AgentBanking & Lending

Startup aims to speed up property buying with digital currency blockchain

NYC-based ShelterZoom wants to ease the process of making an offer with a website, app, and widget

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Calling all buyers who are tired of dealing with the hassles of paper: a new startup, ShelterZoom, wants to streamline how offers are made on listings with a website, app, and a widget that can be directly placed on real estate websites. The twist? ShelterZoom is built on the same technology that underpins the digital currency Ethereum.

The company launches today and is based out of New York City.

With ShelterZoom’s free “Offer Now” widget, which can be installed on listing websites and appears as a button, buyers and buying agents can directly submit an offer on a property. After tapping the “Offer Now” button, the parties involved will need to add in details such as their name, address, offer price, down payment, upload a qualifying loan or bank statement, and fill in their attorney information.

Once this is complete, they’ll receive a SMS message asking them to finish the process via the ShelterZoom app and to pay an $8 fee. On the other end, the listing agent can see the offer and decide to accept or reject it, confer directly with the seller, or make a counter offer.

The upside to this process it that it’s transparent; both sides can see what’s being said and what information is being shared on the ShelterZoom dashboard.

For early adopters who install the widgets before January 31, 2018, there will be no fee. As for those making offers using the Offer Now widget, the $8 fee will also be waived during the company’s initial beta period, which will run through the end of February 2018.

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ShelterZoom App image

Promo image of ShelterZoom’s app. Credit: ShelterZoom

ShelterZoom says the fee is in the best interest of the consumer; by charging fees, the company is able to “filter out people who are submitting offers just to drive the price up,” said Chao Cheng-Shorland, the cofounder and director of ShelterZoom, in an interview with Inman.

As for how Ethereum fits in: ShelterZoom uses the Ethereum blockchain to come up with secure property agreements. Blockchain refers to a distributed system of ledgers that exist on multiple people’s computers, and is the same basic tech that underpins Bitcoin and most other popular digital currencies.

In the case of ShelterZoom, its offer system relies on smart contracts–a process in which a computer can look and determine qualifying factors about an offer based on a set of rules–to come up with the agreement.

And while keeping your data safe and out of the hands of several people is a nice benefit, Cheng-Shorland also sees the blockchain as a means to keeping ShelterZoom “futureproof.” Cheng-Shorland told Inman that the company could’ve used something like an e-signature, but “the team felt like it was [this] last decade technology.”

So instead it built on top of the blockchain to come up with what is “probably the most advanced use of blockchain in the world at the moment,” according to Cheng-Shorland.

Feeling wary? You can check out what the” Offer Now” widget looks like on November 27 on Cyrus Charter Property and Land Co., a business owned by Amir Allen Alishahi, who is also a cofounder and director of ShelterZoom.

Another customer you’ll see using ShelterZoom sometime this Winter, includes Sandy Krueger, CEO of SIBOR. There, the widget will live on both the public website, as well as the members-only site.

Mixing blockchain with real estate might seem like a risky business but to Cheng-Shorland, “it’s an empty space at the moment and a great opportunity to get in.” A prime opportunity or more blockchain hype? ShelterZoom and the rest of us will find out soon.

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