So, now Tesla (NASDAQ: TSLA) accepts payment in bitcoin. Now we know for sure the cryptocurrency is cool. But is it practical in more mundane transactions?
What got us thinking about this was a Reddit thread that begins, "If a tenant is offering to pay rent in bitcoin, would you accept it?"
The very first respondent gets to the heart of the matter: "I wouldn't know how to."
Neither would I. I also would be concerned about the volatility of the currency. I mean, I know the dollar changes in value against other currencies every day, all day long, but not like bitcoin, which on March 11, for example, was trading at more than $57,000 per each computer-mined "coin."
So, unless your property rents in exact increments of $57,000, or whatever bitcoin is worth at that moment, how do you get a part of it? Do you cut it up like a pirate with a handful of pieces of eight?
Arrgh, with so much to know and cryptocurrency slowly but surely gaining broader use, we figured we'd asked someone who knows a lot about this stuff for a little insight.
In this case, it's Shaun Pappas, a New York City real estate attorney who works with developers, lenders, and investors in the acquisition, sale, and financing of complex commercial, mixed-use, and luxury residential properties. His firm, Starr Associates, is currently working on more than 175 new construction and rental conversion buildings across 80 development firms around the Big Apple.
We asked him four questions:
What's involved in accepting cryptocurrency for rent? Is it just bitcoin? Are there others?
Thus far, bitcoin has been traditionally the most often accepted cryptocurrency. Generally, the entity or individual accepting payments is receiving the funds in dollars through an exchange company, and there are several exchange companies that will convert bitcoin into dollars.
How do you convert those payments into cash? Will my bank or credit union accept them?
Although acceptance of bitcoin as a form of payment continues to evolve, at this point using an intermediary to convert the funds is the easiest method. The intermediary will accept the bitcoin payment and convert it to dollars for a percentage fee. The cash funds will then be transferred directly to the receiving landlord/owner's bank.
Do you recommend converting it quickly into cash to avoid that price volatility?
The volatility of bitcoin raises the biggest question when accepting it as a form of payment. The renter/buyer can of course simply sell the bitcoin and convert to dollars on their own. However, in most transactions the third-party intermediary will make the exchange.
The receiving landlord/owner will prepare an invoice through the exchange, and the invoice is sent out over email to the renter/buyer. Typically, the person paying the notice in bitcoin will have 10 to 15 minutes to open the above and make the payment. The price is only locked for that amount of time to avoid volatility concerns. Once the payment is made through the intermediary, the cash exchange is sent to the receiving landlord/owner's bank within 24 hours.
How widespread is that practice, and how much is it growing?
The practice is certainly becoming more widespread. In 2018 and 2019, we facilitated several apartment and commercial real estate sales in bitcoin on behalf of developers in New York City. Since that time, we have seen major companies shift toward accepting bitcoin payments, and we anticipate the real estate industry will follow.
The trend will continue to grow as the price of bitcoin increases and the ability to either purchase directly with bitcoin or exchange the currency becomes common practice. Many investors look at it as an opportunity to turn their bitcoin investment into a tangible asset in real property. Thus, we wanted to give our clients the opportunity to accept this as an additional type of payment.
The Millionacres bottom line
Because we're here to help, and we're all about real estate investing here at Millionacres, we commend for your edification this piece by our own Deidre Woollard: "Should You Invest in Real Estate with Bitcoin?" (Bitcoin was at a mere $23,000 or so when Deidre penned this piece way back in December 2020.)
And, as for actually working with the coin of the cyber realm, we also recommend that you check out this by Millionacres and Motley Fool writer Matt Frankel: "Best Cryptocurrency Exchanges and Apps for March 2021."
Matt notes that there are brokerage firms that handle cryptocurrencies as an investment, but it's not for everyone.
That can be said of accepting bitcoin for rent payments, too. Not into it? Hold out as long as you can, I guess, but at least be assured that there are places that will turn it into "real" money for a fee. It's not so different from the interchange fee charged by credit card processors in that regard. And as more people use cryptocurrency, maybe there'll be competition for the conversion business that'll help keep the fees down.