The seller of an Aspen home will accept bitcoin or another form of cryptocurrency for payment on a $5.35 million property in Starwood, the gated subdivision immortalized by former resident John Denver and, more recently, an enclave of billionaires including John Paulson.
It’s the first known Aspen property to be advertised for sale using the alternative and fast-growing digital currency. The six-bedroom home at 498 South Starwood Drive with views of all four ski areas is listed with Erik Berg and Tracy Lofgren, real estate advisors with Engel & Volkers Aspen.
On Tuesday, the price per bitcoin at 5 p.m. hovered near $8,900, which means that for around 600 bitcoin, you, too, can live in the famous Starwood subdivision.
“The reason why the seller is willing to accept bitcoin is because we see it as currency that’s not going away,” Berg said Tuesday. “It had a massive uptick last year. If you got in at the appropriate time, you could be up 10,000 percent.”
That was confirmed by William Small, an Aspen financial advisor with Zenith Investment Group, who is one of about 70 locals that form the Aspen Crypto Club. The group, which evolved out of Todd Shaver’s Aspen Business Luncheon, meets regularly to talk about the explosion in cryptocurrency’s value and what investment opportunities there might be.
“Clearly, I believe that’s the wave of the future,” Small said Tuesday of bitcoin as a means to buy property and other luxury goods.
“It’s not unusual, and you’re seeing that more and more around the country,” he said, adding that internationally and where currency is weak, wealthy buyers are using some form of cryptocurrency to move large sums of money.
Small, who periodically writes a business column for the Aspen Daily News, said the bitcoin offer is a smart marketing move on the part of the seller and its agents if for no other reason than because of the attention it will attract. He also suggested cryptocurrency real estate purchases won’t be a novelty for long.
“I think you’re going to see that more and more,” Small said.
In response to a question whether he personally would favor buying a house this way, he said probably not at this time because of the rapidly rising value of bitcoin. Small said he and his wife first became interested in the cryptocurrency market during a seminar last year and so far are happy investors.
For those who want to take some of their newfound gains and invest in Aspen real estate, Berg said the Starwood property owner is open to accepting some or potentially all of the home price in bitcoin.
“The seller is open to taking it,” Berg said, adding that while there is risk involved should the market become too volatile, the bitcoin can be converted back into U.S. dollars.
Whether for the gated privacy or a new appreciation of its views, Starwood home sales saw an uptick in activity during 2017. At present, there are seven new single-family homes under construction or completed, and at least six recent remodels, Berg and Lofgren said.
Cryptocurrency’s application is new and growing fast but also is not without its risks nor fear of a bubble. Last week, the Wyoming Legislature passed five bills seen as cryptocurrency-friendly, including one that “identified utility tokens as being a new asset class,” according to CNBC. Another bill “amending the Wyoming Money Transmitter Act to provide an exemption for virtual currency” was part of the group of bills that passed, according to legiscan.com, which reports on the state’s legislature.
In Utah, a pair of $2 million Park City properties sold last year using bitcoin as currency, according to Berg. The agent, Paul Benson of Engel & Volkers, who was involved in those transactions, was not available Tuesday to comment on details of how the bitcoin sales worked. Berg said that, owing to its complexities and newness, the alternative currency requires an attorney for sales of property.
The Colorado Legislature will see two bills concerning cryptocurrency this session, including HB18-1220, according to the office of Rep. Millie Hamner (HD-61), who represents Aspen. HB18-1220 reads in part “that persons who deal in cryptocurrency be regulated under the laws regulating money transmitters.”
Regardless of how the buyer and seller of the Starwood property structure a transaction, property-tax payments to the government are accepted only in U.S. currency, according to Pitkin County Treasurer Tom Oken.
Small said that should cryptocurrency transactions grow at the rate he believes possible, there could come a day when real estate closings come to completion without the help of a middleman, which he sees as title companies.
Asked if he would be open to being paid part of a real estate commission in bitcoin, Berg said he would and offered the caveat that, because of his relatively young age, “If I lost the money, I’d still have time to recover.”