CryptocurrencyWeb3NFTsInvestingBitcoin

Young and wealthy crypto home buyers in Miami have real estate agents scrambling to adapt

April 30, 2022, 12:30 PM UTC

Madison Roberts, a real estate agent, was working at a booth at a crypto conference in Miami a year ago when she got a text from an interested home buyer. “Hey, you guys know about crypto?” the message said. 

Little did she know that the text would lead to two of the largest property sales in her career: One condo sold for $7.2 million while the other went for $6.9 million—all in cryptocurrency.

Roberts has been involved in crypto since 2011, but only started actively working as a real estate agent since January last year. Early on, she said, it was difficult to find a home seller who would accept crypto as payment rather than cash or a traditional mortgage. 

Now, there is even an option in the database of homes used by real estate agents that lists sellers who are willing to accept cryptocurrency as payment, Roberts said.

“They’re begging and hoping just in general for any crypto, whatever it is they don’t care,” Roberts told Fortune.

Roberts, 30, is among a growing number of agents, brokers, and property sellers in Miami’s real estate world that have adapted to a new climate in which so-called crypto “whales” with thousands or millions of dollars in digital currency are increasingly shopping for property.

The reason is partly because of Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who has pushed his city to become “a hub for crypto innovation,” which has contributed to an influx of crypto investors and crypto companies. Naturally, they want to use crypto—or at least the proceeds of their crypto wealth—for buying whatever they want, including real estate.

For many real estate agents, adapting to the rise of crypto has meant taking a course in cryptocurrency basics and learning how to accept it in real estate transactions, according to real estate broker Joshua Cadillac. He teaches a crypto course for beginners that is approved for real estate agents by the Florida Real Estate Commission. Since he debuted his course in late 2021, interest in it has jumped dramatically. The first time he taught in Miami 50 people showed up, but for his most recent class he said he filled a room with about 250 people.

Home sellers and real estate agents, however, have been slower to embrace crypto, Roberts said. When working with the wealthy buyer who had texted her at the conference last year, for example, Roberts struggled to find a seller and agent who were willing to accept crypto as payment. In all, it took four months to close the deal for the $7.2 million condo, located in the ritzy One Thousand Museum apartment complex on Biscayne Boulevard in Miami.

Miami is increasingly attracting workers from the crypto industry. Luxembourg-based crypto financial services company Blockchain.com, and Tel Aviv-based crypto and stock investing platform eToro, among others, have opened offices in the city, bringing with them a stream of crypto-savvy employees. Meanwhile, many crypto investors have moved into town, attracted by the warm climate and hot crypto scene. 

These crypto investors are of a younger and more male demographic than the usual property buyer or renter in Miami, said Miami real estate agent Jake Fletcher. Usually in their mid-20’s to early 30’s and overwhelmingly male, the crypto rich carry themselves differently than the average wealthy buyer. 

“They tend to be very chill, very relaxed,” Fletcher, 33, told Fortune. They also have deep, digital pockets, Fletcher said. 

One client, who Fletcher helped find a condo to rent, paid an entire year’s rent up front, about $50,000, for a luxury one-bedroom apartment in the Miami neighborhood of Brickell. The client had made the money trading crypto, he said. 

Another, a crypto influencer with nearly 120,000 followers who goes by “gainzy” on Twitter, wanted to escape pandemic restrictions and cold weather in Wisconsin, where he’d been living since 2017. Gainzy, who declined to disclose his real name, said he bought two Miami condos with cash in 2021, mostly because stocks and crypto were booming at the time, he told Fortune via Twitter direct message. 

“Miami was one of the most attractive spots for (stocks and crypto) so I went will [sic] all cash offers,” gainzy said.

Many crypto home buyers feel loyalty to the communities that have sprung up around some of the smaller “altcoins” that aren’t as well-known as Bitcoin or Ethereum, according to Cadillac, the real estate broker. To them, it’s not just “tokenomics,” he said, suggesting that investors feel a certain affinity to crypto beyond any purely financial benefits. One potential client who contacted him late last year, Cadillac recalled, said her dedication to the community of one of the altcoins she owned was so strong that she was reluctant to buy property because she didn’t want to sell her crypto holdings and hurt the community.

“She was afraid that if she pulled her millions of dollars out of there, it was going to tank the coin,” Cadillac said.

Many buyers don’t actually sell their crypto to buy property. Instead, some use their assets as collateral for loans that they then use to buy investment properties.

“Nobody’s actually using cryptocurrency to buy real estate,” Fletcher said. “They’re using their cryptocurrency as collateral. I would question somebody’s intelligence if they were using cryptocurrency to just outright buy.”

It’s nearly impossible to know exactly how many of Miami’s property sales involve crypto in one way or another. But sellers of 400 single-family homes, condos, or townhomes were open to accepting crypto as payment during the 12 months ending April 21, according to a screenshot of the Miami-Dade County multiple listing service viewed by Fortune

The actual number of homes that were bought directly with crypto, however, has been quite small. Since January 2020 only six homes were financed directly with cryptocurrency, according to the same database, and all of those sales took place in 2022.

Crypto-backed loans are increasingly the go-to form of financing for people who have significant crypto assets but don’t want to incur a tax burden for selling at a profit or miss out on potential future earnings. Companies like Celsius and BlockFi offer loans in exchange for putting crypto up as collateral. Another company, Milo offers its customers 30-year fixed rate crypto-backed mortgages of up to $10 million with an interest rate between 3.95% and 5.95%, in line with interest rates on traditional 30-year mortgages.

Prices are rising in Miami for a number of reasons. But how much that is due to crypto investors is unclear. In March, home sale prices were up 28.2% to a median of $500,000 compared to last year, according to Redfin. Meanwhile, Miami rental prices are the least affordable in the country, with the median rent for a typical unit with less than two bedrooms costing twice as much as the estimated maximum affordable rent for a median household, according to a recent report by Realtor.com.

Whatever the case for the jump in property prices, the crypto wealthy are increasingly making an impact on Miami’s real estate market. 

“Miami is giving everyone mad FOMO,” Roberts said.

Sign up for the Fortune Features email list so you don’t miss our biggest features, exclusive interviews, and investigations.