“Bitcoin now accepted,” read a real estate flyer posted on Facebook Wednesday by Nicole Lopez-Cummins, an agent with Intero Real Estate Services and team leader of the PR Group in Houston.
As her market still recovers from the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey, Lopez-Cummins and her team hope to tap into an emerging market of real estate buyers with a new social media marketing campaign targeting bitcoin investors.
All 10 sellers of the PR Group’s 10 current listings have said they would be happy to accept bitcoin, the notoriously volatile digital currency that’s been on an impressive upswing lately (but dropped 25 percent in the last 24 hours, according to the Wall Street Journal), and has sparked conversations between real estate clients and agents across the country.
Convincing their sellers of the idea to accept bitcoin hasn’t been a hard sell, said Lopez-Cummins, but there is a learning curve to overcome. “I would say 75 percent of sellers don’t know what it is or don’t believe it’s real,” said the agent. “We do have to explain it.”
But most of these clients understand the stock market and have investments. Lopez-Cummins explains to them that it’s like a new age currency — some people who invested when it was worth $5 have made a lot of money, and if they have the ability to exchange it for cash, it’s no different from a cash deal.
“As Realtors we always have to find ways to help people find homeownership, this is just another way,” said Lopez-Cummins. “We want to diversify our listings and make them available more widely.”
The Houston agent, who has dabbled in cryptocurrency herself on a small scale, in her case, litecoin, thinks there may be some flush bitcoin investors unnerved by its volatility (bitcoin was trading around $12,845 Friday afternoon but has been as high as $19,000 recently) and might feel tempted to balance their investments with a stable real estate asset.
“It’s about capturing this market early on,” said the agent, noting that the affordable, diverse and fast-growing Houston real estate market might be just what U.S.-based investors are looking for.
“Most of my sellers are like, as long as the deal can close and we can sell it, and transfer title, it’s not their business where the money comes from,” she added.
Lopez-Cummins says it’s “super easy” for investors to convert their bitcoin to cash so the seller is not taking on any risk, noting that this kind of transfer is quicker than a buyer pulling money out of their 401k account.
Investors use global bitcoin payment service provider, BitPay, which takes 10 minutes to convert bitcoin into cash, she said.
“That way it is no different from someone wiring funds at that point,” she said.
As far as she knows, Lopez-Cummins on the early side of the bitcoin marketing trend in Houston. In time, she sees more agents being open to it. (In September, an Austin, Texas, brokerage claimed to be the first in the Lone Star state to have closed on a home purchased with bitcoin.) The advice Inman is hearing is to learn all about the process before trying anything too adventurous.
The Intero agent, whose team covers the Houston markets of Kingwood, Humble and Atascocita as well as greater Houston, is frank that she has had to think laterally since Harvey hit Houston and flooded swaths of her market.
Though she is not hurting for buyers, the market was swiftly inundated with investors, and the competition is taking away from some of their margins. Home prices for undamaged homes, meanwhile, are generally what they were pre-Harvey, she said.
Lopez-Cummins said she was unfortunately expecting more foreclosures to crop up in the coming months, as the mortgage moratoriums came to an end in November in the wake of Harvey and some with damaged homes will struggle to keep up with paying contractors, the mortgage and renting all at the same time.
Curious to know more about bitcoin? Inman is running a session at Inman Connect New York in January on the topic featuring agent Piper Moretti. Save your seat here.