(l to r) Nin Zoudo, Protiviti® Consulting, Jennifer O’ Rourke, IDCEO, Sharon Gorrell, David Conroy, CRT Labs.

This past week I was excited to attend a “Blockchain for Executives” presentation by industry experts about decentralized digital networks, digital currencies and other related topics. The session was held at the National Association of REALTORS® offices in Chicago.

Many of you have heard the term “Bitcoin,” especially these last few weeks as the company’s stock has skyrocketed. What does that have to do with real estate? The short answer is that people are buying — or at least asking to buy — real estate with this cryptocurrency. A single-family home in Texas was recently purchased through the builder using Bitcoin, which was then converted to dollars.

Another large player in this space is Ethereum, which is a blockchain ledger technology. Utilizing a “smart contract” through Ethereum, an apartment in the Ukraine was just purchased by Michael Arrington, a U.S. based tech industry writer and founder of TechCrunch, a well-known industry blog.

NAR and the CRT Technology Lab have been on the front lines of this shift in the industry and are working towards finding solutions on how to deal with and prepare our members for the next generation, especially in the global real estate space.

Speakers yesterday included NAR’s David Conroy, Lab Engineer at CRT, who has developed a blockchain model using an open source distributed ledger framework he obtained from Hyperledger, which is part of the Linux Foundation that is helping support new technologies in several sectors including blockchain. Conroy worked with John Mirkovic, Cook County Deputy Recorder of Deeds, and included a document recording feature on the model. Mirkovic is also working with Jennifer O’Rourke, Deputy Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and blockchain business liaison on several other projects utilizing the technology through the Illinois Blockchain Initiative.

As younger buyers and sellers enter the market and more international transactions take place, it is only a matter of time when this becomes second nature. I recall the days of when the MLS went from books to a computer. It was hard to give up those books, but now we wouldn’t consider using a big catalog rather than the computer. Rebecca Jensen, CEO of MRED was also in attendance and learning how this technology is moving into the real estate space.

Tin foil hat anyone?