I heard recently about what seems an excellent source of independent advice for anyone with mortgage payment problems. My informant in this case was that much-hyped, but also much-maligned, social networking and microblogging service: Twitter.

Twitter the time-waster?

Many people (including many of my friends) are scornful of Twitter, calling it nothing more than a self-indulgent waste of time and / or a gossip-mill. I used to be one of them.

However, now that I use Twitter more-or-less regularly, I find it worth the effort of keeping up with the sure, there is some rubbish on there. But if I see that one of the people I “follow” tells me nothing more interesting than where they went for coffee or what movie they planned to see tonight, then I hit that useful button called “unfollow”. For those of you who find themselves swamped with “too much information” but who have never found the “unfollow” button, that’ll be because it is not obvious. If you are following sometone who flooding your timeline with dross, find their profile and you’ll see a large green icon with a tick, and the word “following”. Simply hover your cursor over  that icon and the green changes to red amnd the word “unfollow” appears. Simply click and hey presto, that person is now an ex-followee.

Twitter the information goldmine?

On the positive side, and I do like to be positive, the amount of useful stuff I have first heard about on Twitter has been massive.

Many (but by no means all) of the people I follow are financial journalists or related experts. Some of them are household names and they appear regularly on TV talking about the national economic situation, such as Paul Mason; some write for the newspapers; some are independent advisers.

YouGov guide for hard-pressed mortgage-holders

One of these very journalists recently recommended on his Twitter feed a very useful guide for hard-pressed mortgage-holders. It is published by those helpful people at YouGov (i.e. the government). So I think you’d have to agree it is free of commercial bias.

I have to admit that I can’t remember who recommended this guide, otherwise I’d give him or her a credit. And as it was a week or so back, trawling through my Twitter feed to find this particular recommendation would take too long. Moreover it would keep me from an important task; switching on the TV at 2 pm to watch Shane Williams’ last international rugby match:Walesv.Australiaat the Millennium Stadium. Bound to be an emotional occasion; however the famously competitive Australians are unlikely to cooperate by making it easy for him to cap his career with (yet another) try.

PS: the result went against Wales, in the event. As a keen supporter of that country’s rugby, I have to admit that the scoreline flattered them slightly, because the aforementioned and surely legendary Shane Williams skipped out of a tackle and ran in for a try in the final minute (in fact the 81st) of his final match for Wales. You couldn’t have scripted it better and from the crowd’s reaction you’d have thought that Wales had won the World Cup at that moment.

Citizens Advice Guide

Finally: I would suggest that this YouGov guide should be read in conjunction with the excellent information and personal advice available from Citizens Advice (the CAB).


For “Mortgages and repossessions: a YouGov guide”, go to:

Topics covered:

Struggling with your mortgage payments? Put together a simple action plan to help you keep your home

What you can do to avoid repossession – a guide

What you can do if you are facing repossession to make sure you keep your home

Mortgage advice – who to see and what to take

Where to get advice about managing housing costs and how your lender may be able to help you manage your mortgage payments

What to do if your mortgage lender takes you to court

What to do if your lender takes action to repossess your home, and how repossession can be postponed

Housing advice – how to get free legal help in court

Make sure you attend your court hearing and find out how to get free legal help on the day

Mortgage Rescue scheme

This scheme may help if you are having difficulties making mortgage repayments and are in danger of becoming homeless


For Citizens Advice (CAB) AdviceGuide:


I recently attended an excellent conference in London, on Facebook marketing. Somebody, I can’t remember who, made the claim that “Facebook will at some point become the world’s biggest bank”. I didn’t know whether to believe that. However, I did hear many presentations at that event from entrepreneurs apparently earning serious money through Facebook and other online resources.

What I didn’t hear that day, but I know now, was that hundreds of individuals now lend money to each other through Facebook. “Cutting out the middleman”, we used to say; and Facebook is facilitating it. I came across this interesting fact while trawling through my “newspaper cuttings awaiting reading” pile and found an article by Maryrose Fison in The Independent. It was a couple of months ago but no matter.

Debt rescheduling / consolidation / relocation?

People who are concerned about their debts often ask advisers if they should look for ways to move the debt elsewhere, for example through a debt consolidation loan. The pros and cons of that route have been discussed many times so I won’t go into it here, except to say that the general advice is always to avoid this kind of loan if it has to be secured against your home.

A zero percent balance transfer is another way of getting “free” credit. Even allowing for the fact that there’s always a fee of around 3%, it’s cheap money, provided your credit record is clean enough to get it.

Borrowing money from individuals, however, is something that was new to me; except, of course, for friends and family, who are often a source of funds from which debtors make offers to their creditors for “full and final settlement”. However, this new trend is borrowing from individuals who are total strangers.

Here’s an extract from what Ms Fison said:

“As hundreds of thousands of Britons struggle to get a foot on the property ladder, with banks continuing to crack down on new lending, social networking applications have become a lifeline. Who would willingly choose to pay through the roof for an unattractive loan package when there are millions of social network users gagging to lend you their money for less?

“The average rate of interest on a loan at the Lending Club over the past 36 months has been 9.22 per cent. On Zopa, the typical APR on a loan of £5,000 over three years is 8.3 per cent, and on Funding Circle a £15,000, three-year loan has an APR of 9 per cent -well below the 12 per cent a typical bank would charge.”

That sounds attractive, although there are lending offers on the market nearer 9% than 12%; some of them were listed on the same page of the paper under “best buys”. The issue, again, would be whether one’s credit record would be good enough to qualify. A private lender would also need reassurance but might be more flexible than a bank, as they are getting a relatively high return (much better than the high street, anyway) on their money.

Facebook apps

You’ll note that Ms Fison (excuse my formal mode of address: I’m old-fashioned and I’ve never spoken to her, though I shall be following her on Twitter from now on) mentioned The Lending Club; she says it was one of the first applications to be added to Facebook in 2007. She also mentions Zopa:

“UK-based social lending service Zopa is another provider, and the number of communal lending and borrowing sites with applications on social networks is growing at a staggering rate.”

Ms Fison concludes:

“Social networking applications may still be in their infancy, but given the popularity of personal finance and online peer lending, their influence on our day-to-day activities looks set to take off this year.”

Well, there is nothing to be lost and lots to be gained by investigating this further. I’ll certainly be doing some research into peer lending sites: watch this space!


For a copy of the full article in The Independent by Maryrose Fison:

For a free sample of my book, “Back to the Black: how to become debt-free and stay that way”, go to:


Other e-formats, including .pdf:

You can follow me on Twitter: @michaelmac43, or Facebook: Michael James MacMahon.