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All images of 394 Harman Street via The Corcoran Group | Bitcoin image by Sinisa Maric from Pixabay All images of 394 Harman Street via The Corcoran Group | Bitcoin image by Sinisa Maric from Pixabay
To look at recent financial headlines, one might wonder if we’ve gone back in time to the last years of the 2010’s when Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies were taking the investment marketplace by surprise. But we are very much in 2021, when companies like Tesla and Square are investing in cryptocurrencies and investors are revisiting what was once thought to be a passing trend. There have some rumblings of cryptocurrency being more commonly used in NYC real estate transactions. The first local sale using decentralized digital currency happened in 2018. More recently, the sponsor of 394 Harman Street, a new Brooklyn boutique condominium says they are willing accept Bitcoin and Ethereum, another cryptocurrency built on marking smart contracts, as payments for its apartments,

Cryptocurrency 101

Bitcoin-01 Bitcoin image via Pixabay
Cryptocurrencies are not affiliated with any government and, rather than have central points of control or transaction storage, operate over a global network and store transactions through a system known as blockchain. Such a model means it is nearly impossible to counterfeit or double-spend.

Proponents find cryptocurrency less susceptible to currency manipulation, and have come to view it as a safe haven from stock market volatility in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. However, cryptocurrency itself can be quite volatile, and the lack of regulation makes it especially unpredictable. It remains out of reach for many, but alternative investments website NuWire Investor predicts that a time will come when it becomes a daily presence in our lives.

Cryptocurrency in Real Estate

A growing number of industries and services have begun accepting cryptocurrency since its invention in 2009 (Paypal and Visa notably among them), and that includes real estate. In such transactions, a buyer pays for a property with cryptocurrency. From there, a third-party service like BitPay accepts the payment, converts it to dollars, and then pays the sponsor or seller cash.

Not only does the use of cryptocurrency remove intermediaries and accompanying costs (think brokerage fees, lending charges, closing costs, and inspections), but it streamlines the process, much like the new set of practices introduced for safety’s sake at the height of the pandemic. At a time when some purchases were delayed because of less than tech-savvy boards, this aspect might be appreciated. Moreover, as the Corporate Transparency Act is set to crack down on shell companies, much like LLCs used by purchasers who wish to remain anonymous, cryptocurrency could help keep transactions private.

The first real estate sale with Bitcoin is believed to have taken place in Austin, TX in September 2017. The price wasn’t disclosed, but the US value of a single bitcoin was $3,429 at the time. New York City’s first real estate transaction using cryptocurrency took place in March 2018, when two separate buyers used it to buy units at luxury Upper East Side condo 389 E. 89.

The sponsor of 394 Harman Street in Bushwick explicitly states in current listings that they will accept Bitcoin and Etherum as forms of payment. Sales in the seven-unit building launched earlier this winter with prices ranging from $515K (approx. 11 bitcoins) for a duplex studio to $955K (20 Bitcoins) for a two-bedroom duplex with two private balconies. At a blended average asking price per square foot of $920 per square foot, the units are above Bushwick'ss neighborhood average of $822 per square foot (figures per CityRealty data).
All seven studio through two-bedrooms feature hardwood floors, recessed lighting, ceiling-mounted Abus audio speakers, ductless heating and cooling systems, and washer/dryer hookups (appliance included with sale). Kitchens are equipped with center islands, custom cabinetry, and stainless steel appliances. Bedrooms enjoy double-door closets and enough room to accommodate a king-size bed.

Residential amenities include a manicured two-level courtyard and common roof deck with stunning Brooklyn views. The building offers easy access to the L and M trains for a convenient commute, but local favorite restaurants and cafes may be found closer to home. It is also part of a boutique condo building boom that is bringing new housing at attainable prices to Brooklyn. If cryptocurrencies do indeed wind up being used to buy at these types of developments as well as luxury Manhattan units, we may be getting closer to the future NuWire Investor imagined.
394 Harman Street Unit #3B has a sticker price of $955,000 or 20 bitcoins (Feb 2021)

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