Bitcoin, the cryptocurrency phenomenon, is still somewhat of a mystery to many. In short, it’s a virtual currency with no bank involvement, instead using encryption techniques to regulate funds. In 2010, Bitcoin’s value was just $0.06. In 2018, the value of one coin is over $11,000! So an increasingly common question from those profiting off the Bitcoin wave is, can we use these funds to buy a house?
The answer is yes and no. Bitcoin property purchases are being used more often by international investors as a way to circumvent U.S. foreign tax laws. There’s even a website for Bitcoin-accepted property listings (http://bitcoin-realestate.com). But for the average American, there are still challenges.
Most title companies don’t want to assume the risk of holding Bitcoin in an escrow account. Even if you’re able to find a company willing to do the job, you run into the issue of nailing down the coin’s value. In the 1-2 weeks it takes for the title process to be completed, Bitcoin’s value may have changed by double-digit percentages, thus changing the amount of coins needed to buy the house.
And lenders are still completely hands-off Bitcoin. You can’t get any type of mortgage using the currency, so you need to have the full asking price for the house available up front.
For those still interested in pursuing the Bitcoin route, many real estate agents advise treating it like a cash transaction; liquidate your Bitcoin assets before entering into a purchase contract so you can pay in US $ and proceed as such. (Side note: You don’t catch any tax breaks by paying with Bitcoin vs. cash). There’s also the option to pay using BitPal (like PayPal), but in that case both buyer and seller have to be set up on the platform and willing to assume its risks.