Donald Lawby, president of Century 21 Canada LP, started his career with the Century 21 system in 1976 as a sales associate in British Columbia.

Lawby has expertise in foreign real estate markets as well as an eye toward the future.

He will speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008.

Lawby answered a set of questions posed by Inman News:

What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2008?

I believe the U.S. real estate market will continue to be depressed, similar to what we are seeing today. This will probably carry on into 2009. The Canadian market has slowed and we will probably see a year where the market will be down 7 to 10 percent in unit sales compared to 2007, with price increases somewhere in the area of cost-of-living plus 2 to 3 percent.

Looking outside North America where I have experience — basically the Asian markets — I think in many areas they will continue to perform quite well for the balance of 2008 with inflation being an issue in Vietnam and tax-related issues somewhat holding down the Chinese market. At the same time, the new administration in Korea is expected to revitalize the economy and therefore the real estate environment. As a result of an improving relationship between Taiwan and China, the Taiwanese stock exchange has performed very well through to 2008 and the real estate market is showing signs of increased levels of activity; the Hong Kong and Thai markets are stable while the Singapore market has slowed considerably since 2007 and will probably continue at its current rate for the balance of 2008.

What advice do you have to help real estate agents and brokers get through this market?

I believe survival is the biggest issue for both brokers and agents. Brokers need to recruit, and offer great services to their agents and the public with a concentration and gathering of well-priced inventory. This means hard work and long days. The issue for both is customer service — earning the right to do business and being very candid about the marketplace.

What was your first job?

I played in and managed a rock band in high school.

What sparked the idea to start your company?

I entered the real estate industry from the banking industry because I wanted to be my own boss and responsible for my income. I then had an opportunity to enter at the ground level Century 21 Canada, starting as a consultant and trainer in 1979.

What’s been your biggest challenge in running the business?

Assisting individuals in achieving their potential — staff and franchisees. Often, I believe more in my franchisees’ business than they do and the challenge is trying to help individuals visualize and achieve their potential.

If you had one thing to do over again in your life, what would it be?

Get a better education.

What style of home do you live in and when did you buy it?

I purchased my current home in 2000 — it is a detached, single-family view home overlooking Georgia Strait in White Rock, British Columbia, 30 miles south of Vancouver on the American border.

What worries keep you awake at night?

I worry about things that can adversely affect my business’ single biggest asset — the brand — as it affects so many salespeople and offices. An example would be an office that closes in a dramatic fashion as a result of illegal activity — bad press.

I have a daughter who is 33 years old, our only child, and is handicapped; I worry about her future.

What lesson did you learn in the last year?

In the last 12 months I have learned to step out of the box as a company and do some things with technology and the Internet that no other major brand in our country has done.

What would your second career choice be?

A chef and restaurateur.

What kind of music do you listen to?

Rock and roll.

Who is your hero?

There are two: Martin Luther King, Jr., and Rick Hansen.

Hear Lawby speak at Real Estate Connect in San Francisco, July 23-25, 2008. The conference program and registration are available online via the Connect Web site .

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