Posted on 25/09/2019 11:17:41   by   Richard Knight

Here's our helpful alternative finance jargon-buster!

In a nutshell

Learning about new things can require time and effort, however high your IQ may be. Added to that, if you're learning about niche jargon, and specific terms and expressions within the Alternative Finance and Property Crowdfunding sectors, your task may well multiply in size.

For the new investor looking to foray into the world of Property Crowdfunding, the myriad of terms often used on websites and publications are sometimes difficult to understand.

However, all is not lost. What can seem like a tidal wave of inexplicable acronyms and initialisms will be deciphered right on this blog. We aim to help by offering a Jargon-Buster page which will shine some light on the basics of the Alternative Finance lexicon.


A familiar feeling...

When reading magazines, brochures or blogs about finance, they can seem to be a semantic minefield strewn with jargon, acronyms, initialisms and niche lingo that can sometimes turn the reader off, especially if you are new to Alternative Finance. The less you comprehend, the more you skim-read the article thus ignoring key points the writer is trying to get across. You stop engaging, you close the magazine or online window, and something in which you may have been interested is dismissed and forgotten.

Likewise, if you've ever spoken to a Property Developer, or maybe tried to read through a brochure detailing the specifics of a Property Crowdfunding project, the chances are that you will have come across some terms with which you are not familiar.

Though these terms and expressions may not crop up in the everyday lexicon of most people going about their day to day business, they are prevalent within the Alternative Finance sector, and it's a good idea to become accustomed to their meaning.

Although to a certain extent, it is a writer's responsibility to write captivating text, some onus also falls on the reader to understand the specifics.

Our Alternative Finance Jargon-Buster should help newcomers to Property Crowdfunding and other areas of Alternative Finance with a clear and concise explanation of some of that "geekspeak" you may well see, to avoid feeling ostracised by an "Alt-fi in-crowd".

Alternative Finance – What is Alternative Finance?

"The new year is now under way, and it will be a crucial one for the Alternative Finance industry" - from AltFi News (03/01/2017)

Alternative Finance is a recent channel of finance that has become increasingly popular over the past decade since the Financial Crash of 2008. This is because it can democratise lending and borrowing by connecting the two factions whilst removing the intermediary of the traditional banks, which, as a result of the aforementioned Financial Crash, were offering increasingly low interest returns on lending.

Described by Wikipedia as:

"Financial processes and instruments, like Crowdfunding and P2P lending, that have emerged outside the traditional finance system such as regulated banks and capital markets."

Alternative Finance has grown substantially, particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. The United Kingdom currently leads the way for the Alternative Finance Industry within Europe, as, according to the 5th UK Alternative Finance Industry Report from November 2018, it grew by 35% year on year to reach £6.19 billion in 2017. However, France, Germany and The Netherlands are now the three largest Alternative Finance markets outside the UK, and Forbes predicts that although still a long way behind, growth in Europe is currently faster than the UK (Forbes 26/01/2018 Europe's Alternative Finance Sector Accelerates).

Having established what Alternative Finance is, let's get to the crux of the industry and analyse two similar sectors that you will read lots about;

P2P Lending – How is it best described?

"Now with the prospect of an 'out' Brexit looming, UK P2P platforms will be put to the test should the economy take an adverse turn" - from orcamoney.com (15/06/2016).

Peer-to-peer lending (P2P) is when businesses or individuals facilitate lending money to other business or individuals using an online platform which connects the two, much like a type of "e-cupid", with no other middle-man involved. Usually, loans funded by investors are secured against pledged assets that can then be sold at an auction to reimburse the investors should a loan default. As stated above, it is a rapidly growing sector due to banks becoming more conservative with their interest rates, but it should be stated that there are risks involved. Investors' capital is at risk should they choose to fund a loan as investments are not covered by the FSCS*.

Note: *See below section on Financial Services Compensation Scheme.

Property Crowdfunding – Is it different from P2P Lending?

"International investors pile into UK Property Crowdfunding" - from Peer2Peer Finance News (10/07/2019)

Property Crowdfunding is a similar mode of Alternative Finance to P2P lending. You may be familiar with the term "crowdfunding" and how it is simply the practice of funding a project by raising money from a large group of separate individuals or businesses, who each contributes a small amount of money to raise the total amount required. Property Crowdfunding uses this principle to develop plots of land and residential projects being built, or even homes that are fully built but being renovated, where investors can analyse different loans to fund and then lend the borrowers part of the capital they require. As in P2P lending, there are significant risks involved which should be taken into consideration. For more information on the differences between P2P lending and Property Crowdfunding, please read our blog post on this topic.

