The newly bitcoin -rich might have their eyes on an oceanfront home in La Jolla. A San Diego company brokering the sale of two multimillion-dollar homes in the affluent community says it will accept bitcoin as payment. The volatile digital currency has been zig-zagging in value since the start of the year, but the broker of the sale, Canter Companies, believes it could attract other buyers. One bitcoin was worth more than $17,000 in January 2018, dropped to $6,914 on Feb. 5, and was up to about $11,305 in late Febraury, said CoinDesk.
The custom-built homes are listed for sale for $19.8 million, the equivalent of roughly 1,750 bitcoins. Sellers will also accept cash. "We realized there is so much new wealth in the crypto space," said Andrew Canter, CEO of real estate brokerage and investment firm Canter Companies. "There are a lot of new buyers and a lot of people that have seen their wealth fluctuate over the last year."
Canter is selling his own home and his friend Alan Ezier's. He said accepting the bitcoin for the purchase was a different way of marketing the homes by getting the properties in front of an untapped group of potential buyers.
If the buyer pays in bitcoin, Canter said the sellers plan on taking steps to manage the potential risk. He said they will use an investment bank that will write a futures contract to lock in for several months whatever bitcoin is valued at when a sales deal is struck. Futures are a contract to buy or sell an asset at a specific date for a specific price.
There is no real tax advantage to selling a home for bitcoin, said accountant Vincenzo Villamena, a New York-based expert in digital currency. If the seller then resells the bitcoin, they may have to pay capital gains taxes so it cuts into money earned on the sale, he said.
Villamena said anyone involved in the transaction looking for secrecy would have trouble because home sales are rigorously documented.
"If you think (bitcoin) will go to the moon, then sell a house and the coin might be worth 10 times that in the coming years," he said. "If you (as the buyer) think it will go to zero, then you might have gotten yourself a free asset."
One of the first reported single-family homes purchased with bitcoin took place in September in Austin. When Kuper Sotheby's International Realty facilitated the sale, bitcoin was worth $3,429. The firm said it converted the bitcoin to dollars in 10 minutes to give to the seller.
In that case, the bitcoin buyer missed out on a substantial price increase in the coming months. Bitcoin hit a high of $19,343 on Dec. 16, 2017, Coindesk said.
Canter said he and Ezier had price fluctuations in mind before they announced the sales but said using the investment groups to lock in the bitcoin price for a time was a way to limit potential fluctuations. They would pay a premium for the service, but it is a way to make sure if the price drops, the investment group would need to buy the bitcoin for what it was valued at the time of the sale.
Another reason for putting a home for sale with bitcoin could be to attract digital currency advocates. While most recent buyers of bitcoin are investors, there are also those who believe in using it as a way to facilitate the decentralization of money, create a more private way of spending money and limit transaction costs among developing nations.
"It's a personal preference when it comes down to it," Canter said. "I don't think we can speak to a financial benefit here or there. Obviously, the chance (bitcoin's value) goes up is just as much as it goes down right now."
This is not the first time bitcoin has made its way into local real estate transactions.
In November 2017, a 2.32-acre site at the end of Boundary Street in the San Diego area of North Park went for sale with bitcoin preferred. The property is still for sale. In that case, seller Sequoian Investments said if the buyer used digital currency it would likely se a 1031 Tax Exchange, a method where proceeds can be reinvested in another property.
However, Sequian said if the whole sale is in cryptocurrency, they might just pay the taxes on it and hold onto the bitcoin or ethereum, another type of digital currency it will accept.
The La Jolla properties listed by Canter Companies will need to find a high-end buyer:
• For $11.8 million, the Marine Lair home at 6653 Neptune Place is 3,124-square-feet, has 3 bedrooms and 4 and a half bathrooms. It is on WindanSea Beach, has a rooftop pool and spa, a garage with a hydraulic lift ideal for a sports car. It has been featured in Forbes and other publications.
• For $7.9 million, the Arc House at 1257 Silverado St. is 5,213-square-feet and has five bedrooms and five and a half bathrooms. It has an elevator, five-car garage, hot tub and a rooftop deck.