The breadth and diversity of “rent week” phenomena our property managers encounter could easily power a 6-season NBC sitcom. A recent episode you might not be familiar with involves two Utah newlyweds who had made a pledge to survive solely on Bitcoin digital currency for the first 90 days of their marriage, beginning this last July. Fresh from their honeymoon, Austin and Beccy Craig paid for everything using Bitcoin, from gas to groceries, and if you can imagine, rent.
They actually endured a grand total of 101 days convincing the various merchants they encounter in their daily personal finance transactions to accept the currency (rates are now around .00177 Bitcoin per dollar). LoLo’s Fresh Food Warehouse was one of the first stores in Provo to sign-on to the idea—so they had access to food. A night-shift attendant named Furb at the Phillips 66 outside Salt Lake City would make transfers through his personal Bitcoin account and settle the til by cash. Auto insurance, wifi, phone service, taco trucks… the couple championed Bitcoin and invited business owners to take the plunge.
As Austin Craig told the Wall Street Journal, it took several weeks of convincing for their property manager to agree to the idea. Offering to tack on a little extra to the rent, they eventually got their landlord to set-up his own Bitcoin account so they could continue their lease without compromising the integrity of their experiment.
To assuage any fears about Bitcoin descending on your upcoming rent week, it isn’t moving mainstream anytime soon. A fair amount of online commerce goes on with the currency, but brick and mortar checkouts are exceedly hard to come by, even in bellwether cities like NYC and San Francisco. But I think this says a lot about our industry and the measure of our willingness to take risks and embrace change.
Austin and Beccy gave their property manager this great opportunity to partner with them in a really awesome experiment, and capitalize on some huge marketing/pr opportunities. Did I neglect to mention the Craigs’ Bitcoin project is part of a documentary? It’s held international media coverage from Forbes to The Sunday Times. It’s backed by some major sponsors and got over $70,000 on Kickstarter. And they essentially had to pay their property owner participate and accept a legal, completely cash-exchangeable payment on Bitcoin for their monthly lease.
Our industry is filled with brilliant minds and creative professionals. It’s hard to watch companies stunt their own potential because of these deeply rooted ties to “standard practice” and “how it’s always been done.”
And I know there are companies who set the bar for an extraordinary community experience and lead the industry by adopting new technology solutions. Like independent owner Mark Tarses who was featured in the August issue of units for seeking spread goodwill with his residents by sharing homemade treats from his own chocolate shop. And at an industry event earlier this year I heard representatives from Euramex and Lincoln about how they’ve achieved over 90% online payment adoption and 80% online leasing at some properties with bold new technology processes they’ve embraced.
Those are the kinds of stories I love to hear and kinds of the people I’m extremely fortunate to be able to work with. I’m just sorry that Austin and Beccy Craig didn’t have the opportunity to witness the creative and collaborative character that I know exists in our industry.