by G. Sax, Director of Growth Management, RESO
Welcome to “Three Questions,” an interview series that introduces you to real estate industry professionals, their businesses and how they interact with real estate standards with a goal of humanizing the tech side of the industry, fun included.
This week’s interview is with Justin Lundy, the namesake CEO of Lundy, a company that is addressing real estate’s accessibility challenge with a comprehensive property search engine available by voice. We talked about accessibility, brand identity and bowhunting, because why wouldn’t we? Enjoy!
Q1: MLSs like Stellar MLS are joining forces with you to provide more accessible features for the blind. Technology companies, in general, seem to finally be paying more attention to the subject. Has something shifted around the topic, or has tech simply caught up to the ability to meet the need and are people like you working harder to spread the message of its importance?
Justin: It almost had to be me to take this on. Let me explain that, so I don’t sound conceited.
It was circumstance, really. I was already working in the real estate space and dabbling in code, particularly voice technology. I was looking at ways to provide consumers with more information about the homes I was selling. I wanted to add more information about the communities, school districts, etc.
I happened to notice an Alexa device on a kitchen island of one of the homes I was selling. So I started looking more into asking Alexa for this information instead of wasting a lot of time with agents and flyers, because as the adage goes, “REALTORS® don’t read.” I thought since they don’t read, maybe they will listen.
And on a very personal level, my mother-in-law is blind. She aged into her blindness, and she is over 80 now. Learning to use a screen reader or braille keyboard at that age, while possible, is extremely difficult.
I am close to my mother-in-law, and she enlightened me to some of the real issues of blindness and Internet usage, and how important sound is to navigating the world as a blind person. Meanwhile, I was just building this toy. It was my mother-in-law that helped me connect the dots of voice technology and real estate search.
Because the problem was so close to me, and I was positioned in real estate to actually do something about it, I got to work. And, look, I knew that I wasn’t going to solve the Internet. But I knew I could do something here.
My tech cofounder, James Grady, came from outside the industry. During the ‘90s bubble, he was already doing work on Internet of Things topics. Later, he built Alexa skills that he sold for a profit.
Through networking, I managed to secure an agreement with an MLS to provide their data, which initiated the extensive task of converting MLS data fields into natural language. It was a roller coaster ride, with moments of both progress and frustration. Still, we eventually developed a proof of concept to present to our first MLS.
As of today, we’ve licensed our technology to 13 MLSs and continue to grow daily. It’s a challenging journey, but we’re committed to filling the gaps and creating an accessible real estate industry.
Q2: Some technology company names come from things (Apple, Adobe, Block), some are invented words (Microsoft, Facebook, Zillow) and some are derived from names (Dell, McAfee, Lundy). What led you to put your personal name on the company?
Justin: I tried a bunch of different names, and none of it felt right. I’m not that creative in terms of branding. After creating a new model for describing real estate for the visually impaired, there was no creativity left to name the company, haha.
Q3: It would appear that you have kept your real estate license active while building your company. Has that been a tough balancing act, and has it affected your other listed career of bowhunter?
Justin: I’m not actually practicing real estate, nor have I had time to go bowhunting. There has literally been no time.
I only got to go out with my bow once over the last year, and it was a shortened trip because of a real estate conference. I’m actually a little bitter about it.
RESO: Not a RESO conference?!
Justin: Not a RESO conference.