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Bringing blockchain to real estate: Q&A (Includes interview)

Imbrex is the first real estate marketplace syndicating worldwide via the Ethereum blockchain. Through this, imbrex plans to disrupt and redefine standards by removing third-party intermediaries, putting the control of proprietary listing data back into the hands of the industry. This will also provide consumers with the opportunity to connect directly with the property owner/representative.

To discover more, Digital Journal spoke with Stephen King, CEO and founder of imbrex.

Digital Journal: How important is digital transformation for real estate?

Stephen King: Real estate is the world’s oldest and biggest asset class. There are many facets and stakeholders involved in the transaction that adds complexity, cost and time to each deal. Technology can greatly decrease these impediments, brining considerable efficiencies and enhanced confidence to the buyer and seller, significantly reducing timeframes and adding a layer of transparency that does not currently exist.

DJ: Is this so for all types of real estate businesses?

King: Absolutely, whether an industrial complex, corner store, Park Avenue Penthouse or Colonial home on Elm Street, the need for communicative, transparent systems exists equally across all industry verticals. Historically, each sector, albeit commercial or residential, has relied on isolated systems at different stages of the transaction.

For example, within the residential sector there is often one in-house listing database that transmits to a local Multiple Listing System (MLS) and third-party sites plus parallel systems for marketing, transactional management and the accounting of deals. To look at it in tangible terms, each of the systems function as an integral component of the home’s framework, but they are not sitting on a true foundation. Advancements in technology and imbrex specifically, is laying that foundation to unite and stabilize the framework.

DJ: For established real estate businesses, where do the main disruptors come from?

King: U.S. real estate is a $40 trillion asset class with shapers and disruptors coming from three primary categories. First, there is the industry itself – companies like RE/MAX and Keller Williams were among the participants of the 90’s tech revolution, embracing tools to better the experiences of their agents and customers.

Over the past few years, firms like Compass who not only prioritize technology, but also work to develop it have joined the ranks. Then there are the industry’s service providers who are stepping into the “search to transaction” game; and finally VC-backed tech entrepreneurs who recognize the opportunities that exist for disruption and incredible enhancement.

DJ: Why did you develop the platform?

King: When I was a commercial real estate broker, our listings were transmitted to third party sites who would host the data and provide exposure through connectivity to other firms and their agents. The problem was that by them hosting our data, they dictated the terms, which usually translated into high subscription and syndication costs. We were paying upwards of $10,000 per month to access our own information. Compounding the issue, there are several listing aggregators competing within each market; consumers need to visit each site, often finding incomplete and at times stale and erroneous property information.

DJ: Please can you explain imbrex?

King: imbrex is the first decentralized real estate marketplace that syndicates worldwide on the Ethereum blockchain. What sounds incredibly high tech is actually quite simple – imbrex is the foundation of our theoretical house, it provides a means to connect the databases and MLSs of the world in an environment that is open to anyone and owned by everyone. All information is community-validated and shared through a peer-to-peer distribution protocol.

For the broker, this means that their data is never stored on a third party server; ensuring that ownership, control and access is never relinquished. Moreover, for the consumer, it means that they will always see up-to-the-minute listing information and have direct access to the hyper-local listing expert.

DJ: Why is blockchain an important part of imbrex?

King: In order for members of the real estate community to openly communicate, there needs to be standardization and trust. From a standardization perspective, we need to make sure that the data going in to the system matches the data coming out. If we are going to exchange data, nuances like one firm calling it an Apartment versus another calling it a Unit needs to be accounted for. Above all, as competitors, there needs to be an underlying trust that the information will not be used outside of the agreed upon terms.

Blockchain is the solution to those fundamental issues. Blockchain is a global public utility, not owned by any person or organization that has achieved the first global standard in any industry vertical for the way that we share data around the world. The owner of the data holds the keys and only they can determine who has access.

DJ: How is imbrex performing?

King: We launched just shy of 30 days ago with more than 2,200 listings from Toll Brothers. Through presentations at industry events and ongoing discussions with industry leaders, we are receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback. On the live site, we have a growing subscriber base of real estate professionals who are listing their properties and connecting with real buyers in real time.

DJ: What other changes do you see affecting real estate in the future?

King: Years ago a buyer would walk into a car dealership, making a significant purchase with no more than the information on the window sticker or a page from a magazine. Today, with just a few clicks of an app, a buyer is aware of that exact car’s detailed history and confidentially makes an informed decision.

imbrex is the first real step towards bridging the industry’s legacy infrastructure and today’s high-tech digital world. This is an incredibly exciting moment in real estate, and really only the beginning. Real estate is not a zero-sum game with one player poised to control all. With a basic foundation in place, there are wonderfully innovative companies that will add value within their respective niches ensuring that the buying and selling of such an important asset is accomplished with efficiency, accuracy and transparency.

Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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