The global cryptocurrency market is roughly worth USD 2.5 trillion, a little less than the size of the Indian economy. The sheer amount of wealth that crypto has amassed over the years also underlines how digital currencies are becoming popular worldwide. Though bitcoin is the current leader of the world of virtual currency with around 42% of the market share, research suggests that there are roughly 14,500 cryptocurrencies active in the world.
As we have entered the crypto boom, it is natural that everyone from business owners to technology enthusiasts to property developers is mulling over the potential of digital currency in facilitating real estate transactions.
Real estate in recent years has proactively warmed up to the idea of technology, reversing the prolonged agnosticism it showed some years back. The credit for this also goes to the multiple iterations of the lockdown that helped in triggering the digitization of the real estate services in the country. Today, real estate leaders are actively investing in cloud-based technologies, AI & ML-based analytics platforms, digital walkthroughs and virtual reality, marketing automation, and much more.
Blockchain, the parent technology of cryptocurrency, has shown some limited yet profound applications in real estate globally. Based on DLT (Distributed Ledger Technologies), blockchain can offer a seamless encrypted platform to facilitate safe and transparent real estate transactions, especially in fractional ownership of commercial assets, rental homes, holiday homes, etc. Through tokenization of real estate assets, it can also facilitate cross-border transactions.
Blockchain can offer a robust platform to digitize key information related to property purchases such as deed history, transaction history, legal documents, technical information, maintenance track record, etc. This simplifies an otherwise cumbersome process. In a vast and multifaceted industry such as real estate , the integration of blockchain will also reduce processing times & offer 24/7 instant validation, thereby boosting the authenticity of data.
Crypto Technologies in Global Real Estate
Not just blockchain, but digital currencies are also slowly and gradually gaining ground in the real estate industry. In some of the international cities, it has been proposed to pay property fees and taxes through digital currencies. Recently, a few big ticket size deals in properties, yacht, and luxury items have been concluded via crypto.
As per media reports, retail condos in Manhattan worth USD 29 million are being exclusively sold through bitcoin. These properties are listed on BitPay, a bitcoin payment service provider, and can be bought exclusively with the help of bitcoin. The bitcoins paid will be converted into USD and transferred to the developer’s account. It is claimed the total transaction can be concluded within days, a stark contrast from the usual timeframe taken for the processing of such deeds, which takes around 60-90 days.
Meanwhile, the presence of cryptocurrency is not new in the global real estate industry. In 2019, properties in In Iloilo, Philippines have were sold with the help of bitcoin and Litecoin. The fact that 32% of BitPay’s October revenues come from luxury properties, gold, and yacht transactions further underscores the potential implication of bitcoins in real estate transactions.
The Way Ahead
Blockchain and cryptocurrencies could be potential levers to completely reimagine real estate transactions. The Multiple Listing Services (MLS) presently prevalent in real estate can be gradually shifted into a DLT enabled BlockChain platform. This can help in building a robust system wherein every real estate transaction and rental deal can be tracked in real-time by key stakeholders such as brokers, investors, and buyers. This can usher real estate into an era of unprecedented transparency.
Blockchain also can give a leg up to the ongoing data analytics in real estate. Major data categories such as historical trends, neighborhood information, price trend analysis, future price projections, etc. can be embedded into the system to give incisive insights to buyers and help them in making unbiased and informed decisions. Similarly, it can help in doing credit checks of buyers and enable developers to make safe buying decisions. This can truly democratize real estate investments and bring in additional layers of safety.
However, despite so much inherent strength, reimagining a world where real estate transactions are taking place over digital currencies such as bitcoin or Ethereum is still far-fetched. Although we are in the middle of the cryptocurrency hype, some of the inherent weaknesses of digital currencies can’t be overlooked.
Digital currencies do not create any cash flow and their appreciation is primarily subject to speculative forces. They are also prone to hacking attacks and online frauds. Crypto enthusiasts laud the absence of banks and central authorities. Though the lack of regulatory bodies could be dangerous at times and can be an inviting ground for fraud. So, the bottom line is while blockchain-based technologies will see increased participation in the real estate business cycle, we are not seeing wider usage of cryptocurrencies in real estate transactions very soon. However, despite these inherent challenges, their limited application in alternate assets such as rental homes, holiday homes, etc. will continue to rise.
Disclaimer: Sahil Kapoor is the national head of 360 Edge. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent the stand of this publication.
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