guide you on the way."

The process page is divided into four sections, each of which includes a list of related topics, with links to the corresponding CFPB web page where you can learn more. The four categories are:

  1. Prepare to shop—This tab covers topics like how to check your credit, assess your spending, budget for new expenses, and create a loan application packet.
  2. Explore loan choices—Here, consumers can learn more about loan costs, the types of loans that are available, gathering paperwork, and finding the right home.
  3. How to compare loan offers—This tab includes tips to help you request multiple loan estimates, review loan estimates, fine-tune loan offers, and the like.
  4. Get ready to close—The final tab covers topics like scheduling a home inspection, shopping for homeowners insurance, reviewing documents, and buying title insurance

Other Sections

There are several other sections that link you to resources like news articles and related search results:

  • Refinance—Links to today's top refinancing news articles, as well as answers to popular questions like "When should you refinance your mortgage?" and "Why refinancing is a bad idea"
  • News—Shows a list of mortgage-related stories from across the web
  • Relief—Provides the top results from the CFPB, Fannie Mae, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), and financial news outlets like Investopedia
  • Types—Links to content about the various types of mortgages, plus answers to popular questions like "What are the different types of mortgages?" and "What is the best mortgage type?"
  • Videos—Lists mortgage-related videos from a variety of content producers
  • History—Links to content from across the web related to the history of mortgages

The Bottom Line

Buying a home is the largest single investment most people ever make—and most homebuyers need a mortgage to make it happen. A mortgage is a long-term commitment, so it makes sense to do your homework and learn about your options before choosing a loan (and a lender). Google's and the CFPB's new mortgage feature aims to make it easier to explore the options that are available to you.

Right now the feature is available only on smartphones. Stay tuned to see if it will eventually be accessible on a tablet or desktop.