Ryan Serhant was pleased but skeptical when he received an offer last fall for one of his listings, a roughly $25 million Downtown Manhattan apartment.
The buyer, whom he showed around the property, seemed nice, but he didn’t fit Mr. Serhant’s typical high rollers, who often come from Wall Street or prominent families. This buyer claimed to be self-employed, but when Mr. Serhant Googled him, he discovered nothing to explain his wealth.
Mr. Serhant, suspicious that the offer was a hoax, requested proof of funds and was astounded by what he received: a statement of the buyer’s cryptocurrency holdings, estimated to be worth $600 million. “It was insane,” he admitted.
It is a scenario that is being played out across the real-estate world, as newly minted crypto-millionaires and crypto-billionaires who have either invested in or helped build the infrastructure that enables digital currency have flooded the luxury market. This has resulted in a series of high-priced deals over the last year. Brian Armstrong, CEO of Coinbase, the largest U.S.-based crypto exchange, spent $133 million on a Bel-Air estate. Other notable transactions include the $38 million sale of a waterfront Miami estate formerly owned by retired Miami Heat player Chris Bosh to Ivan Soto-Wright, co-founder and CEO of crypto-payments infrastructure provider MoonPay. According to people familiar with the transactions, another was the $28.5 million purchase of a mansion in the Hollywood Hills by Olaf Carlson-Wee, CEO of crypto-focused investment fund Polychain Capital and Coinbase’s first employee.
According to multiple Los Angeles real-estate agents, Fred Ehrsam, a Coinbase co-founder, has been actively looking for a property at a comparable price to Mr. Armstrong’s. According to a person familiar with the situation, Gavin Wood, a co-founder of Ethereum, an app-hosting platform where ether cryptocurrency trades, is also looking for a big-ticket property in New York and has been closely eyeing a penthouse listed for $66 million at the Billionaires’ Row megatower 111 West 57th Street. Mr. Ehrsam was unable to be reached.
The cryptocurrency wealthy are the new whales in the luxury residential market, and the industry is taking notice. Real estate developers are jumping through hoops in order to accept cryptocurrency. Agents are using gimmicks like NFT art parties to entice crypto enthusiasts to their high-end listings. Cryptocurrency seminars are being held by brokerages for their agents. Sellers are increasingly openly advertising that they are willing to accept cryptocurrency in exchange for their homes.
Looking at the real estate market, one might conclude that crypto has entered the mainstream. Despite the fact that buyers who have made fortunes in cryptocurrency are flooding the market, there are still only a small number of transactions that are entirely conducted in cryptocurrency. Despite sellers advertising their willingness to accept cryptocurrency, the majority of those who do so take significant steps to mitigate the risk of cryptocurrency price volatility by enlisting third-party platforms that immediately convert cryptocurrency payments to US dollars upon closing.
The value of cryptocurrencies is notoriously volatile. Bitcoin reached a new high of $68,990.90 in November 2021, up from $5,000 in March 2020. According to CoinDesk, the November price was also more than double bitcoin’s 52-week low of $28,825.76 in July 2021. However, as of January 26, bitcoin was trading at around $38,000. According to a recent National Bureau of Economic Research study, the top 10,000 individual bitcoin accounts held a total of $232 billion.
According to Miami developer Alex Sapir, who sold a $22.5 million apartment purchased with cryptocurrency last year, this is a new class of investor that society was unaware of a few years ago. “You’re capturing them at the start of their investment career.”
Only a few luxury real-estate transactions have been completed using cryptocurrencies across the country, and in most cases, the sellers have chosen to convert the cryptocurrency to US dollars immediately upon closing.