On May 27th, $22.5 million of data heat, zeros, and ones quietly shifted across the financial landscape, transferring ownership of a shiny, new 5,067 square foot, full floor, four-bedroom penthouse in Miami Beach’s newest, uber-exclusive boutique condo building—Arte by Antonio Citterio—in the city’s tony Surfside neighborhood one floor down from Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
At $4,440.50/SF, the deal broke every previous Miami Beach record for price per square foot. Yet it raised more eyebrows for what it didn’t do: close in American dollars.
The 9th floor Lower Penthouse at Arte was bought all cash paid for entirely in cryptocurrency, making it the most expensive known residential crypto real estate transaction in the U.S. to date. The blockchain deal also took less ten days to close from start to finish, setting additional records on time across the finish line for both buyer and seller (the buyer remains anonymous as does the specific cryptocurrency used, all of which are under confidentiality agreements).
For the real estate industry writ large, the deal at Arte sends a much louder message about the future: crypto is here to stay and agents and brokers better buckle up or get left behind.
That residential real estate and cryptocurrency would eventually converge for Arte’s developers, Alex Sapir and Giovanni Fasciano, was always an economic inevitability.
As far back as 2014 crypto buyers and sellers already were closing real estate deals in Bitcoin to move their newfound wealth into more stable and traditional asset classes, albeit infrequently and without much fanfare. What Sapir and Fasicano saw back then just before conceiving of Arte was that the viability of—and demand for—cryptocurrency’s decentralized payment system in the real estate market had the wider ability to transform the way the entire industry does business as a whole.
MORE FOR YOU
Their recent deal at Arte seven years later has proved their instincts right. In less than two weeks after announcing that they would be accept cryptocurrency for sales at Arte in mid-May, they had half a dozen offers for the Lower Penthouse and a signed contract.
Real estate’s newfound bullishness on crypto isn’t simply limited to developers like Sapir and Fasciano either. Start-ups like Propy that streamline closings through automated processes have supported cryptocurrency transactions for years, and now offer training courses for realtors and brokers to become “Crypto Certified”. Last month Los Angeles-based Caruso, one of the city’s largest developers, announced that it would begin accepting rent payments in cryptocurrency across both its retail and commercial properties, making in the largest U.S. real estate company to embrace digital currency. And most recently, London’s most expensive penthouse at One Hyde Park listed for $244 million with the option to buy in crypto (or 4,300 Bitcoins at the current exchange rate to be exact), which if sold that way would make in the largest known crypto real estate deal in the world.
That means two important and potentially transformative things for the real estate industry long-term: first, validation. The more deals that transact in cryptocurrency the less fear and resistance there will be to its mainstream adoption. Secondly, the more the big players jump in, like Caruso and Propy, the more that accelerates crypto’s inevitability as a common, acceptable source of currency in every day real estate transactions.
“There is strong pent-up demand for cryptocurrency transactions that are seamless and secure for both parties, and the deal at Arte is a prime example of that,” says Sapir, who developed Arte with Fasciano through a subsidiary. “We were overwhelmed by the amount of calls we received from qualified buyers just after announcing our ability to facilitate cryptocurrency transactions. Real-world crypto transactions haven’t made their way fully into the mainstream yet, so it’s clear that top holders around the world pay attention when new opportunities to transact open up.”
Tapping into that pent-up crypto demand for developers like Sapir and Fasciano is also as much about disrupting the industry as it is about simply selling penthouses.
“We are making Miami real estate history with this sale, as we were the first new development to facilitate this kind of cryptocurrency transaction, and to do so successfully so quickly after announcing,” says Fasciano. “Cryptocurrency is the future of wealth, and we believe this is only the beginning. Arte has set the precedent for what these sales can look like, and how fast they can take place. We’re proud to have laid the groundwork for this new, burgeoning world.”
I recently interviewed Sapir and Fasciano about their recent sale at Arte and to get their thoughts on what the future holds where cryptocurrency and real estate converge. Their predictions could shake up housing for a generation if half of them come true.
What first inspired you to think about accepting crypto at Arte?
