As part of its ongoing effort to insinuate itself into every aspect of our lives, Google has just launched a mortgage calculator that pops up whenever you search for anything mortgage-related.
It’s got some pretty cool stuff. For one, the interface is stripped down to the absolute basics. Enter the amount of the loan, the interest rate, and the length of the mortgage, and boom—it computes your monthly payment. Or take the opposite route: Enter your hoped-for monthly payment, the interest rate, and length, and Google will tell you how much you can afford to borrow. Solid.
Of course, you may have noticed that such mortgage calculators have been around various other websites for quite some time. And many of those other calculators (including—ahem—ours) do much more complex calculations, factoring in insurance, taxes, and adjustable-rate mortgages. Google’s approach is about as complicated as plugging them into an Excel spreadsheet.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that…
Except here’s our worry: Google is so dominant on the Internet that we worry that this calculator’s simplicity could be misleading. We’ve already been hearing stories about first-time buyers using such basic calculations to compute their potential expenses, only to be shocked at how many other factors affect their purchasing ability. If Google’s ubiquity adds to that, it won’t exactly be helping the prospective buyers it’s aiming to serve.
And this is Google we’re talking about! We <3 them, you know. And we expect their developments, in search and everything else, to push the limits of what’s doable on the Internet, and to inspire the rest of us to do better.
Of course, if you’re just sitting around in your pj’s and want to get some numbers in your head, this totally works. But buying a house isn’t an Internet-only transaction (or it shouldn’t be). When it comes time to make that move, you’ll need to talk to a real human being—the earlier the better.