Now we have established the meaning of these three cornerstones to the Alternative Finance lexicon, let us address an initialism mentioned previously;

The FSCS – What does it do?

"The FSCS has already assessed and paid a number of claims made" - from fscs.org (12/09/2019)

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) was set up by the Financial Services and Markets Act in 2000 to compensate lenders in the event of an insolvency of any authorised financial services firm. Its compensation scheme covers deposits, insurance policies, investments and mortgages to name just some branches, and though it doesn't cover investment losses, it protects investors if they have been mis-sold any kind of policy or mortgage. According to Wikipedia, the FSCS "has helped more than 4.5 million people and paid out more than £26 billion".

Keeping the theme of regulatory bodies, on most, if not all P2P lending and Property Crowdfunding platforms, you will notice another initialism detailed below;

The FCA – Who are they?

"The FCA has today confirmed rules restricting the sale and marketing of contracts for difference" - from FCA (01/07/2019)

The Financial Conduct Authority is a regulatory body in the UK which operates independently of the British government, in order to maintain the integrity of the financial markets within the United Kingdom. All P2P lending and Property Crowdfunding platforms which are operated by a regulated firm, or are the appointed representative of a regulated firm, must announce on their websites that they are "authorised and regulated by the FCA".

This is intended to aid in the protection of consumers from fraud and scamming as the FCA can ban financial products for up to a year, and exercise its power to instruct firms to retract or modify promotions which it finds to be misleading. However, it should be noted that FCA authorisations or appointed representative status is not itself a guarantee of the success of an investment or investor protection. Whilst a firm may be regulated or may be the appointed representative of a regulated firm, that does not mean that a particular platform or investment is itself regulated.

According to fca.org.uk, the FCA is responsible for about 58,000 businesses which in turn employ 2.2 million people, contributing £65.5 billion in annual tax revenue to the UK economy.

The Capital Stack - What on Earth is it?

"Understanding your place in the 'capital stack' is one of the most important aspects of investing in property" – from MoneyWeek (13/07/2015)

Understanding a quote like this without knowing the meaning of the capital stack is virtually impossible. It loses all context so logically begs the question; "what is the capital stack?"

The capital stack is best described graphically as a tower which details the specific tiers of the investment into which the investors invest their money. These tiers portray the different levels of risk involved as a direct consequence to the subsequent level of returns gained. It is a hierarchy of creditors listed in ascending order under the hypothetical, but very possible situation of a loan defaulting. It is normally divided into four categories;

  • Common Equity
  • Preferred Equity
  • Mezzanine Debt
  • Senior Debt

The most important points to remember to understand how the Capital Stack works are that each level has seniority over all the capital sources located above it in the stack. Correspondingly, each capital source is subordinate to all the other levels located below it.

It must be noted that should a loan default, if there are insufficient funds to fully repay all the capital, as the risk increases the higher up the stack you move, then losses are incurred from the top down. As a result of this, potential returns on investments will increase the higher up the stack you invest.

SPV or SVE – What exactly does an SPV do and why is it important?

"Irish Special Purpose Vehicle assets reach €763 billion" – from The Irish Times (11/07/2019)

A Special Purpose Vehicle, almost always written as the initialism SPV/SPE (Entity), is a separate legal entity created by an organisation specifically to fulfil certain objectives. It is set up to be a distinct company with its own assets and liabilities as well as its own legal status. Usually, they are created to isolate financial risk from the organisation.

As it is a separate legal entity, if the parent company goes bankrupt, the SPV can therefore carry on its obligations. Investopedia describes this as being a "bankruptcy-remote entity".

Secured Loans – Need some examples of Secured Loans?

"...when choosing a secured loan, you should carefully consider what you will use as collateral." – from The Balance (09/12/2018)

At some stage, most of us will become involved in applying for a secured loan whether we know the intricacies or not. Maybe the best example of a secured loan is the mortgage you pay on your house. To strip it down to the basics, it is a loan where the borrower pledges an asset as collateral which secures the debt owed to the lender. To use our mortgages as an example, the collateral is the house in which you live, and should you not keep up with your monthly payments, the lender, probably a bank, can take the asset away.

