Crypto Mortgages Test Home Buyers’ Appetite in Digital-Currency World
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Crypto Mortgages Test Home Buyers’ Appetite in Digital-Currency World

Miami firms now offer home loans in crypto, but many traditional lenders doubt such practice will gain scale.

By Deborah Acosta
Wed, Apr 13, 2022 10:45amGrey Clock 3 min

Some Miami developers have enabled buyers to purchase homes in cryptocurrency since at least 2021. Now a pair of Miami lenders is going one step further by offering home mortgages in digital currencies.

Milo, a fintech company in the lending business, made the first crypto home loan in March, when it provided a 30-year mortgage in bitcoin for a Miami duplex.

The firm says the early response among other crypto-oriented home buyers has been so enthusiastic that it is already looking to double the size of its Miami office to 100 employees to handle the anticipated demand.

XBTO, another cryptofinance company with offices in Miami, said it is also gearing up to offer crypto mortgages this year, in partnership with a traditional Miami-based mortgage lender.

“Between crypto millionaires who don’t want to sell their cryptocurrency and foreign buyers who have trouble entering the market, we see a huge demand,” says Joe Haggenmiller, head of markets for XBTO.

Kieran Gibbs is one of the newcomers to the city who has expressed interest. The professional soccer player from the U.K. moved to South Florida last year to play for the local Inter Miami CF. He said that he has been receiving half of his salary in bitcoin since January and that he is in talks with XBTO to secure a crypto mortgage.

“I’m renting my property at the moment and I’d like to buy,” Mr. Gibbs said. “The trouble is I haven’t been here for long enough to get enough credit, so it’s difficult for me at the moment to get a mortgage.”

Crypto mortgages are structured much like traditional mortgages and are lent out to home buyers in dollars but are meant to appeal to people who have large crypto holdings they don’t want to convert to dollars.

These mortgages require additional collateral in the form of a cryptocurrency, and the agreements allow the lender to take ownership of the home and the additional collateral in the event of default. If the value of crypto falls, the borrower may have to put up more crypto or other collateral.

Many traditional lenders are sceptical that loans in digital currency will ever gain scale, and analysts list numerous risks and complications when lending in crypto.

For one, they point to the legal pitfalls of engaging in a space that is still largely unregulated. Volatile fluctuations in the price of digital currencies could mean that lenders may require a borrower to put up additional collateral if the crypto price drops significantly.

“Anyone in the digital asset space should proceed with a great degree of caution,” says Richard Levin, an attorney and chair of the fintech and regulation practice at the law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.

Even proponents of these loans say that the new companies are already encountering logistical issues.

“Integrating the legacy mortgage system with the new crypto environment is an operational nightmare,” says Lorenzo Delzoppo, an attorney who specializes in disruptive technology and who is consulting XBTO as they finalize their mortgage product.

Still, he adds, “It’s all incredibly exciting.”

Crypto mortgages are only the latest way that Miami businesses have experimented with the nexus of real estate and digital currencies, a trend that is on display this week during Miami’s bitcoin conference and other crypto-related gatherings.

Propy, a property-tech company whose chief executive resides in Miami, made headlines in February for being the first to process a U.S. real-estate transaction as a nonfungible token, or NFT.

Real-estate developer PMG, in a partnership with the crypto-derivatives exchange FTX, said it has accepted more than $20 million in cryptocurrency payments toward preconstruction purchases of about 60 condo units at its E11even Hotel & Residences.

Lofty, a condo project in Miami’s Brickell district, is providing a digital NFT art piece as an amenity along with the purchase of a unit.

Milo, meanwhile, is offering interest rates for crypto mortgages between about 4% and 6%, which skew a bit higher than what banks tend to charge for dollar-based loans. The 30-year fixed-rate mortgage averaged 4.67% last week, according to mortgage-finance company Freddie Mac.

The crypto lender allows borrowers to take out loans of up to 100% of the purchase price by pledging their bitcoin as collateral. XBTO will require purchasers to put down 10%.

Reprinted by permission of The Wall Street Journal, Copyright 2021 Dow Jones & Company. Inc. All Rights Reserved Worldwide. Original date of publication: April 5, 2022.



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Savvy travellers who plan their trips around dining at their destination’s most in-demand restaurants know that securing a reservation at a top Paris eatery isn’t an easy proposition on any given day.

