Katherine Gale joined the Long Island brokerage Daniel Gale Sotheby’s last month — making her the fourth generation in her family to work at the firm, which her great-grandfather founded in 1922. Her grandfather Kent still serves as the company’s chairman and her father, Stan, started there before launching the development firm Gale International in 1999. Prior to joining the firm, Katherine, 26, who holds an MBA, spent a year as an agent in Nest Seekers’ Midtown Manhattan office. And before that, she worked with her father on a massive, $35 billion mixed-use development project in Songdo, South Korea and oversaw the launch of a boutique hotel in Delray Beach, Fla. She spoke recently with The Real Deal about why she decided to go into real estate, what it’s been like to join the family business, and whether she’d encourage another generation of Gales to join the firm. (The interview is edited for brevity and clarity).
So you’ve finally joined the family business. What took so long?
I wanted time to expand upon the theoretical experiences that I gained during conversations around the dinner table and get the practical experience, which I did with the hospitality industry, real estate development and the New York City real estate market. My family never really forced me to get into the business and didn’t necessarily expect me to either. I had to get out into the working world and experience it my own way, if you will.
If there was never an expectation that you would enter the industry, what drew you to it?
Well, I didn’t really stand a chance. With my genes I think I was predisposed to be a real estate agent at some point.
Why did your career as a broker start elsewhere?
Daniel Gale Sotheby’s has made a great name for itself and just because my name is Gale, it doesn’t necessarily mean I was just going to fit right in there. I wanted to actually bring something to the table.
What was your time at Nest Seekers like?
I was part of a team at Nest Seekers specializing in luxury sales and my experience there was phenomenal. Working with a team there was a terrific way to experience real estate and Nest Seekers supported me with mentorship from the top down. Within a few months our team had one of the largest inventories of any team there, I was the director of operations for the Regis Roumila Team, and I got involved in every aspect of the transactions.
Your father is an international real estate developer, and I know you worked with him on a project in Korea. Did you ever consider becoming a developer?
Well, there’s still time for me to become a developer, but at this stage in my career I kind of want to focus on the residential side. The residential side is where my predecessors started; my great grandfather Daniel, my grandfather Kent and then my dad, Stan, started with residential. I enjoy the one-on-one with the buyers and sellers and I just love people interaction. I mean buying a home is the single most important purchase, and the biggest investment, most people are going to make. Knowing that I’ve helped them find a home that they love and will enjoy makes me happy at the end of the day.
But talk a little about more what you did in Korea.
The project played more of a role in my development than the other way around. It was a singular learning experience, of immense proportion obviously – it’s the size of downtown Boston. It’s been going on for 10 years now, and you can almost compare it to watching a child grow up.
Growing up, was there ever a time where you just felt, “I gotta do something – anything – else”?
Well, I kept my options open, I didn’t want to narrow my opportunities too soon. The real estate industry has no cap on how successful you can be, and that makes it so much more exciting than other occupations. And each agent really makes their own success.
Now that you’re at Daniel Gale you’re going to be focused on Long Island. You talked about the excitement of the New York City market, but what’s it like out on the island?
I have to say it’s been just as exciting as New York. I had my first listing [49 La Rue Drive in Huntington] within a few weeks and I put it on the market last Monday [July 30]. Within a few days we got offers that totally exceeded our expectations both in the amount of time it took for them to come in and the price point they were at.
So how long until we see a fifth generation at Daniel Gale? Obviously, that’s some way off, but would you encourage your own (or your brother’s) offspring to join the firm?
It’s an industry where it’s 24 hours, seven days a week. So you have to want to do that. I happen to love it, it makes it even more fun and it’s not work for me. I don’t know if I’d ever steer the next generation into it. Just like I did, I think they would have more respect for the family and the firm for not expecting them to go into it, not forcing it. Making a decision like that, it just makes it all much more worthwhile when it’s your own. But I’m sure at some point there will be another generation to follow.
What kind of reaction, and interactions have you had with your colleagues considering your name?
It did not take very long for people to say, “Oh, Gale … Spelled like Gale? Same one?” You know, that got around. But I have had nothing but positive experiences with everybody and getting to know the agents. [O]bviously people are going to look and judge because of the last name, but that is a challenge I’m always willing to accept.