Secured loans are very common in P2P lending, and pledged assets can be of a very high value. P2P borrowers can pledge assets like jewellery, gold or classic cars, so that in the event of a loan defaulting, the assets can be easily sold so lenders recover as much of their funds as possible.

Although interest returns are not as high as unsecured loans*, this option of lending is safer for the investor as there is collateral to recover if the borrower cannot keep up with loan repayments. Conversely, for the borrower, the risks are high, as despite interest payments being lower, there is a possibility that they could lose the asset, one example being their home.

Unsecured Loans – What's the difference?

"...many leading banks are now offering unsecured loans at interest rates as low as 11.49%" – from The Economic Times (12/10/2018)

Unsecured loans are loans that haven't been secured by an asset. As they are much riskier for the lender as there is no collateral to recover should the loan default, interest rates are usually much higher. It is normally only the signed contract detailing the specifics of the loan that serves as the legal document protecting the lender, though should the borrower not keep up to date with payments, their credit rating may be severely affected. Before entering into an unsecured loan contract, lenders will thoroughly investigate the creditworthiness of the borrower to analyse their own financial risk.

Should the loan default and the borrower cannot pay the lender their money, it is likely that the case will go to court. To avoid circumstances like these from happening, often lenders involved in unsecured loans request that a guarantor, sometimes a member of the borrower's family, promises to continue repaying the loan instalments in the case that the borrower cannot.

Despite being higher risk for the lender, recent data indicates that the unsecured loan market is growing. According to Investopedia, "Fintechs", or Financial Technology Firms, accounted for 38% of unsecured personal loan balances in 2018, up from just 5% in 2013.

Another recent example of unsecured loans having become more commonplace recently are Payday Lenders offering loans that will tide the borrower over until payday. Payday loan companies offer loans to borrowers which are unsecured, but often on hugely exaggerated interest rates*. As the loans are unsecured, if the borrower cannot pay back the loan, the lender cannot recover any assets, for example; the borrower's house or car. They are obliged to take other actions, usually seeking the services of Debt Collection Agencies, and even court action, where a tribunal may enforce that a percentage of the borrower's wages are paid back to the lender for a specific amount of time until their financial obligations are met.

Note: *According to The Money Advice Service, the average annual percentage interest rate could be up to 1,500% compared to 22.8% for a typical credit card. Now, the cost of payday loans is capped by law under the Financial Conduct Authority.

Dividends – How are they paid?

"Dividend income for holders of UK shares jumps to record £19.7 billion" – from The Guardian (15/04/2019)

An interesting headline indeed. Isn't it? Newcomers to Alternative Finance will almost certainly have heard of dividends but may not be immediately clear when pressed just how to explain exactly what they are.

From the Latin "dividendum", or "thing to be divided", put simply, a dividend is a sum of money paid by a company to its shareholders, usually once a year. The payments come out of the annual profits of the company, and upon receipt of the transfer into their account, shareholders would then pay income tax on any earnings over £5,000. Anything under this amount was taxed at 0%, which was the Dividend Allowance.

However, although this allowance has recently fallen to £2,000, according to Westlake Clark Chartered Accountants:

"The government expect that even with the reduction in the Dividend Allowance to £2,000, 80% of general investors will still pay no tax on their dividend income."

Even so, any dividend payments received over £2,000 will be taxed at 7.5% for basic rate taxpayers, 32.5% for higher rate taxpayers, and 38.1% for additional rate taxpayers.

The shareholders always receive their fixed amounts depending on the number of shares they hold in the company.

Default – Is it the same as Bankruptcy?

"Property Crowdfunding lenders can be tied into contracts with borrowers with an increasing possibility of default" – from Quadrant (14/09/2017)

When lending money on a platform or investing capital into a project, the last thing you want as an investor or a lender is for the loan to default. A default occurs when the borrower has failed to meet his or her legal obligations according to the contract. This could be for a number of reasons, but is normally simply because they are financially unable.

The consequences of defaulting on a loan depend on the creditor and the type of loan. In most circumstances, the case is sent to a third-party credit collections agency and the debtor's credit rating is tarnished. Late payments and loan defaults can stay on credit rating reports for up to 10 years, meaning that it is then more difficult to find approval for separate financial products and will likely lead to higher interest rates on the debtor's credit card. It could even potentially affect job hunting as it is something prospective employers will consider.

