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Home buyers get new online loan option

12 May 2015 | Christopher Adams

LendMe says high loan-to-value restrictions do not apply as it is not a registered bank.

A newly licensed online lending service is targeting prospective homeowners who have been shut out of the mainstream mortgage market by low-equity loan restrictions introduced by the Reserve Bank.

LendMe announced yesterday that it had become the second peer-to-peer lender to receive a licence from the Financial Markets Authority.

Peer-to-peer lending involves borrowers and lenders being matched through an online platform.

LendMe will offer secured loans, meaning its lending will be secured by mortgage over borrowers' existing assets.

The firm said it would specialise in secured loans from $25,000 to $2 million for a range of purposes including home purchases, residential investments, commercial property, business growth and rural finance.

It is taking a different approach from Harmoney, New Zealand's first licensed peer-to-peer lender, which is targeting consumer finance.

LendMe founder Mark Kirkland said the high loan-to-value (LVR) restrictions introduced in October 2013 did not apply to LendMe as it was not a registered bank.

"Borrowers who can show a good credit history and ability to service debt but don't have a deposit and can't borrow through the traditional banks due to the current LVR restrictions will be able to borrow 100 per cent through LendMe to purchase a home," Kirkland said.

He said high LVR lending was expected to be a lucrative niche.

"We intend to exploit that niche," Kirkland said, adding that lower-risk borrowers would be charged similar interest rates to those offered by the banks.

LendMe will also offer "top-up" loans for borrowers who cannot quite meet the 20 per cent deposit usually required to secure mortgages from regular banks.

"Obviously you have to look at individual situations," Kirkland said. "You might have, for example, a professional couple that haven't quite got their 20 per cent ... it's up to the lender to make that decision [to lend]."

LendMe also intends to lend to older New Zealanders, who it said were often excluded by banks because of their age.

Kirkland said the company was in talks with local banks - which he declined to name - that were interested in acquiring equity stakes in LendMe.

It was also having discussions with domestic and overseas financial institutions which might provide funding lines to the platform.

LendMe would earn revenue through establishment fees charged to borrowers, Kirkland said.

He said a "soft launch" of the platform would take place in the next six to eight weeks.