I'm taking a rain check on answering my next Automation FAQ, as I attended the very thought-provoking BitcoinCRE event and so I thought I would share some of the insights I picked up.
The focus of the event was at the intersection of the Real Estate and the cryptocurrency world
Your first question may be to ask why, as a Real Estate professional, I attended an event dealing with Bitcoin? The key to the answer is the “CRE” at the end of the title. The focus of the event was at the intersection of the Real Estate and the cryptocurrency world, and it headlined a number of interesting people and companies looking at the Real Estate market. You can see the full list here.
Readers be warned, this blog is going to assume some level of knowledge of the blockchain and cryptocurrency world. If these terms sound like gibberish I’d suggest a quick Google or YouTube search to familiarize yourself with the basic concepts.
The first point I want to highlight is that even with the word bitcoin in the title of the event, the main focus of the majority of the panel discussions centered on the power of the blockchain, as opposed to cryptocurrencies. Some recurring themes specific to the Real Estate industry were:
- Tokenizing physical assets (buildings, suites, apartments)
- Smart contracts
- Document and title storage
The kicker is that for any of the above innovations to work effectively the inherently error ridden Real Estate records data would need to be cleaned up and standardized. Remember OSCRE? A simple example of this is the inability to uniquely identify a physical building, or suite/apartment within that building. This is due to the fact that currently there is a plethora of systems that each have their own unique identifier for a given building. Zillow’s key, for example, could be very different to that of the New York deeds office. This issue is further compounded by bad data: searching for apartment 3-C in a residential tower could yield completely different results to searching for 3C.
So does the lack of standardized, or even digitized, data mean that no progress can be made?
So does the lack of standardized, or even digitized, data mean that no progress can be made? Absolutely not. At the event, many examples of Real Estate business and government agencies benefitting from blockchain technologies were provided. As an example, and as far back as 2016, the Cook County deeds office embarked on a pilot program to study how blockchain technology could be implemented into current law and practice in Illinois land records, as well as how the state could benefit from this technology. Another example given was the Republic of Georgia, which has opted to rebuild its property registration leveraging blockchain. Closer to home is the company ManageGo, that allows landlords to accept rental payments in the form of Bitcoin.
But despite these early gains, for many it is still a case of one step forward, half a step back. A real-world example of this was provided by Jordana Kava, the co-founder of Blooming Sky. Jordana had a client who was keen to sell a property using Bitcoin – progress right? The issue, the buyer only wanted to pay cash and the seller's legal team eventually persuaded the seller to drop the idea.
In summary, the consensus of the panelists seemed to be that cryptocurrency and blockchain in the Real Estate sector has yet to have its “Netscape Moment”, but that it is coming and once it does the technology will disrupt the market. My advice: keep an eye on blockchain because it will affect you and your organization in the near future.