It is important to consider that there are important differences between a default and other familiar terms with similar meanings, but specific differences. Wikipedia clarifies the following;

Default

A debtor has passed the payment deadline on a debt they were due to pay.

Illiquidity

A debtor has insufficient cash, or other "liquefiable" assets, to pay debts.

Insolvency

A legal term meaning a debtor is unable to pay their debts.

Bankruptcy

A legal finding that imposes court supervision over the financial affairs of those who are insolvent or in default.

In the majority of cases, the typical timescale preceding a loan default is that when the loan is at 90 days past due, the debtor becomes officially "delinquent". This means that the debtor's status with credit bureaus is "risky" and they will not be deemed creditworthy when applying for mobile phone contracts, direct debit payments with utility companies and credit card companies, to name some examples.

When the payment is 270 days late, it is officially "in default". This is the stage where collection agencies may get involved and charge further interest fees to cover their costs of collecting the money. The debtor will receive strongly worded and intimidating letters written principally in red ink, and it would certainly be recommended to seek the assistance of a financial advisor to help restructure your debt payments.

What's A Bridging Loan And Why Do People Choose Them?

"The market for bridging loans has grown steadily in recent years, especially in and around London, as borrowers try to complete property purchases quickly to secure their dream houses" – from Financial Times (03/02/2014)

Getting straight to the point, a bridging loan is a short-term loan which generally lasts from around a couple of months to up to two years depending on the specific conditions of the long-term finance agreement.

In te property development industry a bridging loan usually covers the shortfall between selling one property, and buying another. This means for example, that should you find your dream house which you want to secure quickly by purchasing it, all before managing to sell your current property, you may find yourself slightly short of funds. Therefore, a bridging loan may be the best option for you. It sounds like an attractive idea doesn't it? Unfortunately, typical bridging loans have much higher interest rates, so the shorter term you can negotiate, the better.

Interestingly, unlike other forms of borrowing, the monthly interest is often simply added onto the end of the loan, meaning there are no monthly instalments to pay during the loan term.

For the purpose of raising funds quickly, bridging loans are very useful, but there are potential drawbacks aside from higher interest rates.

As the loan terms are usually very short, should you not repay the amount owed at the end of the term, the penalties can be severe. You could incur major repercussions such as the repossession of your property, as well as significant tribunal fees.

What Does "Liquid Asset" Mean?

"The sum of all your assets, liquid or otherwise, minus the debts you owe, makes up your net worth" – from Quicken Loans (15/08/2019)

The term "liquid asset" conjures up worrying images of all your hard-earned possessions melting away. Although this is clearly not the case with this expression, the metaphor of liquid flowing freely and easily is not too inaccurate a description.

Liquid assets are simply assets that are easy to turn into cash in a short space of time, as they're deemed attractive or desirable. Within the P2P lending sector, some of these attractive and desirable assets which are easy to sell quickly would be jewellery or precious stones, gold, luxury watches, classic cars or even some fine art. They are all things for which you can imagine finding a buyer fairly rapidly would not be too difficult a task.

Liquid assets are important in case of financial emergency. Should the unfortunate situation of you needing to find cash very quickly arise, you probably won't have the time to put your property up for sale, dealing with all the necessary bureaucracy with which that comes. What you'll need is quick access to funds in order to keep the bailiff from the door.

In order to maintain a healthy financial profile, having assets which can easily be turned into cash in the event of a crisis will not only offer peace of mind, but will also potentially facilitate a rapid exit from unwanted financial problems.

So Conversely, What Are "Illiquid Assets"?

"Fund industry floats new structure for illiquid assets" – from The Financial Times (27/06/2019)

This beautifully crafted oxymoron between something floating and something "illiquid", expertly crafted by the literary powerhouse The Financial Times, introduces the topic of illiquid assets.

Having analysed what "liquid assets" are, we can maybe safely assume that "illiquid assets" are the opposite. They are assets that are somewhat trickier to convert into cash within a short space of time, loosely accepted at being around a year or more.

Perhaps the most obvious example of an illiquid asset is property of any description. Wherever you rest your head, whether it's your three-bedroom semi-detached in commuter-town suburbia, your end-of-row village cottage, your top-floor penthouse apartment in the centre of London, or your isolated farmstead thrust miles from civilisation, property, in general, is considered illiquid. Evidently, the spectrum is not black or white, and the scale of liquidity will increase depending on the more desirable your residence is. However, it will probably not sell as rapidly as a liquid asset like your solid gold watch.

