I had heard about President-Elect Obama’s plan to take advantage of the momentum from the social networking and technological mediums so popular during his campaign. However, it wasn’t until I received an email from Lending Club asking me to vote for an “idea” proposal competing for the new administration’s ear that I checked the website out.
This particular idea (one of thousands focusing on various issues) centers on social lending as a bottom-up method for loosening up credit for borrowers and providing higher-than-average returns for lenders.
“The credit crunch currently crippling America’s economy is not due to a lack of available funds. It is caused by dysfunctioning credit markets and by the banks having adopted an overly conservative credit policy in the wake of the subprime meltdown. After very permissive lending practices for many years, the pendulum has now swung the other way.
But the money has not disappeared. The money is still there, with roughly $6 trillion currently sitting in deposits, CDs and savings accounts earning interest at 3% and not being lent out by the banks. This is enough money to get small businesses through the credit crisis, offer student loans to everyone who needs it and refinance half of all mortgages in America.
Our idea is simple: unlock these resources, enable the people who have the money to lend it directly to creditworthy people who need the money through a new (yet tested over the last couple of years) mechanism called social lending: people lending money to each other at fair interest rates. With this aim in mind, we have created Uncrunch America (www.uncrunch.org), to give us a chance to help each other out.
Several companies have already joined us in putting together the banking infrastructure necessary to make it happen (credit reporting, authentication, funds transfer, bank account verification, regulatory framework including lending licenses and SEC clearance, etc.) and have already committed to lend $1MM through Uncrunch America.
Our initial goal is to get 1 million people to participate (a small fraction of those watching the inauguration speech!) and our hope is that the US Government will help by matching funds lent by individuals through Uncrunch America. We believe this is a more efficient way to use the bailout funds because this directly encourages lending, and will help restart the credit markets — from the bottom up.”
Full disclosure: I recently applied for a loan through Lending Club, a social lending website. I was initially reluctant, but I was forwarded through Lending Tree and I did a lot of research before applying for a loan. It works like this; as a borrower, you need to meet a few requirements.
- You must be a US citizen.
- You need a FICO score above 660.
- Your debt to income ratio must not exceed 25% (excluding a mortgage).
- You must be a “responsible” borrower, which means: 1 year of credit history, with no current delinquencies, recent bankruptcies (7 years), open tax liens, charge-offs or collections account in the past 12 months, no more than 10 inquiries on your credit report in the last 6 months, a revolving credit utilization of less than 100%, and more than 3 accounts in your credit report, of which more than 2 are currently open.
These requirements reduce the risk for the lenders. There are also requirements for lenders, but as I am not lending, I did not look into them in detail. I can tell you this, however. It’s a win-win for both parties: lenders receive a higher return than they would from a CD or savings account, and borrowers can often secure a loan with a lower interest rate than other options available to them.
In my case, I have applied for a $14,00o loan at 12%. I filled out a long application and identified the purpose of my loan as consolidation. I was approved and my loan is currently 21% funded, with 9 days to go (borrowers are given 2 weeks for lenders to fund their loans).
Personally, I am thrilled that social lending is taking off. Most certainly because it benefits me, but I also know that it will help others who are struggling with their mortgages, college loans and high-rate credit card balances.