Galen Ward, co-founder and chief executive officer for, will speak at the upcoming Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs Aug. 5-7., a real estate brokerage company (see story) formerly known as that has offices in Washington state and California, offers a property-search site and works on a referral basis to link prospective homebuyers and sellers with agents at other firms. Estately won an Inman Innovator Award in 2008 in the "Web Service" category.

Ward responded to a set of questions posed by Inman News:

What do you see happening in the real estate market in 2009?

I’m a pessimist. In the hardest-hit markets, I see sales picking up relative to last year (they already are in California), and prices continuing to drop. The rate at which prices are dropping will slow down, though.

I expect sales to slow again in 2010 in the hardest-hit markets. REOs are the market in many areas. Once they move through the system, responsible homeowners who can pay the monthly payments but who are underwater won’t budge.

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

My advice: no excuses. This isn’t a bad year — this is very likely a normal year and will be for the next three to four years. We’re growing in the double digits every month at Estately because we’re adapting.

Additionally, this is the time to help your buyers exercise caution. Most non-REO homes on the market are so overpriced they will never sell. If you can succinctly explain this to your clients — and you can help them identify the properties that are actually worth looking at — you’re golden.

What made you join your current company?

When I began working with spatial databases way back in 2002, it occurred to me that the online real estate industry was offering only a sliver of what is important to the home-buying process — and that I could change that. At that time, you could only search for and learn about the statistics of the home itself — price, beds, baths, and square footage — but so much of what is important to consumers was unavailable online.

People want to live near parks, great schools, grocery stores and in walkable communities, so I set out to create a Web site that let them search for properties using these criteria. It took me a few years to find a co-founder and for technology (and Google maps) to really make it something we could bootstrap, but in 2007 we launched.

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

Running a business is a million little challenges, but our big-picture challenge is where to aim our limited resources to best help us grow Estately. …CONTINUED

Can you share any future plans, goals?

New markets! You’re going to see Estately in a host of new cities and states soon. Additionally, we have some interesting partnerships in the pipeline. Watch for it: @estately on Twitter.

What lesson did you learn in the last year?

We have learned an amazing amount — I’m not sure any one lesson sticks out. Top lessons learned are: how to enter new markets efficiently; how to quickly identify bad (and good) agents and give referrals to the good agents; and how to drive traffic to Estately.

On a personal note, I learned to avoid eating mozzarella that smells a little off. It will make you very sick.

What would your second career choice be and why?

I like to keep the mantra of "if Estately doesn’t succeed, I have no backup plan" in my head. It keeps me motivated. But my second career choice is probably starting a non-real-estate-related Web site.

What is the biggest problem in the real estate market today, and how would you fix it?

The real estate profession is filled with unprofessional people. Virtually all of the continuing education relates to marketing, and very little is devoted to the nuts and bolts of being a great agent or mortgage broker for your clients.

What do you most enjoy about working in the real estate industry?

I enjoy the enormous scope of the problem: How do we make it easier to find and buy a home? Buying a home is still a ton of work, and it feels great every time we make it a little easier.

Tell us something we don’t already know about you …

I do a lot of mushroom picking — the edible, not psychedelic varieties — all over Washington. My Facebook friends already know this about me (it’s my profile picture), but most others don’t.

Galen Ward will participate as a panelist in the "Ruby on Real Estate: How to Apply Agile Development Principles to Your Project" session during the ConnectTech technology workshop at the Real Estate Connect conference in San Francisco, which runs Aug. 5-7. Click here for event information.


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