The owner of the St. Regis Aspen Resort in Colorado has successfully sold equity stakes in the property through the issuance of ownership tokens on a blockchain, marking one of uses of the much-hyped technology for real estate transactions.
The asset management firm Elevated Returns announced the closing of an $18 million offering that “tokenized” stakes of ownership in the property. Tokenization involves splitting up an asset into equity stakes that can be digitally bought and sold. Much like one can own shares of a company in the form of stock, buyers of these tokens will be able to own a piece of the historic property, which they can hold, trade, or sell and earn profit on, if the valuation of the property goes up.
Elevated Returns marketed the tokenization of the St. Regis hotel to accredited investors through the crowdfunding site Indiegogo. The deal issued 18 million tokens, each valued at $1, representing 18.9 percent of St. Regis’ equity, while Elevated Returns held onto the remaining 81.1 percent.
The tokens representing fractional ownership of the St. Regis can be traded on the Ethereum blockchain, one of the most prominent distributed ledger technologies whose enthusiasts say has the potential to transform the real estate industry.
Blockchain — first popularized by the bitcoin blockchain that lets users buy and sell the the cryptocurrency bitcoin — is a decentralized, public ledger. Transactions are recorded to this ledger by thousands of computers across the world in a shared and purportedly immutable database.
Elevated Returns is just one startup seeking to carve up real estate into fractions represented by digital tokens on a blockchain. Another startup called Harbor that has raised $38 million and counting, has indicated it will pursue similar business models.
Startups are also working on ways to use blockchain technology to replace deeds with tokens and to power “smart contracts” that could streamline property sales, potentially paving the way for seamless transfers of title, disbursements of mortgage funds and even the elimination of title insurance.
Real estate blockchain startup Propy claimed to have facilitated the first blockchain transfer of real estate title in the U.S. with the purchase of a Vermont condominium in February.
News of St. Regis deal’s closing comes shortly after a Manhattan condo development valued at $30 million also announced a tokenization on Ethereum. Ryan Serhant, a star of Bravo’s reality TV show “Million Dollar Listing New York,” is assisting with that transaction, according to Forbes.
The St. Regis deal “not only represents a new coin on the market that is asset-backed, it also establishes a blueprint for future real estate tokenization,” said Jason Kirschenbaum, director of Elevated Returns, in a statement.
Reflecting the almost fanatical enthusiasm that some have for blockchain’s application in real estate, Elevated Returns President Stephane De Baets added in a statement that she believes tokenized real estate “can replace consumer savings accounts in as little as five years, since real estate’s value has risen while cash’s value has decreased.”
Asked to elaborate on this theory, and also to comment on the risk of whether channeling the world’s savings into real estate could create another bubble, De Baets said by email that, “Money was never meant to store sedentary wealth, especially if it is not collateralized, and can be printed freely by governments.”
“Strong assets are scarce and have an economic justification, so providing assets that are capable of being traded with increased liquidity will ultimately one day replace money,” she added.