Illiquid assets are important to offer diversity to your financial profile, thus mitigating risk. Whereas liquid assets are vulnerable to fluctuating markets, illiquid assets offer much more stability.

Who Are High Net Worth Individuals, And How Can I Become One?

"The High Net Worth Club has situated itself in New York City and London more than any other city" – from The Telegraph (03/02/2018)

So, who is this group? Who makes up the membership? Being a High Net Worth Individual (HNWI) is actually an official classification. If you have over $1 million dollars in liquid net worth, regardless of your status of birth, you classify as a HNWI. United States Dollars is the official currency gauge of determining whether you qualify or not, so although you have a One Million Zimbabwe Dollar bank note in your back pocket, it only relates to £2,282.13 and the banks won't grant you your membership card.

If you're unsure as to how many USD you own in liquid assets, have a look on the table below to see where you may fit in;

$1,000,000.00 is equal to:

  • GBP 825,920.00 (Great British Pounds Sterling)
  • EUR 901,455.00 (Euros)
  • INR 69,589,073.44 (Indian Rupees)
  • JPY 106,898,282.87 (Japanese Yen)
  • AUD 1,472,007.08 (Australian Dollars)
  • BRL 3,838,446.96 (Brazilian Reais)
  • CHF 985,734.43 (Swiss Francs)
  • ILS 3,499,405.93 (Israeli Shekels)
  • RUB 64,870,670.76 (Russian Roubles)
  • CNY 6,940,318.18 (Chinese Yuan Renminbi)

Note: *These values are correct as of 30/08/2019 and are subject to fluctuations.

Interestingly, in this blog we've talked about liquid and illiquid assets. The banks will only classify an individual as a HNWI if their liquid assets total over $1million. Therefore, your property, or more likely properties, will not be included in making up the $1million.

As the quote at the beginning of the section stated, most of the world's HNWIs are based in either New York City or London, around 393,500 and 353,600 respectively. The Far East (Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore) make up the next three cities in the top five, then back to the USA (San Francisco, Los Angeles and Chicago), then the Far East again (Beijing and Shanghai) complete the top ten. This information is telling about how wealth is distributed globally, with the combined total of all HNWI's net worth at an estimated $29.7 trillion, or 13% of the wealth on Planet Earth all situated in the same few areas.

What Does LTV Ratio Mean?

"LTV relaxed as home loans get cheaper" – from The Economic Times (02/08/2019)

Within the Property Crowdfunding sector, this is another initialism that regularly crops up because it is specifically to do with purchasing properties. It stands for Loan-to-Value ratio, and when buying a house, as moneyexpert.com (expertly) describes:

"The LTV ratio is the ratio between the value of the loan you take out and the value of the property as a whole, expressed as a percentage. The remaining value is paid as a deposit."

The Office of National Statistics recently released some data showing that the average salary in the UK is £29,009.00. In another study conducted by them, the average UK house price in 2019 is £229,431.00. It doesn't take a Mathematician to work out that it would take many years of fairly disciplined saving to buy a home outright. Therefore, logically, some kind of loan in the form of a mortgage is necessary.

To use a numerical example, if you want to buy a house for £350,000.00, and you've saved up £50,000.00 in your account as a deposit, you'll need to borrow £300,000.00 in order to purchase the property. Therefore, your LTV will be 85.7% as the bank will have to loan you 85.7% of the property value (£300,000 divided by £350,000, multiplied by one hundred to get the percentage).

Although largely considered to be a matter of opinion, depending on lending terms, interest rates, the exit strategies established, to whom and from whom the loan is being set up, and how illiquid the asset is, generally, an LTV below 80% is considered "low risk" from the lender's point of view, but over 80% would be "high risk".

As the risk is higher with higher LTV ratios, as expected, the interest rates are also higher. The less initial capital you have, the more you have to borrow, and the more interest you'll pay on it.

CGT – is it as complicated as it sounds?

"Capital gains tax cut will benefit richest 0.3% of population" - from The Independent (28/03/2016)

Capital gains tax (CGT) is not as complicated as it sounds, though it is well worth learning about. It is the tax you have to pay on the profit you make when you sell an asset. It's important to remember that it is not tax on the amount of money you receive from selling this asset, but just the profit made, so it is important to know for how much the asset was purchased. For example, if we imagine a Stradivarius violin as the asset in question, bought for £150,000, then sold for £250,000, you would be taxed on the profit of £100,000 made.

