Caroline Gim knows what it means to ‘come from a real estate family.’ As a California-based residential real estate broker and property manager, Gim has worked for her family-owned company, Expert Real Estate & Investment, since 2003. Growing up, Gim said she was not ‘like other kids’ and did not receive an allowance.
Well, in a traditional sense.
“My mother would leave a dollar on the counter on Sunday mornings. I would ride my bike to the store near our house and buy the Sunday LA Times for 75 cents,” she recalls. “With the remaining 25 cents, I would buy 5 Jolly Ranchers and head home. Sucking on my Jolly Ranchers I would circle anything in the Real Estate section that said, ‘For Sale by Owner’. I’d leave that section out for my mother and get to keep the comics and five Jolly Ranchers. For an hour’s work, not bad!”
In addition to this weekly search through the For Sale by Owner’s in the LA Times, Gim said she also served as her mother’s ‘GPS’ when previewing properties.
“I was her GPS. I would sit in the front seat with a Thomas Bros. Guide in my lap,” she mentions. “I would look up the addresses of each stop, follow along with my finger on the map, and tell her when her next turn was coming. I became good at navigating Southern California, to the point where I could tell you which freeways to take to get to some cities.”
After attending the University of Southern California – with studies that included film production and business – Gim spent a few years in the entertainment industry before joining the family business. Since this fateful return, Gim has been working with corporate clients such as banks, servicers, asset managers, and trustees.
A self-professed ‘documentation fanatic,’ Gim said the mundane aspects of the job – aspects that may dissuade others from entering this niche space – are enjoyable to her.
“Regular reporting requirements and detailed file documentation are right up my alley,” she explains. “Our clients often need us for legal declarations, affidavits, and court appearances so that works out perfectly. We are well-versed and experienced in property research, curing code violations, rehab project management, and eviction laws. These services may seem tedious and burdensome, but to me they are second nature. I love getting to the root of issues and learning how things work.
When thinking about the lessons she learned from her mother, Gim said words cannot ‘express it all’.
“One really big thing I learned from my mother through observation is to have a good work ethic,” she reflects. “She used to work two jobs, as a Realtor and as a loan officer, for several years when I was in elementary school. She would wake up early to pack our lunches, leave for her office, come home to pick us up for after school sports practice, go back to the office, pick us up after practice, drop us off at home, and sometimes join us for dinner before going back to the office…fortunately, our grandmother lived with us, and she took care of us while our parents worked.”
Gim says she feels ‘very fortunate’ to have had her mother as a role model. And for young women who are thinking about a career in real estate and do not have a built-in role model, she said finding a mentor is imperative to success.
“Mentors inspire you and can help answer big picture questions. Most of my mentors may not even realize they are my mentors. I meet successful people at conferences and stay in touch. I ask them about their backgrounds and how they got to where they are. I love to hear their stories and soak up any advice they have to offer. Another great way to meet mentors is to get involved in a trade organization. Volunteer your time and show your passion and dedication to the industry. You will learn a ton and meet industry leaders,” she notes.
One lesson Gim said she learned early in her career is to continuously see the light at the end of the tunnel, especially when thinking about ‘problem properties’.
“These properties are where you get the best ‘war stories,’” she reminisces. “We had VPS steel grid window coverings at a property that got shot up in a drive-by shooting. A few months later, we had VPS installed at a different property. One of the boards had a giant bullet hole in it, it was from the other house that we sold. I laughed and pointed it out to my brother who was with me. I always remind myself that no matter how awful it is, in a few months that property will be sold and in my rearview mirror.”
On top of working as a broker and property manager, Gim says her hobbies include hiking, snowboarding, running, golfing, and travel. Although this may seem like an eclectic mix, the conceit of this cluster, in her eyes, is simple.
“I tend to pick hobbies that are difficult and set audacious goals, just to prove to myself that nothing is impossible and to see my skill progression,” she remarks. “I am like the proverbial tortoise in the story of the tortoise and the hare. Slow and steady is how I win my races. Given enough time, I feel I can accomplish pretty much anything I set my mind to.”
When asked about setting these ambitious goals, Gim said seeing the world – and living in other places – allows her to expand her worldview and, ultimately, become a better real estate broker and property manager.
“Travel is a passion for me,” she explains. “I have lived abroad – in Madrid and Seoul – and have spent time traveling all over the world. I love museums, architecture, historical places, and natural wonders. I have been fortunate enough scuba dive at the Great Barrier Reef and the Galapagos Islands and see where the Berlin Wall once stood. It puts things in perspective, to see how small my problems are in this big, big world. And as most travelers know, the more of the world I see the more I want to see.”
Expert Real Estate & Investment is based in Downey, California, and specializes in real estate marketing, management, and financing.