LONDON, Oct 16 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A multi-million pound London mansion, due to go on sale this month, could make British property history - by selling for the digital currency bitcoin.
Wealth management firm London Wall is selling the six-storey house in the trendy Notting Hill district in west London for 18 million pounds ($24 million) and hopes to find a buyer willing to pay in the biggest and best known cryptocurrency.
“We hope this will start a trend because we believe in the concept of bitcoin as a fair and transparent method of moving money around the world without having to rely on third parties,” Ned El-Imad, a partner in the firm, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Bitcoin is a digital currency that enables individuals to transfer value to each other and pay for goods and services, bypassing banks and the mainstream financial system.
El-Imad said payment in physical currencies, such as pounds sterling, would be accepted but the firm hopes to conduct the transaction in bitcoin to show investors that buying property with digital currencies is a “no-fuss” way to do business.
London Wall, which bought the mansion for 9.5 million pounds about three years ago, is planning to put the stucco-fronted property on the market in the next two weeks after converting it from multiple flats into a single residence.
El-Imad said his firm hoped property purchases could be reformed through the use of blockchain, the technology that underpins bitcoin.
But there are still hurdles to overcome, such as how to pay commission to estate agents and stamp duty - a property tax payable to the British government - which would amount to nearly two million pounds on the Notting Hill property.
Bitcoin has been associated with tax evasion and trafficking of both drugs and people but London Wall said it had hired advisors to help identify the source of a buyer’s funds to avoid money-laundering.
Bitcoin rose above $5,000 for the first time last week, chalking up a more than fivefold increase this year as investors shrugged off warnings on the risks of buying into the booming digital currency market.
At the current exchange rate the mansion’s price is equivalent to about 4,200 bitcoins.
Despite Bitcoin’s popularity, property transactions are still rare, partly because the digital currency is volatile and any delay in converting it into physical money could be costly.
Savills, one of Britain's biggest estate agents, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation it had not yet encountered demand for property transactions in bitcoins. ($1 = 0.7531 pounds) (Reporting by Astrid Zweynert @azweynert, Editing by Belinda Goldsmith; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)