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4 PropTech start-ups that are about to make the world smaller
written by: Nikkita Dixon
The way we buy and manage properties is about to change forever. Thanks to a growing number of blockchain-powered start-ups in the real estate sector, the days of slow transactions, complicated paperwork and many middlemen are just about over. And it’s about time.
Almost every other aspect of our lives has been digitised to be quicker, more efficient and more cost effective. So why, when buying a home is likely to be the biggest investment most people will make in their lifetimes, has the world of real estate been slow to move online? Why has it taken this long to speed up the process and make the whole thing more simple and secure?
Well, to start with the technology hasn’t been around that long. Blockchain – the tech expected to change the way we do transactions – was invented in 2008 to underpin Bitcoin, but it’s only been recently that its other uses have come to the fore, in everything from art trading to controlling music distribution.
Also the complex and highly regulated industry of real estate isn’t exactly known for innovation. Until now. The potential to create, verify and audit transactions globally and in real-time, and thus skip the usual middlemen, has ignited the imaginations of a wave of start-ups eager to disrupt the industry.
Let’s look at which ones are currently making their mark on the world.
This global property store and decentralised title registry start-up is currently working with the Ukraine government to create a wide-ranging blockchain ecosystem for the nation. The Californiabased PropTech start-up aims to enable foreign investors to make online real estate purchases in the hopes of spurring on the Ukraine’s next real estate boom. Built on the Ethereum blockchain, Propy uses smart contracts to track and execute property transactions according to regional regulations. The idea is to create a transaction interface with similar functionality and speed to the electronic stock market.
Central to Propy’s marketplace is the PRO token which works as a means of interacting with the registry, as well as for settlement of a property. A user will be required to have a token to create a new transaction – a new title or transfer of a title- on the blockchain. It’s expected these PRO tokens will also help prevent fraud.
Last month, Prop executed its first sale of PRO tokens, making 100,000,000 available to the market. Within a few weeks more than 4,500 participants had bought into Propy’s token mechanism, raising $13million. The PRO token sale will continue until September 15, 2017.
Excitement for this project is high because it marks a watershed moment for blockchain – for the first time, a high-value asset connected to the real world will be transferred using the technology.
Meanwhile in Sweden, Chromaway has been collaborating with Lantmäteriet, the Swedish property authority, to digitise sales contracts and property mortgages and authenticate them with the blockchain. The project will speed up the way real estate transactions are managed by allowing participants to see all activity in real-time, rather than waiting for documents to be delivered. Contract information can be saved locally or in the cloud by the realtor, the banks, or the land registry, and is open and visible to be easily authenticated by the land registry.
The technology is currently working around an outdated law in Sweden that requires a physical signature to close a sale, but it doesn’t appear to be impeding things. Next on the list for Chromaway is the US, which struggles with proving property ownership, to hopefully negate the need for the $800million a year Americans spend on land title insurance. The company claims it will open source its software once it’s ready, to give it the flexibility to be implemented worldwide.
Capitalising on the fast-growing crowdfunding sector, REAL (Real Estate Asset Ledger) takes the concept a step further by facilitating global access. The Ethereum-backed platform uses blockchain technology to offerincreased liquidity and transparency, as well as a lower barrier to entry to foreign investors. Much like other PropTech start-ups in this space, REAL uses tokens to allow users to invest in properties on its platform. Participants use smart contracts to gain rental income and value appreciation, all while sidestepping traditional financial bodies because transactions are paid for using Ether – the cryptocurrency native to the network. It’s kept secure by the blockchain, with every step – from property buying with third party value appraisals, to adding into the system, renting and selling – able to be audited and authenticated by everyone.
When using the REAL platform, expect to shoulder a 10% fee on all profits. Let’s say a crowdfunded property earns 100 ETH in rental income, 10 ETH will go to REAL as commission for finding and hosting the property on their platform, and investors will receive 90 ETH.
REAL aims to target Spain, the Caribbean and the US initially to open up a global exchange of real estate crowdfunding.
This new marketplace system has been developed with the aim of allowing tenants to find rentals from owners directly, minus the middlemen. Underpinned by blockchain, ATLANT lets users connect and create and complete rental contracts all within the ATLANT ecosystem. Assets are traded in ATL tokens which will be used as the internal currency for transactions on the platform. These tokens can be liquidated just like shares in the stock exchange and turned into fiat currency. ATLANT has an ICO starting on September 7, 2017 which will run until October 7, 2017 where interested participants will be able to acquire ATLANT’s token. Those that join within the first 10% of tokens sold will also receive up to a 19% bonus as an extra incentive for early adoption.