Monday, August 15, 2011

Is peer-to-peer lending ever a good alternative?

Peer-to-peer lending (often referred to as p2p) has become increasingly popular in the United States over the past six years. This new way of loaning money was seen as advantageous, but it does have many difficulties.

Peer-to-peer loans are financial transactions between individuals that do not need the input of a traditional financial institution or bank. The lender and borrower have a more direct connection.

Sometimes the peers can be friends or family members, but mostly these loans are arranged through firms with online websites. The use of internet technologies has enabled this idea to grow and prosper.

Peer-to-peer lending is not philanthropic however, so individuals who invest money into the agreement to allow the other party to borrow do expect a return.

Generally the process involves two parties, the borrower and the lender. Lending money can be highly lucrative because of the high interest rates charged.

Individuals with money want it to earn more money, but with low interest rates on savings, there is little positive return. Instead, these individuals are choosing to loan their money to others and receive a higher interest rate in return.

For borrowers, there are some advantages too, although the process also carries risk and difficulties with what some have seen as exploitation in an unregulated market.

In America, the two major firms have seen usage soar in recent years. After the global economic recession began in 2007, their popularity increased and has continued to grow.

These difficult economic times have meant that many people feel they cannot find the financing they need from traditional banks or businesses. For some people, desperation has led them to financing their loans in this way.

Also, peer-to-peer lending is seen as being more flexible than traditional sources of loans. For many people, the attraction is the immediacy of the agreement. Removing banks from the equation can seem like a saving because you are not paying their transaction fees.

However, the rates offered on loans can be as high as a normal bank or financial institution would offer and in some cases, even higher.

If you have a low FICO score and need money to finance a purchase, it may be tempting to use peer-to-peer lending. Be aware that unfortunately, not all transactions work out well.

There has been much criticism of the peer-to-peer lending model as one that can illustrate predatory lending or loan sharking. Both of these are unwelcome situations in which to find yourself.

Predatory lending is often defined as lending that is deceptive, fraudulent or unfair, whilst loan sharks are known for using nefarious methods such as blackmail or violence to extract money from borrowers.

Research suggests that most peer-to-peer lenders are not regulated in the same way as other financial institutions. This means that borrowers may find themselves with more problems should the transaction not progress smoothly.

Peer-to-peer lending may seem that it has some advantages, but like most things in life, it is too good to be true in its entirety. Smart borrowers will always use qualified and regulated financial institutions for their money needs because this is the safest way.

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