So Much for The World’s First Bitcoin Real Estate Project: Aston Plaza in Dubai

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It might be a while before you can purchase your home with any cryptocurrency at all. British news agency The Times reported on April 28 that the Aston Plaza in Dubai, a popular Bitcoin-based real estate development project, will be putting its operations on hold, until further notice.

The real estate project cost a reported £250 million ($325 million), and it was developed by Scottish fashion designer and parliamentarian Baroness Michelle Mone, and her partner Douglas Barrowman, a Scottish investor and the Chairman of the Knox Group of Companies.

Aston Plaza

A smooth start

The couple launched the real estate project back in 2017, touting it as the first housing project where tenants could pay in Bitcoin. At the time, Barrowman had explained to CNBC on why they chose the cryptocurrency, describing Bitcoin as an emerging trend that would one day become a more mainstream means of investment.

Barrowman had said:

“I’ve been invested in the crypto world for the last couple of years really, and it’s a sector I’ve watched grow and emerge. So, I see it coming to that stage where the early adopters are giving way to a more mainstream application of cryptocurrency, and therefore it’s a logical extension to take land and buildings and effectively offer people the opportunity to pay in cryptocurrency or Bitcoin rather than just fiat currency.”

At its launch, Mone and Barrowman promised to complete construction by the summer of 2019, saying that they would be offering 150 out of the 1,300 apartments on the project to investors who could pay in Bitcoin. The couple reported to Business Insider in February 2018 that they had successfully sold 50 of the apartments already. Speaking with the financial news medium, Mone claimed that some buyers bought two apartments each, while one person even bought as many as ten.

As at the time of the sale announcement, the properties that were on offer ranged from simple studios, priced at $130,000 a piece (roughly 15.5 BTC as at then) to two-bedroom apartments that went for $380,000 (about 45 BTC). The project’s website shows that studios and two-bedroom apartments are now being offered for as low as 9 BTC.

However, the site also points out that the listing prices are pegged to the value of BTC to the US Dollar as at January 8, 2018, which means that 9 BTC would amount to roughly $147,000 (as opposed to its value of $48,780 at press time.

Tokenized Real Estate Investments

The reason for Aston’s suspension is still unknown. However, that isn’t to say that other companies aren’t doing their bit to revolutionize the real estate market. Last week, Smartlands, a British blockchain firm, announced that it would be launching its platform in a matter of weeks.

The Smartlands platform would provide liquidity in the real estate market by allowing developers to issue tokens that are linked to a specific property. The tokens can be bought and traded both on the platform and in a secondary crypto market.

The company’s announcement, which was published on April 26, gave users an overview of how the platform will work. Smartlands’ CEO Arnold Nauseda also noted that the tokens would allow investors to hold a fraction of a building’s equity. Investors get their returns in the form of rent, and on property sales.

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Based in the UK, Jimmy has been following the development of blockchain for several years, and he is optimistic about its potential to democratize the financial system. Follow him on Twitter: @adejimi or Contact

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