Blockchain could ‘change everything’ for real estate

“This changes everything.” That’s how Apple introduced the original iPhone in 2007. But it could just as easily apply here and now to the blockchain and its potential to enable transformative innovation in a variety of industries.

The most mature proposals for blockchain-led innovation are in the banking and financial services sector and cyber security, with viable solutions also emerging in supply chain management, insurance, and healthcare.

One sector that’s been less discussed is real estate. It’s an industry that can be opaque and committed to self-preservation rather than consumers’ best interests. More than just enhancing or streamlining established processes, blockchain will — if supported by legislative innovation — enable new models that could make housing more affordable and accessible.

Tranparent transactions

A typical “vanilla” residential property sale involves at least eight stakeholders: the land registry, a buyer and a seller, their respective lawyers and mortgage providers, mortgage surveyors, and estate agents. And that’s assuming a “chain-free” transaction, without other buyers and sellers involved. The process can drag on unnecessarily as the various stakeholders figure out who needs to do what when to advance the transaction to its next stage.

Blockchain can make the process more transparent, increasing trust on all sides and reducing bureaucracy. Self-executing contracts or “smart contracts” can assure all required steps have been executed before money is transferred, released from escrow, or repaid to the bank, or before any titles are transferred. The distributed qualities of blockchain mean parties would no longer be reliant on a single “source of truth” (typically a lawyer), increasing trust, lowering costs, and speeding up transactions…

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