Most readers will have heard about or even dabbled with AI-generated NFTs. You create these AI artworks in two steps—first, a computer derives a raft of illustrations by mashing up images found via search terms, and then, an AI classifier finds the best matches for your criteria. Once you select a piece you like, an NFT is then “minted” to create an immutable record of its existence, including all appropriate metadata, and “tokenised” so it can be bought, sold or traded in a marketplace.
Looking beyond NFTs for artworks or collectables, many applications emerge with the same digital provenance characteristics: the ability to uniquely identify an asset, create a non-tamperable record of its metadata, provide a mechanism for it to be bought, sold and traded, and share access to the asset’s metadata over time. Mortgages, for example, require an immutable record of ownership and value to enable origination and transfer, which we can now digitally enable with blockchain technology.
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NFT-based mortgages and how they work
A brief overview: With NFT-based mortgages, borrowers and lenders use NFTs to store mortgage metadata (such as lien information—the record of who technically owns the mortgaged property until the borrower’s debt is paid off—borrower data, and the mortgage’s history of transactions) on the blockchain. Since NFTs, or non-fungible tokens, are unique digital assets that users can’t replicate or exchange, malicious actors can’t forge NFT-based mortgage papers or alter critical mortgage data. As a result, NFT-based mortgages are generally secure, guarded, and free from error compared to their paper-based counterparts. As you can imagine, by reducing reams of paperwork, they also speed up the lending process.
Why shift away from traditional property transactions?
Seventy percent of all mortgages change hands from their original lender, sometimes within days of finalising the transaction. In fact, a particular mortgage might change hands multiple times over its lifecycle. Often a lender will sell a loan but continue to service it; banks even invest in mortgage-backed securities (MBS). But each time a mortgage or part of a mortgage changes hands, borrowers and lenders face potential errors or losses, and borrowers typically take the hit, having little to no visibility or participation in these transactions.
Startups and companies offering NFT-based mortgage solutions
To provide a short sampling of some of the NFT-based mortgage technologies currently on the market, here are three companies breaking ground in the space:
- Provides blockchain solutions for various partners in the mortgage ecosystem, from diligence firms to loan investors, to make the mortgage process more efficient, transparent, and cost-effective. With its Liquid Verify product, mortgage stakeholders can continuously check in on a loan’s ownership, location, and originality, and with Liquid Archive, they can track and share mortgage data via a permissioned blockchain. As a result, companies, regulators, and investors involved in the mortgage process should be able to build trust in the security and currency of their data.
- Offers on-chain mortgage solutions to reduce the costs of loan audits, simplifies how individuals sell and transfer mortgages, and helps originators, lenders, and borrowers share information throughout the mortgage process. By shifting from paper documents to mortgage tokens, lenders and borrowers can close agreements more quickly and access real-time data. According to the company’s founder and CEO, Joe Vellanikaran, Brightvine’s on-chain solution should help investment managers reduce the time they spend transferring and cleaning data—and focus on expanding their rosters to include a more diverse array of clients.
- Supports digitising liens and promissory notes on the blockchain via its new platform, DART (Digital Asset Registration Technologies). DART is an alternative to mortgage electronic registration systems (MERS) that promises faster and more efficient transactions as a mortgage changes hands over its lifetime. Built on Provenance Blockchain, the platform supports a variety of digital financial transactions. One example is that of bank-minted tokenised deposits, which the USDF Consortium of FDIC banks currently uses to ensure the compliant transfer of value on the blockchain.
The challenges that must be addressed before NFT-based mortgages can become mainstream
Although NFT-based mortgage solutions like those offered by Liquid Mortgage, Brightvine, and Figure have the potential to make mortgages more accessible, transparent, and traceable, fintech leaders still face a set of challenges specifically associated with NFTs:
- Uncertain value: The NFT-based ecosystem is still in development.
- Limited liquidity: NFTs can’t be easily sold like a traditional home.
- Increased volatility: The value of an NFT-based mortgage can significantly spike or drop over time.
- Inability to enforce traditional terms and conditions: NFTs are often stored on decentralised platforms, beyond the control of traditional financial institutions.
If fintech leaders address these challenges of NFT-based mortgages, however, loan originators, investors, lenders, and buyers may find blockchain a welcome alternative to current mortgage systems.
The future of NFTs
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