Sapir: When we first set out to develop a boutique, resort-style oceanfront condominium for only 16 owners, no one had ever heard of anything so luxe and atsuch a small scale in Miami. It didn’t deter us, because we knew that the concept was missing from the market, and we had a hunch that it would be just whatthe world’s most discerning buyers were holding out for. When it came to cryptocurrency, we trusted these same instincts. We wanted to get ahead of a futureworld where half the world’s billionaires could have easily made their wealth from cryptocurrency. The quick sale of the Lower Penthouse at $22.5 millionproves the success of the concept.
Fasciano:We saw an opportunity to attract a huge network of new wealth that has been waiting for a real-world asset worth investing cryptocurrency in.History has proven that new wealth holders always turn to real estate as a way to preserve their wealth — as well as their legacy — for the long term, so weexpected that the world’s newest cryptocurrency millionaires and billionaires would naturally share this same logic. Up until now, there hadn’t been too manyresidential options for them to invest in, and nothing available on the cryptocurrency market could truly be considered collectible architecture worthy of beingpassed down through the generations. We’re proud to have been the first at Arte, and we're even more proud to see that this strategic decision worked inmarket as competitive as Miami.
Cryptocurrency and real estate have had an awkward relationship because the industry is resistant to change and mortgages are ruled bytraditional lenders while crypto remains volatile and an enigma to many agents and brokers. What were you hoping to inspire or provoke in the real estate industry by pioneering crypto transactions?
Sapir:Our primary intention was to welcome new cryptocurrency holders to the luxury real estate market and provide them with an opportunity to transact. Bybeing the first new development project to accept cryptocurrency in Miami, we tapped into an avalanche of pent-up demand, and inked a $22.5 million dealonly two weeks after announcing our ability to facilitate these transactions. That cause and effect wasn’t totally unexpected, but it certainly inspired us to bemore vocal proponents of cryptocurrency, serving as an example for other developers in the market and beyond.
Fasciano:Embracing cryptocurrency is the first step toward transforming Miami into the cryptocurrency capital that Major Suarez is envisioning. He is puttingin the work attracting Silicon Valley’s top companies to Miami — effectively adding technology to the list of major industries Miami is known for — so it onlymakes sense that real estate developers evolve and modernize their practices and cater to this new group of tech-savvy, forward-thinking individuals who aremoving to the city for work and a better lifestyle. We all need to do our part to create change, and to propel Miami into the future. Our latest transactionproves that there is a new wealth in the country and that we must be ready with the right tools to accommodate it.
Is crypto as a common currency in the future for real estate transactions limited to UHNW, all cash property deals or do you see the potential for its adoption atall levels and price ranges?
Fasciano:Arte pioneered and set a precedent proving that the sky is the limit with the sale of our $22.5 million Lower Penthouse, which closed in 10 days.Accepting cryptocurrency doesn’t have to be so foreign to real estate developers and we see the potential at every level now.
As a developer what are the upsides and downside risks of using crypto as the currency to close a deal?
Sapir:By structuring the transactions in a way that the risk is minimal or non-existent, we do not see a downside. On the contrary, a cryptocurrencytransaction can be much faster than a traditional one. We worked with a third party company, SOLIDBLOCK, to facilitate this. Cryptocurrency holders areeager to use their newfound wealth in assets as unique and exclusive as Arte.
Are you casting a wider net for more potential buyers for your buildings because crypto is on the table?
Fasciano:The size and market cap of the cryptocurrency world is enormous. All this wealth needs to be spent, and real estate is an excellent vehicle formoving assets and moving investments. Now that we’re accepting cryptocurrency, we’ve increased the opportunity for potential buyers enormously.
Are you invested in or using crypto personally and what’s your final takeaway on it as the real estate currency of the future?
Sapir:We believe in the cryptocurrency industry and think that it will be the creator of the world’s next generation of billionaires. Therefore, it’s only natural thatwe ourselves would be invested as well. Cryptocurrency is the future, and Miami is well positioned to be the industry’s global hub. It’s our goal to nurture thatpossible reality.
Tara West of Douglas Elliman and Sales Director at Arte represented the development in the deal, Ryan and Max Farbstein also of Douglas Elliman represented the buyer, and Ryan Phillips of Title Partners of South Florida, Inc. handled the title.