Making sense of all these numbers

The mortgage industry has a reputation of being confusing and unstandardized in nomenclature of costs and fees, which can mislead buyers and borrowers who are new to the process.

The same issue was prevalent in our product. Own Up customers would get extremely overwhelmed by the cost breakdown of our offers. Our chatbot and home advisors would spend time answering questions defining the different costs mentioned in the breakdown and ultimately give out their self-generated version of a cost breakdown.
ROLEDesign Lead

TEAMSenior Product Manager, Content Strategist, Sales Lead

3 weeks

The Problems;

UnstandardizedOverwhelmingDouble the work

Own Up offer breakdowns had cost and fees with names that customers didn’t see in competitors’ offers. This made them think we were charging people extra.

The way we displayed costs was overwhelming for many — there were no categories or explanations available on what costs were important to compare or look out for.

Our home advisors would spend time with customers answering questions about different costs in our digital product, and end up sending their own version of a breakdown with added details.

    How can we make this experience more informative? What should we be focusing on informing?

    Talking to our home advisors

    Our home advisors interface with customers on a daily basis — they know what customers ask them, and are able to collect feedback on our product from them. I led internal research interviews to capture what questions and concerns they were getting from customers.

    “It’s easier to compare offer competitiveness with a Loan Estimate..”

    “....Things to look for - Section A [on a Loan Estimate] are the unique costs for the lender, Section J is the Loan Cost...”

    “...Many people will see an offer, but do not have documents given to them by lenders”

    “...Some lenders underestimate some costs, having a loan estimate is essential

    “People get hung up on certain costs like prepaids, which are standard across lenders”

    Loan Estimates — a double-edged sword

    We heard the word Loan Estimate from almost all of our home advisors, and realized we could leverage some standardized terms from there to avoid confusion. At the same time, when we actually saw a loan estimate, we quickly realized that it wasn’t a very simple document either.

    Each mortgage lender in our network had different naming conventions & fees. This was causing our customers to negatively perceive us as charging them extra. After talking with the home advisors we found out an important tool created by the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) — the Loan Estimate. It requires mortgage lenders to send a list of estimated costs to the customer. However, this loan estimate document itself is not an easy-to-read or understand by regular people. But it sparked an idea — could we connect our cost breakdown to match a Loan Estimate?

    Another big challenge for us was also the fact that 80% our customers were not getting loan estimates from other mortgage lenders, but other unofficial documents. This was another issue for us to address — teaching people to ask for loan estimates to understand the full details in their offers.

    A sample Loan Estimate document has specific categories that have to be the same across all mortgages and lenders.
    A look at our current cost breakdown (offer details) experience

    Research Insights to Ideas

    Loan Estimates make it easy to read and compare offers but many people coming to Own Up have previously not seen one

    Make it easy for Home Advisors by making our cost breakdown similar to Loan Estimates and encourage people to get one


    Our customers interact with our cost breakdowns to compare an Own Up offer with another offer they have


    Give guidance on what specific costs to look for which could allow people to compare very easily and determine their cost savings


    Our customers perceive certain costs negatively because they do not understand them or have not seen them before


    Tell customers about who is charging them and what is being charged 



    As a first ideation round, my goal was to make sure I was incorporating important elements from the Loan Estimate and re-thinking our design. 

    This sketch removed the need for tooltips on desktop, providing definitions and cost descriptions in a more efficient way. However, it was not as effective on mobile.
    The indentations in this version provide visual hierarchy and some level of detail but feels like it uses unnecessary white space, making the page long especially on mobile.

    Selected wireframe

    This wireframe included an expandable/collapsible section to address limited space on mobile, and as a way to focus on important cost categories. 

    Testing with Home Advisors — Low fidelity prototype

    Along with other refinements through a feedback loop between myself, lead Product Manager & Tech Lead, I tested a low-fidelity prototype with our home advisors to gather some feedback.

    New Cost Breakdown

    Combining feedback from the prototype tests, ideation sessions and our design process — we reached this solution. We made a cost breakdown that is easy to scan, contextualized to educate and comparable to a Loan Estimate — prioritizing both our customers and Home Advisors.


    This new experience resulted in an 18% increase in customers locking with Own Up increasing our revenue.


    New accordions 

    Our default design system accordion was not suitable for our use case. 
    So, I configured and developed a new component with space, layout and styling re-adjustments.

    Structuring cost information

    Each cost category was expandable/collapsible containing a definitions to describe the category as well as whether a cost was fixed or not, and educated our customers on comparing with a Loan Estimate.

    Default states for content focus

    When someone accesses the offer breakdown module, we set some default states to make sure that the most important costs (Lender Fees) that make a difference in the loan offer were emphasized. 

    This was to match our hypothesis from research that most people open up an offer they are interested in comparing to another offer they have. 

    All other cost categories are in their collapsed state showing totals. 

    Learnings & Next Steps;

    Involving Home Advisors in the process at different checkpoints provided a nuanced take on how to approach our product problems.
    I also learned not to be hesitant to break the design system and build custom components if the situation demands for it.

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