Come the Olympics in July, when the city is flooded with tourists, one would expect the jockey sport to snag a table to be that much more intense. But that’s not necessarily shaping up to be the case. As of mid-May, Parisian insiders such as hotel managers, restaurant owners, and local luxury concierges reported that inquiries at sought-after spots were no higher than usual, foretelling a potential opportunity for visitors looking for a fine-dining experience during the games.

The time to book falls over the next few weeks given that many top spots don’t take reservations until one month before the dining date.

The Michelin-starred Jean Imbert Au Plaza Athenee and Le Relais Plaza, both at Hotel Plaza Athenee and helmed by the renowned French chef Jean Imbert, are two examples.

Francois Delahaye, the COO of the Dorchester Collection, a hospitality company that includes the Plaza Athenee and a second Paris property, Le Meurice, says that his regular guests who are visiting for the games and Parisians who frequent the restaurants know not to call too far in advance of when they want to dine.

Further, he doesn’t foresee reservations being a challenge at either venue or at Le Meurice’s two-Michelin-starred Restaurant Le Meurice Alain Ducasse.

“Booking for the restaurants won’t be an issue because people are planning meals at the last minute,” Delahaye says. “Also, the people who are in Paris specifically for the Olympics are here for the games, not to eat at restaurants. They’re not the big-spending clientele that we usually get.”

Delahaye doesn’t expect the kinds of peak crowds that descend on fine dining during Fashion Week each spring and autumn, for example, when trying to land a seat at the three eateries is nearly impossible. “People are fighting to get in,” he says. “You need to book through your hotel’s concierge, have an inside source, or be a hotel or restaurant regular.”

Several Paris luxury concierge companies echoed Delahaye’s perspective

Manuel de Croutte, the founder of Exclusive & Private, says that Paris regulars probably aren’t planning a trip when the Olympics transpire—from July 26 to Aug. 11—because they want to avoid the tourist rush. “We’ve gotten some reservation requests from people who’ve heard about us but not nearly as many as we usually get when the very wealthy travellers are here,” he says.

During peak periods like the French Open or Fashion Week, de Croutte says that his job entails making bookings for travellers who don’t have any other way to get into buzzy or Michelin-starred establishments.

“You’re unlikely to get a table at a see-and-be-seen place without knowing someone,” de Croutte says. “No one picks up the phone or answers email.” He says his team has established relationships with managers and owners of many of the hot spots in Paris and often visits them in person to land tables.

Exclusive & Private’s Black Book of Paris restaurant recommendations for Olympic visitors span a broad range, from casual bistros to fine-dining.

Michelin eateries include the three-star Le Gabriel at La Reserve, the two-star Le Clarence near the Champs-Elysee, and the two-star Le Taillevent.

Spots without a Michelin star but equally notable are also on de Croutte’s list: L’ Ami Jean offers traditional and flavourful southwestern French cuisine, Allard is a brasserie from Alain Ducasse, and Laurent serves French food to a fashionable set.

“My favourite neighbourhood for restaurants is Saint Germain de Pres,” de Croutte says. “You’ll find unassuming but chic names with excellent food and a great vibe. You can book with these places directly if you’re here for the Olympics, but don’t wait until the last minute because they will get filled.”

He also cautions that some Paris eateries are asking for nonrefundable prepayments for reservations during the Olympics.

“Be sure you want to go before committing and ask about the refund policy if you are charged,” he says.

Stephanie Boutet-Fajol, the founder of Sacrebleu Paris, says her bespoke travel company charges a lump sum of about US$750 to make all the restaurant bookings for the Olympic period, though the price varies depending on the dates and the number of restaurants that a client requests. “Reservations around the closing ceremony are harder to come by because that’s when more elite travelers are coming to Paris and want the chic restaurants that are always difficult to get a table at,” she says.

Meanwhile, chefs at some Michelin-starred restaurants share that they have tables available during the Olympics and welcome travellers to their establishments.

Thibaut Spiwack, for one, behind the Michelin-starred Anona, serving modern French cuisine, and the culinary consultant for the popular Netflix series Emily in Paris , says that he is open for reservations.

“My team and I look forward to sharing a culinary experience with new clientele that I hope will remain in their memory,” he says.

Spiwack suggests that travellers check out other worthwhile restaurants where he himself dines. For terrific wine, there’s Lava, and for Italian, he likes Epoca where the pastas are “divine.” Janine is the best bistro in town, and Prima wins for a pizza fix, he says.

“You have a lot of restaurants in Paris to pick from,” Spiwack says. “You just need to determine where you want to go, and book as soon as you can.”