Before you despair at the thought of the government diving into your pockets just because you've completed a tidy deal, there are many circumstances when you don't actually have to pay CGT. The gov.co.uk website informs us that you must only pay CGT on the gain when you sell;

  • Most personal possessions worth £6000 or more, apart from your car
  • Property that is not your main home
  • Your main home if you've let it out, used it for business or it's very large
  • Shares that are not in an ISA or PEP
  • Business assets

However, you do not pay CGT on "gifts" to your husband or wife, civil partner or a charity. Neither do you have to pay it on certain assets, like gains made from ISAs or PEPs, Premium Bonds, or betting, lottery, or pools winnings.

Lastly, the CGT rate varies depending on your income and which income tax bracket you are in. For people paying basic income tax, the CGT rate is 10% or 18% on a residential property. Those on higher income tax rates will pay 20% on chargeable assets and 28% on gains made from a residential property.

How do you define an SME?

"Budget bonanza came at the right time for gloomy SMEs" - from The Independent (20/04/2016)

Small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) are independent companies which specifically employ fewer than a certain number of employees. Frustratingly, the actual number varies depending on which country's definition you are reading, but according to the European Union, (which means in the UK, for the time being at least), the number stipulated for a medium enterprise is set at up to 250 employees. Small enterprises officially employ up to 50 employees.

In larger countries, the United States being an example, the numbers are understandably set higher, and an American medium enterprise would consist of 500 employees.

Similarly, because of population demographics, in smaller countries (or geographically large countries with relatively sparse populations), SMEs make up the vast majority of the country's businesses. For example, in Australia and Chile, SMEs make up 98% and 98.5% respectively of those two countries' businesses, and in Australia's case, producing over a third of the country's total GDP whilst employing 4.7 million people of the 12.5 million Australians that are in employment.

Back home in the EU, there are certain types of assistance that SMEs can get if they apply for it;

  • Eligibility for support funding under EU business support programmes
  • Research funding
  • Competitiveness and innovation funding that do not qualify as "state aid"

Finally, we must establish that it is not solely the number of employees that determine an SME. Technically, according to EU regulations, an SME should not have an annual turnover exceeding €50 million (about £40 million) or an annual balance-sheet total exceeding €43 million (about £34 million).

Although relatively small in size, SMEs play a vital role in the economy. Being generally entrepreneurial, they help to shape innovation and for that reason governments regularly offer incentives and favourable tax treatment.

What is an ISA?

"It's your last chance to get your savings locked away into an ISA, but you need to act quickly" – from isa.co.uk (21/03/2019)

Another acronym for the Jargon-Buster to decipher. The Individual Savings Account allows UK residents to save money tax-free into a cash savings or investment account. Although there are numerous different types of ISAs, the Jargon-Buster will try to simplify the definitions for the purpose of clarity.

Cash ISAs – basically the same as a traditional savings account for anyone over 18 years of age, but with a limit on the amount of cash you can deposit in each tax year (£20,000), and no tax is paid on interest. Cash ISAs are divided into;

Instant-access cash ISAs
You can pay in money and withdraw money at any time.
Regular savings cash ISAs
Usually pay a fixed rate of interest over a certain time on the proviso that you pay in a certain amount of money each month. (You can contribute £1666 each month without breaching the £20,000 annual limit).
Fixed-rate cash ISAs
You'll need to commit to locking your money away for a fixed amount of time in order to be rewarded with a higher interest rate. Generally, the longer the term, the more interest you'll earn.
Stocks and shares ISA
This is an investment account where all capital gains are protected from tax. As with a cash ISA, you can pay in £20,000 during one tax year. Usually, you can choose between managing your investments yourself, or, for a fee, having them sorted for you. There are risks involved with stocks and shares ISAs, and as with any form of investment, you may get less capital back than the amount you put in.
Innovative Finance ISA
Known as an IFISA, this is used frequently by borrowers who did not want to get a traditional bank loan, maybe for property development projects or small business looking to expand. It connects them with lenders, who will receive a rate of interest when the borrowers pay back the money invested. Normally, the higher the interest rate, the higher the investment risk.
Help to Buy ISA
Is a government-backed ISA savings account to help first-time buyers get on the housing ladder. Upon opening the Help to Buy account, you can deposit up to £1200, then pay in £200 a month thereafter. This means that in the first year, you can save up to £3400. The government then pays a 25% bonus on what you save up to a maximum of £3,000.
Lifetime ISA
Aimed at anyone between the ages of 18-39, this is another government-backed scheme to help people in their retirement. The government will pay a 25% bonus on whatever you save up to a maximum of £1000 each year. If you're using this ISA for your retirement, you can only pay into the account until you're 50, and must wait until you're 60 to be able to withdraw it.
Junior ISA
The Junior ISA is for under 18s and offers an option for a parent of legal guardian to pay in money each year until the child is 18 years old, when it then turns into a normal adult ISA.

