We explore how OpenBrix, HiP, Clicktopurchase, ATLANT and IMBREX are using blockchain to change the way the world’s property market works.
The global property market was worth $228 trillion in 2017 according to Savills, a real estate firm. Property is more valuable than all the world’s stocks, shares and securitised debt combined.
But while property is king, it has its issues. In many industrialised economies, the young and working class are priced out of the property market, middlemen are becoming increasingly dominant and wealth is more concentrated in the hands of the few.
Can blockchain help solve some of those problems? These five startups certainly think so.
The property world is dominated by middlemen. Companies like Zoopla and Rightmove don’t own any property, but they control nearly all the interactions between buyers and sellers.
They charge property agents access to that information, which ultimately is passed on to the customer. OpenBrix wants to change that.
The network is designed to give everyone access to all the data, and incentivise users to maintain the network via a token system. So if a user or estate agent provides data that helps the network they're rewarded, as are users.
It's a more balanced system that helps prevent middlemen from dominating and dictating terms to buyers and sellers.
In most industrialised countries, home ownership is in decline. The chances of a young adult on a middle income owning a home in the UK have more than halved in the past two decades according to the Guardian newspaper.
Lenders control access to both property and money via the mortgage system that incumber buyers with long-term debt. That’s where companies like HiP want to come in.
The UK-based company wants to turn the equity in a home into a currency that owners can release and use without having to sell their home or increase the size of their debt. Investors can then buy smaller chunks in property, allowing more people to benefit from partial home ownership.
Buying a house is a long, drawn out process. The multiple layers of bureaucracy involved: property portal, estate agent, solicitor, land registry, surveyors - can leave buyers and sellers in limbo. That’s where companies like Clicktopurchase come in.
It streamlines the process of verifying genuine buyers and sellers, creating a framework for the buying process to take place in real time, as opposed to the weeks and sometimes months it takes in the industry currently.
The company also has the ability to provide an option for real time auctioning with a live auctioneer interacting with auction bidders.
Short term rentals have risen sharply thanks to the likes of Airbnb. However, the dream of peer-to-peer renting has gone slightly askew.
Service fees from these middlemen are putting up prices. On average, Airbnb charge a service fee of up to 12% from the guest and 3% from the host, largely to compensate its 3500+ employees who process transactions in a centralized fashion.
That’s where companies like ATLANT come in.
ATLANT's decentralized system allows people to earn tokens to mediate helping to keep costs down and reviews honest.
Current property platforms are maintained and controlled by their owners - which puts the buyers and sellers in a position where their data isn’t their own. Because of that leverage, those companies effectively control the marketplace.
But what would happen if those buyers and sellers became the owners of the data and maintainers of the network? That’s where IMBREX comes in.
The France-based company allows properties to be listed and searched for free. Users receive rewards for contributing market data to the platform, or posting detailed information about a specific listed property.