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Bitcoin Real Estate Deals: A Hot Trend?

Friday, October 20, 2017   /   by Carlos J Higareda

Bitcoin Real Estate Deals: A Hot Trend?

From California land deals to Manhattan condos and single-family homes in Texas, investors increasingly are asking to use bitcoin as their currency of choice when closing real estate deals. The use of such cryptocurrency is popping up more frequently in transactions for real estate.

Read more: SEC Warns REcoin Cryptocurrency Is a Fraud

"Our buyer has evolved; they've moved from mom and pops to young people who want to pay with various forms of payment," Ben Shaoul, president of Magnum Real Estate Group, told CNBC. "Cryptocurrency is something that has been asked of us—'Can you take cryptocurrency? Can we pay that way?'—and, of course, when somebody wants to pay you with a different form of payment, you're going to try to work with them and give them what they want, especially in a very busy real estate market."

Shaoul, who is redeveloping a condo building on Manhattan’s Lower East with units priced between $700,000 and $1.5 million, says the crypto user tends to be a younger millennial and the requests tend to come from people looking to buy from across the globe.

“Not everyone wants to trade in dollars or yen or euros,” Shaoul says.

Bitcoin has been appreciating rapidly in recent weeks, CNBC reports. Bitcoin, created in 2009, is a decentralized digital currency, or “cryptocurrency,” that can be bought, sold, traded, or earned over the internet. 

One of the first transactions in the U.S. involving bitcoin was in 2014 with a $1.6 million sale of land in Lake Tahoe. In September, the first single-family home sale in Austin, Texas, occurred that used bitcoins.

"Austin is a really technologically advanced city, I'd say, so I was surprised we hadn't heard anybody wanting to do this before," J Kuper at Sotheby's International Realty, which brokered the deal, told CNBC. "But, candidly, we didn't know how to do it. It was a quick challenge and scramble to figure out all the moving parts, but we were instantly excited about the opportunity to figure that out."

Real estate pros are playing catchup in learning more about the currency to help those who do want to buy in bitcoin. Often times, the seller will agree to a fixed price in dollars, and the buyer may then convert the bitcoins into dollars. But buyers are at the mercy of what the bitcoins are worth that day in exchange rates. Rates can be volatile.

The currency is largely unregulated so there is a lack of understanding as to how gains in bitcoin are taxed too. The IRS did issue some guidance on bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in 2014.

Jeremy Naylor, a tax attorney and partner at the firm Cooley, explained on taxes with it to CNBC: “What they said in that guidance is if you hold bitcoin or ethereum or one of these other convertible digital currencies as a capital asset, when you use that bitcoin to purchase goods or services—so for example, if I were to take $1 million in bitcoin to buy an apartment building or something, to the extent that bitcoin has appreciated since I acquired it, any of that gain, that built-in gain, would be taxed when I used the bitcoin to buy the building."

Source: “Bitcoin Is Finally Buying Into U.S. Real Estate,” CNBC (Oct. 16, 2017)

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Carlos Higareda
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