They say the best real estate agents are the ones who know the community they serve inside and out. For over 28 years, Tom Kwak of Ramsey-Shilling Associates has done exactly that by immersing himself in all that Toluca Lake has to offer and experiencing firsthand what makes this community so special.
“I love the rich history and nostalgia behind every house, street and shop, and within all the people of the community,” he says. “Toluca Lake has everything a big town has, all within walking distance in the Village. When I want delicious food, there are so many options, such as fusion, sushi, burgers, Italian and Argentinian. I can drop my dog off at the groomer while I get a massage down the street. If I need to change my watch battery, I can head to the jewelry store a block from my office. And when my laptop has an issue, I can walk across the street to get it fixed.”
While Kwak has spent nearly three decades in real estate, it wasn’t his first passion. “After earning my Ph.D. in engineering, I wasn’t satisfied with dedicating my life to being an engineer, so I went into land development and being a builder,” he says. “In 1991, my best friend was an affiliate and partner of Ramsey-Shilling Associates and asked me if I had an interest in selling real estate. At the time, I figured it was a natural progression to sell the properties I built. I realized I really enjoyed helping others find their dream homes.”
Just as Toluca Lake has been a second home for Kwak, Ramsey-Shilling Associates has been a second family. As one of the company’s business partners and owners, he takes great pride in it. “Ramsey-Shilling is a small, but large company,” he says. “All of our agents are like family, which is important to me because my family is in Korea.”
The close-knit boutique real estate brokerage is also a supportive member of the community, serving as a proud donor to the annual Pancake Breakfast put on by the Toluca Lake Chamber of Commerce, sponsoring charity events for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and playing a key role in the annual Toluca Lake Holiday Open House festivities.
For Kwak, who volunteers weekly at a homeless shelter, giving back provides crucial perspective. “When we uplift others, we uplift an entire community,” he says. “Regardless if we are wealthy or less fortunate, we are all humans. At the homeless shelter, I usually serve the soup. I particularly make an effort to memorize each of the regular visitors’ names and smile at them. Each week is a special moment when someone smiles back and knows that they are valued in life.”
Kwak strives to give similar special treatment to his clients. “As real estate agents, our priority is not so much the area we sell in, but the people we take care of,” he says. “I have driven to Ventura every weekend for a couple months to show properties to a family. I had to make sure they bought the best house to make their home. I take pride and care in each of my listings and clients.”
While COVID-19 has temporarily limited how much Kwak mingles in the community, he looks forward to regularly interacting with residents again. “Before the pandemic, I would walk through the neighborhoods in Toluca Lake and enjoy the quiet mornings in a safe community,” he says. “The neighbors have always been friendly, whether in passing, while walking their dog or watering their lawn.”