By Tiana Baur, Content Marketing Manager
Blockchain, Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies…what’s the difference? Why does it matter? What does it mean for our future? It feels like the topic of the year regardless of the industry you’re in. Earlier in the year we wrote an article on cryptocurrencies in the real estate world; buying homes and paying rent with digital currency. While some are splitting up a transaction to use some cryptocurrencies, others are doing the entire transaction via cryptocurrency. There’s even a “Blockchain real estate platform” called ShelterZoom that just announced their application is live in over 10 states.
It’s all happening very quickly, but it’s important to make sure we’re all caught up on the basics. Let’s start here:
Cryptocurrency: Digital currency, exchanged and traded over the internet. They’re designed to create a more secure route for trading, and more secure documentation of who traded what, when.
Bitcoin: A decentralized cryptocurrency, that works without a central bank, allowing for less restrictions. It’s the most well-known cryptocurrency.
Blockchain: The network and ecosystem in which bitcoin sends and transfers money on. It’s the foundation that powers Bitcoin and the other cryptocurrencies.
The gist, is that this network is public and can be used to transact anywhere in the world without a bank or “middleman.” It’s also cheaper to do the transaction on Blockchain compared to the traditional way. Our favorite way description of how it all works:
“Imagine that you and your best friend Bob are standing on a stage in an auditorium, and there are 1,000 people in the audience. In front of these 1,000 people, you hand your car keys to Bob, and Bob hands you his Rolex. You declare, “Bob, you now own my car.”
Bob declares back to you, “You now own my Rolex.” There are 1,000 witnesses who can each declare, without doubt, that your car now belongs to Bob, and the Rolex belongs to you. If anyone in the audience later tells a conflicting account of who owns the car or the Rolex, the other 999 people will refute it. And, if you take a spare set of your keys and try to give that same car to someone else, the 1,000 audience members will confirm that Bob owns the car, as each of them witnessed the “transaction.”’ (Forbes, 2018)
While some may say they don’t feel comfortable using Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, or don’t trust the network Blockchain itself, others will swear by its innovation in security. The thing is, if you buy a house with bitcoin, you’re technically still buying it in cash, it’s just being converted into a cryptocurrency first. So, how will Blockchain affect the industry as we know it?
Before you write it off, real estate transactions could get a whole lot easier. Not only that, but they could get a lot more secure as well. With accurate data and efficiency as its strengths, Blockchain will eliminate the need for a third party; no more waiting for bank wires and checks to clear. On Blockchain, every user has a unique identity via cryptocurrency, meaning financial info can be shared securely to other parties, making the Escrow process a walk in the park.
As we all know, the MLSs across the nation are tremendously scattered and fragmented. Each one has different restrictions, making it hard to compare data and find trends. While others in the industry, such as Upstream, are trying to solve this issue, Blockchain technology could be the single point of truth that fixes the MLS problem. Secure, nationwide data, with real-time access to property information, what’s not to love?
Titles can be hard to access. Blockchain is starting to change this, with its ability to be a record-keeper for any kind of transaction out there. Smart contracts, personal records and credit history, trademarks, elections, titles – you name it. That means it could also provide a central database for all property titles, saying goodbye to paper titles for good.
In the future where Blockchain rules the land, real estate professionals will actually thrive in it. This technology will only improve the industry and lives of those in it; it’s not a technology you need to be afraid of. We say, learn as much as you can on the topic, stay up-to-date, and get involved hands-on as early as you can. For every one person who is against a decentralized currency, there are two more who are about to hop on the bandwagon.