Bitcoin is most often compared to gold. This comparison is accurate in terms of Bitcoin’s properties as a sort of digital gold (e.g. mining, limited supply, etc.). However, comparing Bitcoin to real estate (as inspired by surferjim’s Citadel21 article) may be a better comparison as it highlights the massive opportunity still available.
While real estate can include everything from land to houses to commercial buildings, this post will only consider land. Land is not a great comparison for Bitcoin in terms of its properties, as it would make for a miserable form of money. While land is practical, it cannot be moved across space, and it is not very liquid. Land can be and has been confiscated by governments and pillagers over history. While a legal title to land has been effective in most places in modern history, the settlement of who owns which property is ultimately dependent on the owner’s ability to defend against violence and confiscation. If a government claims eminent domain over your land, it is no longer your land, regardless of what your title says.
Bitcoin, on the other hand, can be stored without any physical manifestation. There is no physical property to confiscate from someone who has simply memorized a seed phrase. Further, with innovations such as multisig security, the physical storage of Bitcoin can be distributed across various jurisdictions, making it effectively impossible for a single nation to confiscate. Bitcoin is also highly liquid and can be transferred across space using digital rails to minimize friction.
While Bitcoin and land are not comparable as forms of money, land is actually a near-perfect comparison if we focus on perhaps Bitcoin’s most important feature: absolute scarcity. The supply of land is effectively limited. Unlike with gold, we cannot mine land to find more of it in perpetuity. Yes, we can find more Bitcoin by mining it today, but this is a temporary feature. Bitcoin’s maximum supply is 21 million coins.
Just as there will never be more than 21 million bitcoins, there will never be more than approximately 92.5 million square miles of land. Per surferjim’s article, about 70% of land is habitable, which leaves us with about 65 million square miles of usable land. One square mile is equal to 640 acres, meaning there are about 41.6 billion acres of usable land. For reference, one acre is about the size of an American football field.
What is the equivalent of owning one acre of land in Bitcoin terms? One acre is 0.0000000024% of the total usable land on earth (one divided by 41.6 billion acres). The Bitcoin equivalent is simply 0.0000000024% multiplied by the 21 million total supply cap, resulting in 0.00050481 BTC, or 50,481 sats. At an exchange rate of $50,000 per BTC, the Bitcoin-equivalent to one acre can be acquired for just $25. While prices in the $50,000 range may feel high, the reality is that you can still acquire one acre of digital real estate for the price of three Chipotle burritos.
Because Bitcoin is so cheap, many people can aim much higher than acquiring a single acre of digital real estate. What if your goal is to have the average amount of digital real estate? To find this, we can simply take the total number of usable acres (41.6 billion) divided by the total number of people on earth (approximately 8 billion) to get about 5 acres per person. While five football fields may seem like a lot of land, it is only 0.0000000125% of the total available land. The Bitcoin equivalent of five acres is 0.00262500 BTC, or 262,500 sats. Thus, you can acquire the average amount of global digital real estate on the Bitcoin blockchain for about $130 (assuming $50,000 per BTC). In other words, you can acquire the equivalent of 5 acres of digital real estate for less than a refurbished PlayStation 3 on eBay.
Even if you wanted to acquire the Bitcoin-equivalent of 100 acres, it would cost less than $3,000. For comparison, 100 acres of pasture in the United States costs about $140,000 on average. Again, Bitcoin is a far more liquid, moveable, and censorship-resistant asset than land. Yet a percentage of the total Bitcoin supply can be acquired for a small fraction of the cost of the equivalent percentage in land. This gap will almost certainly continue to close as people across the globe start to stake their claim to the world’s premiere digital real estate: Bitcoin.