If you’re going to organize a meeting about real estate and blockchain in New York, then it’s a good idea to do it in a great location, and that’s exactly where I found myself, in the company of four other panelists for a ‘Fireside Chat’ with AcquChat CEO and founder David Whiting, and a selected audience. Set in the TriBeCa district and overlooking the Hudson River and Lower Manhattan, we should have been offered brilliant views, but on this occasion we had the rainiest weather I’ve ever experienced, even in New York! Thankfully the views among the panelists were crystal clear, and as one member of the audience I chatted with afterwards remarked, “In 2018 I attended about 60 meetups worldwide. I learned more here – at least 10 things I’ve never heard before.”
As one of the speakers I know that the clarity of the meeting was helped by the incisive questioning of our moderator. As well as founding AcquChat to promote discussion and awareness of blockchain issues, David Whiting is an expert in tax, and a member of the Government Blockchain Association, so he brings an in-depth understanding to the subject, especially in relation to real estate.
This is an area which is very stuck in ‘traditional’ values, which moves very slowly, and where some players don’t even use email, let alone blockchain! My fellow panelist John Dean Markunas, who is Principal Consultant with Power of Chain Consultancy outlined how in a typical real estate deal there could be 15 separate entities between the buyer and seller, and touched on the many ‘pain points’ along the way. He outlined how useful blockchain could be in simplifying the process, but pointed to part of the problem with adoption being that real estate transactions are always overseen by government departments, which are still suspicious of blockchain activity. In some areas, such as Puerto Rico, 40% of all real estate transactions will be hit by problems during the process. In Central America farmers are also suffering as they try to get bank loans, but are turned down due to lack of clear land survey and ownership details. – All good cases for the use of blockchain, John argued.
Another panelist, Ricardo Taveras of Brightsky Ventures is deeply into blockchain and gave an excellent perspective on how and why blockchain must be used more effectively and widely in the real estate arena. This means leveraging the power of blockchain more effectively – a point agreed by Brooklyn native Manny Alicandro, who in February ran for Public Advocate for New York City. Manny comes from a legal background, but brings a fresh and flexible approach which I for one don’t usually associate with lawyers! He later tweeted, ‘What a great panel tonight on Blockchain and Real Estate’, and I couldn’t agree more.
While Manny, Ricardo and John brought specialist knowledge of real estate, legal issues, and specific markets to the Fireside Chat, the two remaining panelists – Monika Proffitt and myself – offered a wider view. Monika is the author of Blockchain 101, Fundamentals of a New Economy, an excellent starting point for anyone trying to get up to speed. Given what we’d heard about some real estate practitioners not even using email, Monika’s work could offer a very good primer for many of them!
For my own part I talked about my 6 Steps approach, and especially the importance of Education in the process. This was a theme which was taken up by the other panelists, and our audience really got the message: that education offers the shortest route to mass adoption. Nevertheless it was acknowledged that in real estate in particular, the process of education might be long and slow. For me, this means that there’s simply a bigger challenge, and I was glad to see that my approach held up under scrutiny. I also briefly outlined my Human Factor offering, which definitely has a place in the real estate industry. This is particularly when you think of that chain of 15 people between the buyer and seller, and you realize that in such complex processes, the human part is both the most important… and also the weakest link in the chain. The ‘Pain Points’ that we were discussing are often not even acknowledged as being a problem by the people who are the links of the chain, even though they can dramatically affect the results of a real estate transaction.
So what did we learn from our Fireside Chat, safe from the heavy rain of New York City? Well, it seems that when it comes to Real Estate, there are massive changes which need to be made, but it’s a slow-moving and traditional sector, which will be somewhat resistant to anything happening too soon or very quickly. Thankfully there are some bright legal minds pushing for change, along with people offering ways forward, such as Monika with her primer, and my own 6 Steps. As I’ve said before, it’s all about education, education… and education.
You can check out my fellow panelists at:
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