It’s increasingly hip for companies to find a way to leverage the blockchain, and a Japanese real estate company called Yitanzi is the latest to get some press for its bitcoin efforts. Yitanzi just completed the country’s first bitcoin-transacted real estate deal, selling a commercial building in Tokyo for 547 bitcoin, almost U.S. $6 million. At the same time, Yitanzi has made it known that it will be accepting other cryptocurrencies in the future, though it hasn’t designated any timeline or specific currencies to implement.
So is this sale indicative of a new normal? Not especially. “It certainly opens up the possibilities, but I think the opportunity is in blockchain itself, as opposed to any particular flavor of the many currencies available,” says Jonathan Miller, President and CEO of real estate appraisal and consultancy firm Miller Samuel, Inc. “I’d say we’re in the first three minutes of the cryptocurrency year with a lot of norms to establish before widespread market adoption. I believe there is something to this phenomenon, I’m just not confident that it will be adopted as quickly as some have said.”
Yitanzi’s viral piggybacking on the blockchain is not sufficient to reshape the way real estate businesses operate at large, but blockchain technology continues to find useful applications in real-world scenarios. Consider the 3,000 tons of wheat that Russia recently shipped to Turkey after taking payment in bitcoin—nations can conduct business as they see fit despite borders or sanctions.
Japan is generally on extremely good terms with cryptocurrency, yet the country’s Coincheck exchange recently fell victim to a hacking attack that saw malicious actors make off with U.S. $530 million. For all the convenience cryptocurrency technology can enable, there are still real risks of losing your holdings, whether by hacker attack or simply losing your wallet key. The world’s population doesn’t yet have a sufficient baseline understanding of this stuff because it’s still very new and highly technical. Mistakes will be made, and some people will be taken advantage of before cryptocurrency is sufficiently mainstreamed.
Yitanzi’s $6 million real estate deal is a noteworthy proof point that bitcoin can facilitate large business transactions, but it’s not indicative of a world-changing pattern. “Buying a car online took a long time to gain acceptance, and making a transaction online to buy a home is still not a standard,” says Miller.
“When it comes to selling or buying my home I have no inclination to join the ‘bleeding edge.’”