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PropTech Today: We all have the power to instigate change

This week, news broke of the ‘first bitcoin homes’ being sold in the UK by Go Move, an estate agency in Hertfordshire. 

Go Move’s Director, Ed Casson, is the man behind the deal, and can now be described as ‘the first person in the world to actually sell a home using Bitcoin’. 

When I read this story on Monday, I reached out to Ed, who I had met in New York earlier this year, to ask just how a man goes from knowing very little about Bitcoin to being a crypto-pioneer in a matter of months. 

Is there a trick to such rapid ascension and success? 

While this is the story of one man and one company, it is also proof that even a relatively small business can successfully instigate change. 

In light of the HM Land Registry’s recent announcement that it will, for the first time, start recognising Bitcoin, this story demonstrates how important it is for large institutions to listen and that you don’t have to be a giant to be get their attention. 
  
If you have a willingness to try new things and you’re prepared to bring people along on that journey with you, you can be the catalyst for some very exciting, industry defining changes.

Here’s what Ed had to say about his journey:

“We [Go Move] started to look at the world of crypto as just one strand of our company’s ‘big picture’ thinking. Our vision is to supply as many people with affordable homes as we possibly can, and we knew that innovation was the best way to achieve that goal and do our bit to help fix the broken housing market.” 

“The house building sector has seen very limited innovation in the past 50 years and that remains one of the major contributing factors as to why everything in property takes an age to do. From buying the land to planning and construction, all the way through to sales; it all takes a very long time. Too long.”  

“By speeding up this process, we’re hoping to aid the development of more new homes. If we can do that, the increased supply will result is fairer house prices, enabling more people to find a way onto the ladder.” 

“To that end, we were constantly looking at the processes behind house sales, thinking and rethinking about ways in which it could be improved. Around that time, we had read a lot about blockchain technology in real estate and, even with our limited knowledge, it looked like an incredibly promising field.”

That’s when Ed and his team, in a conscious bid to educate themselves, booked their place at The International Blockchain Real Estate Conference in New York City.  

“We met some really interesting people who think in the same way that we do and believe in a better and more efficient way of doing things.” 

“Time and time again, people spoke to us about the commercial value of smart contracts and blockchain technology.” 

Ed decided to follow some of this advice given to him in NYC and get some skin, as he puts in, in the crypto game. Before long, Go Move was making plans to sell one of its new homes, as a trial, using Bitcoin.

“The story was picked up by some of the national newspapers and that really helped with promoting the idea”, says Ed. “Within days, we had Bitcoin adopters, all from within the tech industry, who clearly felt that, even in this day and age, property ownership is still the ultimate financial investment.” 

“These are people who don’t simply want to cash out of the crypto savings, they want to invest in property and invest in the future by carrying out the transaction in this manner.”

The result of their efforts was, this week, revealed as the successful sale of a £350,000 four-bed detached home, developed by Go Homes (Go Move’s development arm) in Colchester. 

The buyer, an investor who made early profits on the cryptocurrency market, plans to let the house to tenants and receive rent in Bitcoin.  

I believe that Ed’s personal story is really important for our industry. I’m sure he won’t mind me saying that, only a few months ago, his knowledge of blockchain and crypto was relatively limited - he was only just starting to dip a toe in these waters - and yet here he is now, successfully ushering our industry towards the future. 

Ed’s is a story which proves that, with the right attitude and a willingness to learn, especially from our early mistakes, anything can be achieved. It’s about spotting an opportunity and pouncing on it without getting bogged down in hesitation and over-examination of potential risks.  

It’s important to note that spotting opportunities is only really possible if we have an existing awareness and appreciation of our own floors and inefficiencies. To do so requires a certain level of humility, something which is often found to be lacking among property professionals.  

Mostly, though, this story is proof that success only comes from being brave enough to try, and brave enough to fail. The more people that share this characteristic, the faster innovation adoption rates will increase. 

That, in turn, would help the property industry keep up with the changing world rather than, every five or six years, realising it has fallen behind before to scrambling to get back up to speed.

Caution is always sensible; planning is always essential. But there is also a lot to be said for trusting a gut instinct and following your nose. In a business environment of total insight and analytics, this is easily forgotten, but trusting our instincts is a skill that we should always try and maintain.

*James Dearsley is a partner in PropTech Consult, digital transformation specialists for the real estate sector. To sign up to James’ Sunday PropTech Review, click here.

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