Negative Equity – is it as bad as it sounds?

"Negative equity afflicts half a million households" – from BBC News (01/03/2017)

In essence, this is bad, and if you're a homeowner, you certainly do not want to have negative equity on your house. It is when the market value of the house falls below the outstanding amount of the mortgage left to pay. This renders the property very difficult to sell without making a huge loss, as trying to sell it with a depreciating value is only slightly less frustrating than continuing to pay the (expensive) mortgage off knowing that the house is not worth what you're paying the bank each month.

It's caused by falling property prices and within the UK, some regions are far more affected than others. One area of the UK where the problem has escalated rapidly is Northern Ireland, where around 40% of every property bought after 2005 is in negative equity.

What worries most people about being in negative equity is whether you will lose your home. You will not, as long as you continue to keep up with your mortgage repayments. In fact, the faster you repay your mortgage repayments (some lenders accept overpayments if the borrower is financially capable), the faster you will be out of negative equity as the mortgage diminishes quicker, to be less than the value of the house again. Otherwise, with property prices fluctuating all the time, another answer is just to sit it out and wait until local house prices in your area rise again. Life, in the meantime, can be stressful and expensive though.

Lastly, once again, it seems to be people in the North as well as Northern Ireland who suffer more than Southerners. Statistically, if house prices were to fall by 10% in the whole of the UK, while about 10% of people in the North would be plunged into negative equity, just 0.03% of Southerners would suffer.

Stamp Duty Land Tax – why is it necessary?

"Stamp Duty abolished in Budget 2018 for all first-time buyers of shared ownership properties up to £500,000" – from Home&Property (29/10/2018)

The question "why is stamp duty necessary?" is one about which many homeowners could become quite vocal. It is often the final straw for people who have gone through the stress of looking for, bidding for, and negotiating over a property, whilst planning how to extend or redecorate it, suffering teeth-gnashing delays and setbacks, then exasperatingly paying out large sums of money to people whom you've never met but whose principal role in the whole process was to sign a piece of paper or send a form. Then, you are told to pay Stamp Duty.

Stamp Duty fees do vary however, and if you manage to find a residential property for under £125,000, you don't have to pay Stamp Duty at all.

First-time buyers also get a discount on Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT), and if the property is under £300,000, there's no SDLT to pay at all. This could mean that first-time buyers save thousands of pounds when everything is worked out.

Let's say, for example, that you buy your second house for £275,000. SDLT is calculated as follows;

  • 0% on the first £125,000 = £0
  • 2% on the next £125,000 = £2,500
  • 5% on the final £25,000 = £1,250

Total SDLT to pay = £3,750

Despite all the reduction schemes and incentive programmes to reduce SDLT for people purchasing property, if you've shelled out a hypothetical £41,250 as a 15% deposit on a £275,000 house, then paid countless estate agent fees, solicitors, brokers, surveyors, removal companies etc, then £3750 extra when you think it's all over, can seem deflating.

As if this isn't enough, whereas we once had 30 days to pay the SDLT after completion of the purchase, this has been reduced to 14 days from 1st March 2019. Should you neglect to pay the SDLT, HMRC will contact you at your new address charging you penalties and interest.

Gaining confidence?

As you delve deeper into Alternative Finance and Property Crowdfunding, it's likely that you'll increase your understanding of the terms and expressions involved as well as the contexts in which they are used. If you're interested in starting up as an investor in the Property Crowdfunding sector, it's vital to know about all the components which comprise Alternative Finance as it does contain high risks and lack of knowledge can be costly when investing your personal capital.

However, we'll keep updating this Jargon-Buster blog every week with new examples so feel free to click on the link and read more.