A house on a blockchain?

That’s the future a number of initial coin offering (ICO) issuers envision, one in which tokenized pieces of the property could be tracked and traded via a shared database. In this way, the tokens would allow for what entrepreneurs are calling “fractional ownership,” or the ability for a real estate owner to split up their home and sell off equity stakes.

Not only would this allow a homeowner to sell some of the home’s equity should they need extra money, but it would also allow the equity to be freely traded until, one day, the home was sold, at which point the homeowner and equity owner could both enjoy any gain in the home’s value.

It’s notable a trend given the excitement the concept saw among earlier blockchain startups that were building businesses around private or permissioned blockchains. But this new round of hype comes from token sellers who believe the crypto token model, in which a digital asset is sold and traded, could bring benefits to perhaps the most fixed of the fixed assets markets.

In fact, there are at least four ICO issuers right now with a real-estate component – BitRent, a way to speed up financing construction projects; Etherty, real-estate management through equity access; Caviar, a fund that tempers the volatility of crypto investments with loans to real estate projects; and Trust, a way to tokenize equity in real estate and other real-world assets.

No doubt, there will be more.

Compound VC’s Joshua Nussbaum expressed measured excitement that was representative of responses from crypto investors CoinDesk surveyed.

Nussbaum said:

“If done responsibly and legally, I do think these types of projects can advance the industry by offering previously inaccessible liquidity and investment opportunity to individuals.”

And Nussbaum isn’t alone in his thinking.

“We will undoubtedly see tokenized real estate securities in 2018,” Prof. Stephen McKeon of the University of Oregon told CoinDesk.

Yet, even with new momentum for this particular token use case and increasing interest by consumers and businesses in cryptocurrency, there are still hurdles to tokenizing real estate on a blockchain.

Liquid land

The concept of selling shares of a property is nothing new – real estate investment trusts (REITs), modelled after mutual funds, own and manage properties, allowing investors to buy in for small amounts.

But with a public blockchain, these practices become more efficient and cheaper, according to the entrepreneurs and interested investors in this space.

“Using blockchains, you can securitize any asset for 1/100th the cost,” Multicoin Capital partner Kyle Samani told CoinDesk.

And not only that, but tokenizing home equity could also make the space, which has been attractive to investors but difficult to trade, more liquid.

Scott Hoch, an analyst at Apex Token Fund explained, “A new level of liquidity is created when tokenizing traditional assets. This liquidity makes it faster and easier to rebalance a portfolio as the market changes.”

Coming out…