SAN FRANCISCO — Bob Hale, who for 20 years has served as president and CEO for the Houston Association of Realtors, today received the "Innovator of the Year" award during an awards ceremony at the Real Estate Connect conference.

The Inman Innovator Awards honor forward-thinking technologies, Web services, business models and innovators in online real estate, brokerage and media companies.

Hale in 2006 was named by the National Association of Realtors’ Realtor magazine as one of 25 "Most Influential Thought Leaders" in the U.S. real estate industry.

He has been a driving force in HAR’s popular public multiple listing service Web site, which drives traffic to members’ Web sites, and he has been an open advocate for the distribution of property listings information to other sites in order to boost Web traffic to for-sale homes listed by the group’s members.

The entire craigslist online community was honored with the "Innovator of the Year" award last year (see last year’s award winners). Craig Newmark launched craigslist in 1995 as an e-mail list of San Francisco events, and it has since exploded in growth as an international network of more than 560 online community and classified listings sites.

Other past recipients include Mark Lesswing, chief technology officer and senior vice president of the National Association of Realtors, in 2006; Prudential Real Estate Affiliates President Earl Lee in 2005; and HouseValues CEO Ian Morris in 2004.

Sawbuck Realty won the "Most Innovative Brokerage" award. The Washington, D.C.-based company is a Web-based real estate broker that seeks to connect buyers to buyer’s agents and also seeks low-cost mortgages and settlement services for buyers. The company plans to expand to other market areas, including Baltimore, Philadelphia and Chicago.

Finalists for this award include Chase International, Diamond Dwellings, Equitable Sotheby’s International Realty (now known as Russ Lyon Sotheby’s International Realty), and Redfin.

Estately, a Seattle-based real estate brokerage company that offers a map-based property-search platform, was selected as "Most Innovative Web Service." The company launched as in December 2006, and it works on a referral basis by connecting consumers with real estate professionals at other brokerage companies. In April the company received $450,000 in funding from a small group of online entrepreneurs, and in May the company expanded operations to the Portland market.

Finalists include ForeclosureRadar, Krunching, Realius, and the Zillow Mortgage Marketplace.

Roost, a real estate search company that feeds traffic to brokers’ sites, wins the "Most Innovative Technology" award. The company charges brokers on a cost-per-click basis for pushing traffic to their Web sites that are powered by data-sharing agreements with other brokers in a range of multiple listing service market areas.

BlueRoof360, Mixpo, Obeo and Terabitz were finalists for the award.

The Agent Genius blog took honors as the "Most Innovative Blog." Agent Genius is a popular multi-author real estate blog that is designed by and for real estate agents. The company features posts about new real estate technologies and business models, as well as discussions of industry topics and trends.

Finalists in the blog category include the 1000Watt Blog, The Big Picture, the FBS Blog and the HomeGain Real Estate Blog.

Frontdoor, a site launched in December by Scripps Networks, is the 2008 "Most Innovative Media Site." The site, which has been amassing millions of listings supplied through partnerships with brokerage companies, is a property search and resources site that features content from the Home and Garden Television (HGTV) Web site that is also owned by Scripps Networks. There are educational articles and videos at the site, as well as home-search tools and interactive maps.

Finalists in the media site category include, REA Group, RealtyTrac and Zolve.

Each year, Inman News announces the launch of the Inman News Innovator Awards process with a call for nominations at least three months before the Real Estate Connect conference.

Nominations are submitted online, and the nomination process includes a questionnaire. An Inman News review team considers the nominations and selects a list of finalists, and the finalists are selected from the nomination process and a list of other prospects suggested by the Inman News editorial team. The review team reviews the finalists and votes on the winners.


Innovator of the Year: Bob Hale

Most Innovative Brokerage or Franchise: Sawbuck Realty

Most Innovative Web Service: Estately

Most Innovative Technology: Roost

Most Innovative Blog: Agent Genius

Most Innovative Media Site: Frontdoor


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