With the click of a mouse, an apartment unit in the Ukrainian capital may have become the axis of a forthcoming revolution in real estate. In less than 20 seconds, without the stroke of a pen or even a handshake, roughly USD60,000 worth of the cryptocurrency Ethereum was zapped into the virtual wallet of a seller some 6,100 miles across the globe to complete the first-ever online real estate deal using blockchain technology.
This transaction could have a ripple effect not only on the housing market in the former Soviet state, which is slowly recovering from a staggering slump coinciding with the war on its eastern frontier, but also on how investors think about property worldwide. Besides offering quick, secure, remote transactions for ordinary consumers, proponents of blockchain have long envisioned a future where even hard assets like real estate could be tokenized and swapped with the ease of stocks and bonds.
“The buyers don’t even need to visit the country where they would like to buy property,” says Alexander Voloshyn, the chief technical officer of San Francisco-based start-up Propy, which facilitated the sale to TechCrunch founder and erstwhile consultant to the company Michael Arrington. Ukraine, which in a bid to lure investors has recently amended regulations on foreign ownership, seemed like an ideal testing ground for a decentralised online property market. “It’s like Amazon,” Voloshyn explains, “but for re