My journey to Blockchain. A landlords tale.
Shahad Choudhury CEO OpenBrix. Private Landlord. Advisor to UK Central Government Blockchain Community.
I’ve been managing properties since I was 15 years old, be that my father’s properties or that of my cousins and other family members. What strikes me the most is that even with all the technological advancements, majority of the property pains are still there for landlords and renters. Any property landlord will tell you that although on the surface the property world has become digital, at its core it’s still very much an analogue business.
let me start my journey, back in the old days (pre ‘.com’) where prospective tenants would go up and down the high streets window shopping for properties to rent. So as a landlord that’s where you had to publicise your property. You too would spend an entire day going up and down the estate agents in the high street trying to haggle the best price for your listing fee, which started at approx 1 months rental, Just to pass on details of prospective tenants, to 15% of the annual rental for full management service. This is exclusive of any maintenance costs! Much to your delight, eventually you would negotiate 0.0001% off the fee, however if you wanted to list it in a few estate agents, as the more places you were listed in, the higher the visibility; you were told the 0.0001% fee they knocked off has been raised by 2% as you are not exclusively listing with them.
Back you go up and down the high street trying to find a deal. And you haven’t even started the tenant on boarding process yet, which is a whole lot of fun for completely different reasons.
Then the ‘.com’ days arrived and with it came these magnificent property portals / aggregator sites. Suddenly it didn’t matter which estate agent I went to, they were all ending up in these property portals anyway. I now had the power to get more than 0.0001% discount, because the other estate agents also knew that it no longer mattered where I put my properties, it’s all ending up in the same place. Tenants and buyers no longer went up and down the street looking at properties as they were all available online.
Suddenly as a landlord, my life got easier, the tenant’s life got easier and competition in the property listing market was booming again.
But that dream was short lived! fast forward 15 years and these single property portals are so big they are practically running a monopoly / duopoly. They have no competition! In fact if you want your property to be rented out you have no choice but to use their service. In the UK they have 99% of the customer interaction! They have grown so much bigger and powerful than the estate agents ever were. And as with any company in a market dominant position, they put their prices year after year, at times almost 16% on to their estate agent customers, who then pass on those costs to me!
With fees going up year after year, which eventually ends up with the landlords having to pay, I decided to hell with these estate agents, I’ll go it alone. Time to put my property on one of these property portal sites and manage the property myself. Oooops, not an option as, it’s a closed network and you have to be an estate agent to be part of it.
So back to the estate agents I go, pay my dues and this time I thought, the agents can find the tenant but I’ll manage the property myself. This was not difficult at all and I was saving hundreds every month, why on earth didn’t I do this earlier, i thought! Again my dream scenario was short lived, I was on holiday and my tenant rang me up to say the main water pipe had burst and is flooding the floor. What on earth am I going to do thousands of miles away?! if only I had a property manager or estate agent I could call! Luckily my old estate agent did help me out, at a considerable profit, but it could have been a whole lot worse. I realised that although estate agents are not desired, they are often required! So back I went to the warm embrace of the old world, where estate agents would once again look after my property, for a considerable fee, providing me service which I thought I didn’t need, but actually did!
What am i doing back here?! Where was the dream of disintermediation that the ‘.com’ era promised?! I own the product that the end customer wants, i,e the time inside my property, yet in that journey to the customer I see my profits being taken away bit by bit by all the actors in the market. I should count myself lucky I’m still in the property game, most of my friends and relatives actually dropped out at this stage. They didn’t want to go back to estate agents, and they didn’t really see a way forward. To them they had two choices.. 1) Manage the properties yourself in a very complex, and ever changing regulatory environment 2) let property managers and estate agents manage your property and lose much of your profits along the journey.
Surly there has to be a simpler way!
And that’s how I came about this technology called blockchain. Having watched this technology in live operations for another company called locktrip which was focused on short term rentals. I invested in their ICO, and made considerable profit, but what made me most happy is that I saw a vision of a world where long term rentals market can be truly decentralised like the short term market had been. I approached locktrip and asked them to build a long term rental solution into their network, having explained that I needed it and many others in my positions also needed it. But unfortunately they were not going to go in that direction anytime soon, however they did suggest I do an ICO and build a blockchain based property portal for long term rentals in the European Market, as none had existed.
So I did! I recruited the greatest blockchain mind I know in Adi Ben Ari, CEO of applied blockchain, the sharpest investment manager Phil Millo CEO MCPX capital and renowned start up specialist John Reilly form Shoreditch Partnership and together we set about building Europe’s first blockchain based property portal. OpenBrix.io
Blockchain technology at its core is all about community empowerment and community control. This is exactly what I have been waiting for! We homeowners and landlords can suddenly have control over our properties without having the burden of managing the property.
Blockchain technology provides many things like immutability, decentralisation of central control and the ability to operate and communicate without any intermediation. But for me as a landlord the most important thing it provides is transparency without a central control. Absolute transparency that no one can switch off.
We no longer need to have blind trust in the estate agents. We no longer need to trust the reference report of the tenant, worrying if they are going to destroy the property that you have plunged your life savings into. Landlords can
Blockchain technology has the power to truly revolutionise the this over complicated and opaque and greatly analogue sector and do to property market what FinTech has done to the finance world.
I feel sorry for some of my friends who dropped out the property market due to the complexities of managing a property or the costs in involved. Had they waited a few more years for this technology then they would have seen OpenBrix come into the market and change the way the property market works. The over complexities they loathed, would make way for simple and efficient transactions. The opaqueness make way for a truly transparent and open network.
In short OpenBrix is the ‘P2P Property Platform’ that puts its community first, the ‘P2P Property Platform’ that puts the community back in control & the ‘P2P Property Platform’ you can trust.
Shahad Choudhury is the CEO of OpenBrix. Shahad is also expert advisor on both the UK Parliamentary APPG Blockchain Panel and UK Government Community of Interest in Blockchain.