How does blockchain technology impact real estate business models?

Real estate is a complex industry, regulated and characterized by a lot of middlemen. Blockchain technology has the potential to bring more transparency to the real estate industry and eliminating some of its intermediaries and redistributing forces. Meanwhile, the blockchain industry is growing fast. In 2017, the global blockchain market worths $708 million. The value is expected to reach $60,7 billion by 2024.

Even if the financial sector is the most explored field, the amount of projects at the crossroads of blockchain and real estate shows how valuable the technology could be to the industry. The intersection between Blockchain and real estate is explored mostly by new actors but also incumbents and governmental parties.

Newcomers can be clustered into different categories:

Protocol providers (such as Ocean Protocol, FOAM) are setting new standards to the blockchain industry. The main challenge to overcome, they need on top services built by external parties. A wave of partnerships and mergers between different protocols with similar scope is highly probable in order to help to reach a sufficient mass.

Decentralized services providers will build applications aimed at end users on top of blockchain protocols. Intrinsically decentralized, these services should bring more transparency and market fluidity while maintaining privacy:

  • Some rely on Distributed Ledger Technology to provide decentralized data management services (Benben, Elea Labs)

  • Some are using their own crypto assets, creating a so-called “tokenomy” which is acting as an interface with fiat economies. These models are naturally exponential because the marginal cost of providing an extra service nears 0. Also, by using their own currency, its value is supposed to increase when the overall value of the network increases. These models will be challenged by regulatory parties concerning “coins” whether they should be classified as securities, commodities… as well as users’ misunderstanding (usability issues, token abstraction). (Propy, Brickblock)​

Decentralized Autonomous Organisations is a paradigm shift for organizational management. Their consensus-based notion of growth challenges the traditional notion of growth lead by efficiency, scale economies, and centralized power and control. Decentralized organizations may be better adapted to the post-industrial era, in which assembling specialized knowledge could help facing global challenges. These new form of organizations will face unadapted regulation, originally made for centralized organizations, and misconceptions from the public. (REI DAO)

We’re still in the early days of blockchain technology and decentralized organizations may not be here tomorrow, though advances are going quickly. Back in the days, the internet spread out the confusion. Years after, it shook business models within every single industry, redistributing information and forces.

Overall, blockchain technology catalyzes the societal shift towards decentralization. Existing business models frameworks will be impacted and transformed. Platforms currently running the centralized internet, already under scrutiny, will be even more fragilized. Regulation is not ready to cope up with these new concepts immediately. Nevertheless, there are already countries leveraging blockchain to attract new businesses, providing regulatory frameworks and sandboxes.

Going further in time and progress, organizational models will be seen under a new prism of organizational management. Accordingly, traditional actors should understand their customers’ and users’ expectations in terms of privacy and transparency. They should be ready to use intensively technological progress and collaborate with complementary services providers using emerging technologies. Last but not least, they have to reconsider their inherent models and core beliefs.

To my mind, converging technological advancements catalyzes innovation rather than uniquely blockchain. Data collection (via IoT, drones, sensors) combined with blockchain acting as a trading economical layer, will bring much more raw data to nurture artificial intelligence, leading to further automation. Technological evolution will bring real estate to the upper step, offering solutions to current challenges such as climate, migrations, scarce resources and… falling bridges.