A five-unit apartment building in Brooklyn, New York, may represent the first foray into a new investment model that uses the technology underpinning cryptocurrency and allows investors to buy and sell their shares in a single property at the click of a button.
The model relies on blockchain technology, which underlies cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ethereum. The project sets out to show how buying and selling an asset on the blockchain can help distribute wealth and improve transaction speed and data transparency.
Beginning next month, accredited investors will be able to buy shares of the three-story Brooklyn building in the form of tokens that are bought and sold using a website built on the ethereum blockchain.
Investors would reap a proportionate amount of rental income from their shares and be able to buy and sell the shares with other investors. If the building increases in value, so would those shares, said Brooklyn-based blockchain developer ConsenSys, which built the technology to "tokenize" the property. The project is called Pangea.
Each token represents one share and can cost as little as a few dollars, though the exact price has yet to be determined. An accredited investor has to meet certain income and net worth standards, however, such as having $1 million in net worth or an annual salary of $250,000 for two years.
The project is a chance for people to acquire slivers of real estate rather than having to buy a property outright or invest in a pool of properties such as a real estate investment trust, said Pangea co-founder Mohammad Shaikh.
"By purchasing these tokens, investors no longer have to tie up large sums of money in single properties, nor are they restricted to REITs with little transparency, or funds with high fees," he said.
The Brooklyn apartment building will be the first known property to offer fractional ownership through digital tokens, though several start-ups are working on the cause, Shaikh said. The model is likened to a single-property REIT.
Cayuga Capital Management, a Brooklyn real estate developer, owns the building, located in the Bushwick neighborhood.