A property listings site in the US has started giving a large discount to users who advertise on the site and pay in bitcoin. The listings site, called RentHop, is offering landlords and agents who advertise properties in New York a discount of up to 60% if they pay for their adverts in bitcoin. The site currently has about 87,000 listings for New York.
RentHop customers pay for ads with credits purchased from the site. The smallest package of credits available is 15, which costs $6 and the largest package is 300 credits at $75. Bitcoin users get 60% off the smallest package and about 40% off the largest one.
RentHop’s co-founder Lawrence Zhou said bitcoin payments would help solve some of the niggling problems in the New York property business, like tenants having to obtain a cashier’s check to pay the deposit on a lease. He said:
“In New York, you have to go out of your way to get cashier’s checks, for example. And there’s always a fee associated with that, which makes it pretty annoying. It’s $10 for each check. Even having to go out to your local bank and getting the check is really obnoxious.”
Zhou added that bitcoin transactions also removed the possibility of chargebacks on credit card payments, which was another minor issue he has to deal with regularly. He said that the property industry is generally slow to adopt new technology and he hoped that bitcoin payments would encourage quicker uptake of new technologies like digital currency.
“The industry is always a little bit un-tech-savvy, so it would be great if we could be a catalyst,” he said.
Bitcoin payments had been live for less than a day when CoinDesk interviewed Zhou. He said that he had already received several inquiries about paying in bitcoin. Most of the inquiries were from people who had never dealt in the digital currency before, so they required basic information like how to obtain and store bitcoin.
The RentHop users appear to have been attracted by the large discount for bitcoin payments. But so far, no RentHop customer has bought advertising credits with bitcoin yet. Zhou said:
“We made the discount large so that people will take it. We wanted to try and entice them.”
RentHop sells itself on an algorithmically calculated ‘HopScore’, which is meant to simplify the search process for people seeking a property. A property with a HopScore of 100, for example, might have received a high score because the agent listing it responded to messages quickly, the listing had the full complement of information, and the property itself matched a verified address in the city.
Perhaps fittingly for a website built on algorithms, its co-founder is an avid investor in algorithmically mined cryptocurrencies. Zhou started investing in bitcoin this year and has tracked the digital currency closely ever since. He has also dived deeper into the alternative currency world by getting his hands dirty by mining litecoin personally.
The company will hold on to any bitcoin it obtains from customers in order to keep the bitcoin price constant and because Zhou and his co-founder Lee Lin believe in bitcoin’s long-term potential as a payment platform and store of value.
According to Zhou, RentHop is one of the top five property discovery sites in New York. The firm also takes listings in Boston and Chicago, and has plans to expand to Miami by the end of the month. The company was formed in 2009 after going through the well-known startup incubator programme YCombinator.
Paying for property in bitcoin has been popular this year. Former casino magnate Jack Sommer offered his 25,000 square-foot home, replete with a Jacuzzi for its staff, for $7.85m worth of bitcoin in October. A Chicago startup called Rentalutions started offering tenants who use its platform the option of paying their rent in bitcoin in August. The same month, a housing company that runs dorms for college students started taking bitcoin for deposits and rent. The firm told CoinDesk that it valued the cryptocurrency because it was free from government manipulation.