Slowly but surely, Bitcoin (BTC-USD) is being used to purchase everyday items like coffee and cars — and now, real estate is also joining the party.
The first commercial property in New York is being put on the market for digital coin. Magnum Real Estate Group is selling three retail condos complete with a fully rented-out retail bottom floor in Manhattan’s upper East side for $29 million — but will only accept Bitcoin.
Located at 385 First Avenue in a new construction luxury residential building in Gramercy Park, the condos cover 9,000 square feet, and the bottom floor is fully leased by ProHealth, Mighty Pita and M&T Bank.
“There’s a demand for real estate and there’s nothing being offered to the holders of crypto,” Ben Shaoul, managing partner of Magnum Real Estate Group, told Yahoo Finance.
“Our idea is to offer something that’s unique and try to pair the holders of crypto with those who want to sell real estate,” he added.
This isn’t the first crypto transaction for Shaoul. He did three residential deals in 2018, including the sale of an Upper East Side retail condo for $15.3 million in Bitcoin. And Shaoul expects real estate transactions using crypto to grow.
“I see the runway for transactions with crypto increasing exponentially,” said Shaoul.
“The fact that bitcoin is at record highs helps, but I also think investors have done very well owning bitcoin and now they’re looking for cash flow in assets and [real estate] gives someone the ability to buy a long-term real property with cash flow so they can take some chips off the table or transact and sell the asset in a few years as it’s appreciated in value to another buyer of crypto,” he added.
Shaun Pappas, Partner at real estate law firm Starr Associates LLP, likens acquiring real estate using crypto to backward diversification with dividends.
“Commercial sales with crypto were the logical next move as this section of the market matures,” Pappas explained. “Commercial real estate in NYC, especially in this location, will be there forever. The owner will always have access to tenants.”
Yet real estate transactions dealing in crypto aren’t all that new. Bill Zielke, CMO of BitPay — a cryptocurrency payment processor that’s processing the real estate transaction for Magnum — says that the payment processor has been handling crypto real estate transactions the past few years for international buyers, and more recently ski homes in the Western U.S. and properties in New York.
How it works
Transacting in bitcoin has some efficiencies and advantages. It means the process settles the next business day, instead of the typical 30 to 90 days, and the buyer sends their cryptocurrency from a digital wallet to Bitpay’s wallet.
Magnum Real Estate doesn’t have to touch the crypto. The one day settlement is processed through the U.S. automated clearing house for electronic funds network, which handles financial transactions for consumers, businesses and governments, and Magnum receives U.S. dollars.
Then, BitPay takes the cryptocurrency, Magnum is paid in dollars, and the buyer’s sale is complete and settled in a day. The transaction could be done 24/7 from anywhere in the world — and because it’s bitcoin and done on the blockchain no banks or traditional pay wires are involved and it’s secure.
If the transaction is financed, BitPay settles the crypto portion of the transaction and the portion that’s financed would be handled by the real estate company through normal financial lending channels.
As the price of bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies have run to record highs, investors are looking to cash out and buy something with that crypto—whether it’s real estate, cars, electronics or jewelry.
“There’s a correlation with our volumes and the price,” Zielke said. “As the price goes up people tend to spend…I fully expect that trend will continue. More people are buying and holding crypto than ever before. So as that increases so will the spending.”
Luxury purchases using crypto are growing. BitPay, which has relationships with global yacht broker Denison and luxury car dealers, including Ferrari and Lamborghini, is seeing strong growth. About 32% of BitPay’s October processed volume was from purchases of luxury goods including jewelry, gold, yachts and real estate.
In the third quarter, BitPay saw similar amounts with about 30% of volume (dollar amount of sales) from the luxury goods category. The cryptocurrency of choice was bitcoin, which made up 60% of the volume.