Property Blockchain Goes Way Beyond Title and Escrow

The impacts of a new technology can sometimes be less than apparent at first glance. Consider, for example, the arrival of Google Glass. While that product was a widespread commercial failure, it found a valuable use case in industrial and professional settings, where workers can benefit from the information-displaying abilities of the AR technology.

Blockchain’s gradual acceptance might turn out to be a similar story. While the most visible impact of the new technology, cryptocurrency, has grown to become an $850+ million market, the most exciting long-term impacts of the secure ledger might come from other applications.

Even within the world of real estate, much of the discussion around blockchain has focused on the potential to disrupt current processes. In particular, there is a lot of buzz around whether title and escrow companies even have a future in a blockchain-enabled world. Some articles and white papers, like this one, argue that the answer may be no.

Perhaps we should pump the brakes on some of these more sweeping conclusions, though. I have written here and here about the future of brokerage in an increasingly automated world. Despite the inherently transactional nature of the commercial real estate brokerage business, many industry professionals have outlined their expectations of the field in the near future: disruptions to be sure, but that the best teams will be able to adapt or leverage the power of automation and retain their professional relevance by offering deep local expertise, networking, or humanistic, holistically-applied advice. All three of those things are inherently difficult to actually automate. These takes biased, no doubt, but at the same time they come from the exact people with the power to reshape the industry with automation in mind.

A nuanced opinion on the future of blockchain in real estate comes from Allen Alishahi, co-founder and president of blockchain-enabled contract management tech company ShelterZoom. Allen…

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