In what is believed to be an industry first, a 115 year-old Sydney-based office has announced it will be accepting the digital currency bitcoins in property transactions.
While currently accepted by a number of Canadian and US real estate offices, Sydney-based Forsyth Real Estate claims to be the first Australian agency to accept the controversial currency.
“The reason we’ve done this is because we’ve seen an influx of international buyers and there is also the prevalence of bitcoin, which is moving around and building popularity in Asian countries and the US market,” a spokesperson for the company said.
“We want to give our clients another avenue for online payment of property deposits or advertising.”
Bitcoin is a notoriously volatile currency, with prices rising from around $260 to $1,242 during the month of November last year, and has since fallen gradually to $576.
To minimise risk to the office, Forsyth Real Estate has implemented a number of precautions.
“We’re using a bitcoin merchant, so we’re not moving the currency around ourselves,” a company spokesperson told Real Estate Business.
“For us, we have a merchant company called CoinJar, which keeps our risk to an absolute minimum. We’re not physically accepting bitcoins ourselves; CoinJar are accepting those transactions for us and we’re accepting the Australian dollar amount into our account.”
Bitcoin has been in the spotlight for the past year as its popularity has grown, but it has also made recent headlines for all the wrong reasons.
While bitcoin ATMs are expected to be unveiled in Sydney’s CBD in a matter of days, the digital currency was recently the target of an ‘online heist’, where hackers stole 850,000 bitcoins – worth $560,000 – from Tokyo-based bitcoin merchant Mt Gox last month.
However, HotwirePE chief executive Dr Steven Wright, who is aiming to launch his own Australian bitcoin bank, said the Mt Gox incident had not shaken confidence in the currency.
“If you look at the price, it has started going up again; lots of people are trading,” he told Real Estate Business’s sister publication InvestorDaily.
“There was never any flaw with bitcoin,” he said. “There was never any coding error with bitcoin and there was never any protocol error with bitcoin… Mt Gox treated it like a game; they didn’t treat it like they were actually running an exchange.”