NOVA Real Producers: Ryan Zook Family First

By Zachary Cohen 

Ryan Zook remembers his dad as a great father, coach, and mentor. In addition to being a high school principal, Ryan’s dad coached his son’s baseball teams, played golf with Ryan, and enjoyed outdoor family adventures. 

“I wanted to be the same kind of dad to my kids,” Ryan says. 

This intention shaped Ryan’s choices after graduating from UVA. He began his real estate career as a twenty-something solo agent, and as his family grew, he quickly adapted his already growing business to make time for family. Today, Ryan runs an award-winning real estate team, but that’s not the whole story. He’s a single dad of three boys, a coach, a mentor, and a trusted companion. 

“I set up my business to be the best dad I can possibly be.” 

Getting His Start 

When Ryan began his real estate career in early 2003, he was just 22 years old. In an industry where the average age of a REALTOR® was around 50, Ryan was an outlier. Rather than seeing this as a disadvantage, he leveraged his creativity, using his willingness to adopt technology and new trends to his advantage. 

“For example. I learned how to use an off-the-Best-Buy-shelf 3D floor plan software and create floor plans for all my listings. This was 17 years ago, during an era of Mapquest directions and carbon copy contracts. So, I used this technology to my advantage.” 

In addition to using technology and state-of-the-art marketing, Ryan leveraged his sphere of influence (he’s a Northern Virginia native) and his work ethic to expand his business. 

Building a Brand 

Ryan’s business continued to grow, and so did his family. He welcomed three sons to the world over the next five years — Brayden, Landon, and Reid. Along the way, he had a realization. 

“I knew that if I still wanted to sell 75 or 100 houses, I needed help,” Ryan explains. “As a solo agent, you’re at a birthday party and you have to take a call from someone ready to buy a house, or you’re on vacation, and you spend half the vacation on the phone, not with the family. That’s the lifestyle of a REALTOR®. For me, something had to give. I am naturally drawn to people, so the next step was exciting — building an awesome team of REALTORS®.” 

In 2012, Ryan launched his team, DWELLUS. With DWELLUS, he devotes his time to attracting great people and developing them to be at the top of their game. He continues implementing innovative systems and processes that allow him to be a successful REALTOR® while giving him time to be a standout dad. 

“My oldest was signed up for t-ball, and my youngest was just a baby. I told myself that if I wanted to be a present dad on nights and weekends, I had to learn how to leverage myself so other people could provide high-level customer service when I was not available. 

“I’m fortunate and blessed to have learned this when the kids were young. It’s hard in this industry to earn a living and be a great parent. The only way you can do it is to surround yourself with people that will help you.” 

The Core of DWELLUS 

DWELLUS is a compound of the words dwell + us. 

In the team’s first year (2012), they closed just over $25 million. In 2021, they closed nearly $120 million. Their tagline is simple and apropos: “Trusted. Innovative. Real Estate.” All the team’s marketing is done in-house, from photography to video editing to transaction coordination. Ryan stays on top of trends and technology. 

“We have Matterport cameras, drones; we do 2D and 3D floor plans. We build websites for every single client, all in-house. People who know the DWELLUS brand consider it synonymous with edgy, innovative marketing, and we try to stay at the leading edge… It’s all about creating value for our agents, buyers, and sellers.” 

“At the core of DWELLUS are the extraordinary people I work with everyday. They are why I love what I do.” 

Giving Back 

DWELLUS GIVES is the charitable arm of Ryan’s philanthropy; they have raised $250,000 for the DC Dream Center, helping at-risk youth in Southeast DC. They’ve also raised another $250,000 for the Wholehearted Foundation, Children’s National, JDRF (his youngest has type 1 diabetes), and other organizations. Captain Dwellus is their charitable superhero who continues to get involved with more great causes. 

“It’s important for my boys to learn to give back to the community, a lesson I learned from my dad.” 

Family First 

Ryan’s ‘big why’ undoubtedly rests with his kids. Brayden, Landon, and Reid are now 13, 11, and 9. 

All three of Ryan’s boys play travel baseball. So, when he’s not selling real estate, you’ll most likely find him at the baseball diamond, cheering on one of the six baseball teams his kids play for or coaching basketball. When they’re not involved in sports, the Zooks enjoy a good adventure. 

“In the last three of four years, we’ve been to Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium; we went glamping and sailing in Bar Harbor; we’ve hiked the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and ziplined in the Great Smoky Mountains; we swam with seals in San Diego. This year, we are hoping to go to Utah.” 

Final Reflections 

As Ryan reflects on his journey, he recalls his father, who passed away unexpectedly five years ago. Ryan’s dad was the inspiration for his own vision of fatherhood, and he continues to honor him through his daily actions. 

One unique way Ryan has honored his dad is by carrying out one of their collective dreams. They had the vision to build a big lake house and turn it into a vacation rental. After his dad passed away, Ryan and his mom carried out that legacy, helping his family build Lake Anna Oasis, now one of Virginia’s top vacation rentals. 

“After he passed, I realized how short my time is with the people I love. His legacy means I want to live life fully and spend time with the people who matter most to me.” 

Highest Hope: “To keep growing. Our team is undergoing a big transition this year, and we intend to keep being the best at what we do for our clients.” 

Favorite Quote: If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.’ – Martin Luther King, Jr.