Comstock's magazine 0419 - April 2019 - Page 48

n BLOCKCHAIN “I can put [crypto] on the debt market, earning 3 percent a month lending it out on the blockchain. It’s peer-to-peer lending 3.0.” — Graham McBain, director, McClellan Innovation Center it — a time-consuming process that involves a lot of research. So in November 2018, First American Financial Corporation, one of the country’s largest title insurers, announced it was launching a block- chain to be shared among participating title insurers that contains all of their policies, thus “streamlin- ing the search process and increasing the accuracy of searches for prior title insurance policies,” as the company put it in a release. (First American is keep- ing the details confidential, declining a request to speak for this story. The American Land Title Asso- ciation, which represents insurers, also did not re- spond.) All of this, say proponents, will dramatically cut the amount of time needed for a real estate trans- action. “If everything is on the blockchain, closing could happen in six hours instead of 60 days,” claims Shtofman. With all of the relevant data for a sale on a trusted blockchain, Howie envisions a day not too distant when signing a contract on a house will in- volve clicking a “buy it now” button. Still, in real estate some breakthrough block- chain ideas need buy-in from key partners, espe- cially governments. Among the many blockchain initiatives that the XYO Network has in progress is a partnership, in its early stages, with real estate giant RE/MAX Mexico to build a blockchain-based land title registry. But its success depends critical- 48 | April 2019 ly on Mexican government agencies agreeing to participate. That’s by no means a guarantee. RE/ MAX Mexico is working government channels now, says Justin Fortier, XYO’s point person for the proj- ect, who works out of the Sacramento office. Other arenas may be more amenable if an inter- mediary is more easily replaced. In finance, for ex- ample, blockchain technology could let companies sell shares directly to customers instead of through a broker. “How hard would it be for Apple to toke- nize their company, say in Apple Coins?” asks Bea- dles, of Monarch Wallet creater Splash Factory. That would kill the brokers and save customers a lot on transaction costs, he says. The same pattern could hold with peer-to-peer lending, which now is enabled by web platforms like Prosper and LendingClub that pair investors with people and businesses looking for loans. With blockchain, lenders and borrowers would find each other on a blockchain and avoid the transaction fees charged by platforms. McBain says that already with cryptocurrency, “I can put [crypto] on the debt market, earning 3 percent a month lending it out on the blockchain. It’s peer-to-peer lending 3.0.” THE FUTURE IS … WHEN? Blockchains could bring all of that to pass, but the applications designed to run on them are still most-