‘Early adopter’ sells his Mississauga condo in Bitcoin

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For sale: Derryn Shrosbree’s Mississauga condo unit. List price: 35 Bitcoin.

The former Wall Street derivatives trader-turned-insurance broker is intent on marrying cryptocurrency with the life-insurance business.

Two weeks ago, after a chat with Toronto real estate agent Brett Starke, he also decided to throw home sales into the mix. Shrosbree owns six properties — five in the Greater Toronto Area, one in Halifax — and said he wasn’t doing much with them.

“I said ‘why don’t we list them for Bitcoin?’ ” he said.

Because the cryptocurrency’s value isn’t fixed — and because it’s traded online — its exact value can swing drastically in minutes. To address the issue, Starke said the lawyers have written a clause, where the buyer will pay the value of Bitcoin on closing day.

“We re-price it every single day,” Shrosbree said in an interview earlier this week.

An offer was made on the condo Wednesday at its most recent list price of 33 Bitcoin (which at the time was worth roughly $443,000). Starke said they have accepted the offer and the condo is considered “conditionally sold.”

He said they will meet with a Bitcoin company next week to setup an “action plan” on how to implement the exchange of money. The final selling price won’t be disclosed until all conditions have been fulfilled.

“It’s the first Bitcoin sale (of a condo) that’s been done in Toronto, period,” Starke said. “It’s definitely the first in Ontario that’s been listed for Bitcoin.”

Starke said he isn’t aware of any other cryptocurrency-based condo sales in Canada, and neither is Shrosbree.

“I don’t know a single human being that wants to do this — except me,” Shrosbree said.

Several pre-sale listings for Toronto condos in Bitcoin do exist on CryptoNomos, a Bermuda-based website that allows owners to exchange properties for cryptocurrency. CryptoNomos spokesperson Donald Choi described the platform as an opportunity for people that hold digital assets to swap into the real estate market.

The practice of swapping Bitcoin for real estate is new, Choi said. While Choi acknowledged that some may see the exchange as “volatile,” he championed the platform’s ability to “get into something that stabilize what you’ve gained” from your Bitcoin.

The Real Estate Council of Ontario is currently reviewing the use of cryptocurrencies in real estate transactions.

“While we recognize the merits of new forms of currency in the age of evolving digital commerce, RECO, as a regulatory body, must ensure that all business transactions between consumers and real estate salespeople, brokers, and brokerages, adhere to the Real Estate Business and Brokers Act,” said registrar Joseph Richer.

“However, RECO does not regulate buyers and sellers, and if a transaction were to occur between two parties without the involvement of a brokerage, it would be outside of RECO’s purview to determine the legality or feasibility of that transaction.”

Bitcoin — as well as other cryptocurrencies — are not considered legal tender in Canada. But cryptocurrencies are completely legal to use in private sales between individuals. The Bank of Canada’s website warns that cryptocurrencies can be “risky investments” due to their inherent volatility.

But this doesn’t faze Shrosbree.

“I’m fine with volatility. I like risk. I understand volatility. So it doesn’t really worry me,” he said, pointing out that a sale that hinges on cryptocurrencies is risky for both the buyer and seller.

Shrosbree compared the uncertainty around cryptocurrency to the unease surrounding the early use of credit cards in the 1950s.

“The early adopters of credit cards — people thought they were crazy,” he said. “And yet today, if I asked you for your credit card, you’d just give it to me.”

Both Shrosbree and Starke are enthusiastic about the future of cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin and Etherium and believe that — despite the risk — they represent the future of currency.

If the sale of his Mississauga condo works out, Shrosbree said he’d consider selling his remaining properties using Bitcoin, too.

“It’s totally going to revolutionize the way we pay for and buy stuff,” Shrosbree said. “I just happen to be an early adopter.”

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