Casuarina Beach near Darwin, Northern Australia. An upcoming house sale in Casuarina claims it will be the world's first crypto-currency property auction. Photo: iStock

In April, in Australia’s Northern Territory, the “world’s first” crypto-currency-based house auction will be held. Is the sale – to be held in tropical Casuarina, one of the northern suburbs of Darwin – a sign that the property sector is about to start embracing blockchain?

Or is just yet another crypto gimmick?

Set for April 8, 2019, the auction is a collaboration between agent LJ Hooker, James Pratt Auctions Group (JPA Auctions) and blockchain firm NuYen. Auction bids are being accepted via Bitcoin or Binance Coin. 

“Right now, the opportunity to be able to offer Bitcoin as an option within real estate auction transactions is a giant leap forward in improving what is already a great industry globally,” James Pratt, CEO of JPA Auctions, told Asia Times.

“This is by no means taking away the standard transaction of buying with cash in real estate, but by offering another option and service to purchase, allowing an extra opportunity to find a new type of buyer, not limited locally but can be international,” Pratt added.

While blockchain critics will easily be able to dismiss this as nothing more than a tactic to elicit a quick sale, blockchain is indeed making inroads elsewhere in the global property sector.

In Hong Kong in February, developer New World Development Company Limited (NWD) announced it would be creating the city’s first property-purchase blockchain platform.

The project, in collaboration with a government body – the Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute – and the Bank of China, promises to offer all-in-one support service to buyers, banks and related bodies and aims to speed up the property-buying process from the second quarter of 2019.

“In the past 30 years, the real estate market has very rarely seen high technology introduced into the purchasing process. Traditionally, buyers, real estate developers, banks and law firms all work separately. The new PropTech platform’s greatest advantage is to open up the entire real estate industry chain,” Adrian Cheng, Executive Vice-chairman and General Manager of NWD, said at via a company statement.

Advantages of the program are said to include 24/7 operational functionality, the ability to compare mortgage proposals in one place and timely and automated updates on deadlines for legal documents and payments schedules. The platform also promises secure digital identity verification and paperless procedures.

In Switzerland, the ‘CryptoFranc’, a stablecoin that is linked directly to the Swiss franc, is already said to have tokenized a property sale. Launched by a Swiss tech consortium from the so-called “crypto valley’ of Zug, the project says in March it tokenized approximately 20% of a $3 million property sale. It is, says the consortium, the property industry’s “first secure blockchain product for both private and professional investors.”

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