David Malcolm on San Diego Real Estate’s Future: Trends and Strategies

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
Published on September 25, 2023

Real estate is a big topic right now, especially as people worry about the industry’s future. Today, David Malcolm, a San Diego real estate veteran with over five decades of experience, is sharing practical strategies for identifying promising neighborhoods, staying competitive, and incorporating sustainability practices into real estate projects. For anyone wanting to potentially thrive in what could become a shakey real estate market, these are important insights.

As for David, his background includes earning his real estate license in high school, graduating from Harvard Business School’s Presidents Program, and holding the CCIM (Certified Commercial Investment Member) designation. Currently serving as President of Cal West Apartments, Inc., he has handled sales, acquisitions, and loan negotiations of more than $4 billion and served on several boards.

Grit Daily: Can you share your strategies for identifying the most promising neighborhoods and market niches for real estate in San Diego?

David Malcolm: In every direction you look, North, East, South, and West, you will find great opportunities in San Diego. However, you need to decide which area best suits your market specialty. For example, if my specialty is industrial, I would want to become an expert in one of the following – North County, South County, East County, or Central San Diego. If you don’t specialize, those specializing in a single market area will get the deals while you chase your tail around the entire county. Bottom line: You can find promising neighborhoods everywhere you look, so choose one and become an expert. 

Grit Daily: Staying ahead is crucial in a competitive real estate landscape like San Diego’s. What technology or innovative approaches do you use to stay ahead and provide your clients with vital, up-to-date information?

David Malcolm: I pride myself in knowing everything I can in the market area(s) I serve. I want every client to know that if they seek information about a market segment or market area, I am the one to call to get their questions answered. You must use the technologies you have to stay in constant communication with your clients on any important issues that affect their property… good or bad. I want to supply information that is helpful, easy, and quick to read and deliver the information in their preferred digital format.   

Grit Daily: Sustainability and eco-consciousness are increasingly important in real estate. How do you incorporate sustainability practices into your projects, and do you see this as a growing trend in San Diego?

David Malcolm: It doesn’t matter if I like ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) or not. Either I can get on the ESG bus or be run over by the ESG bus. I have chosen to get on board and ride the bus. We have changed thousands of sprinkler heads at our properties to save water. Not only have we reduced our water bill by $500,000 a year, but our tenants also support our water conservation ethos.

We let our tenants know all our ESG actions. Those actions pay other big dividends. We have changed over 4,000 single-paned windows to dual-paned windows with the highest UV ratings. This saves our tenants on their heating and air-conditioning bills, as well as helping us reduce our carbon footprint. Our tenants know we are doing our part on the ESG front.

Grit Daily: With the rise of remote work and changing lifestyle preferences, have you observed shifts in the types of properties and locations that are in demand in San Diego? How are you responding to these trends?

David Malcolm: We are in a mega-trend (work from home), and we all need to pay attention. Housing tenants are looking for a “lifestyle” where they choose to live. They want a washer and dryer in their unit, they want a workout facility, they want a nice pool and recreation area. The office market has taken a real “body blow.” If owners don’t get creative, they will die. You can lose your entire investment if you are slow to react (San Francisco). I’m afraid every office property type other than A+ properties has more bad news in front of them. The worst isn’t over for them.  

Grit Daily: What motivates you to continue your work in the San Diego real estate market, and how do you stay inspired and passionate about your career?

David Malcolm: We must all stay inspired, not only for our own health but also for our financial success. Do you think people want to deal with depressed people? We all want to be around those who have a positive outlook. We all have a choice – we can see the bad in everything, or we can choose to look at the positive. It is up to you to celebrate what you have or mourn what you don’t have. Make the right decision!

Grit Daily: For aspiring real estate entrepreneurs looking to enter the San Diego market, what are the top three pieces of advice you would offer to help them succeed?

David Malcolm: First, you must decide where your focus will be — Commercial, Industrial, Residential (single-family), Multi-family, or land development.

Second, you should take the specialized classes offered for your chosen segment. For example, if it is multi-family, you might want to take the Certified Property Manager (CPM) classes that are offered. If commercial, you probably should take the CCIM classes. Each segment of the real estate field offers specialized courses to help you become an expert in your field.

Third, I would seek out the best brokerage firm in your area to work with. Finally, do NOT work from home! You need to learn from seasoned professionals, and the only way to do that to be successful is to surround yourself with successful brokers.

By Greg Grzesiak Greg Grzesiak has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team

Greg Grzesiak is an Entrepreneur-In-Residence and Columnist at Grit Daily. As CEO of Grzesiak Growth LLC, Greg dedicates his time to helping CEOs influencers and entrepreneurs make the appearances that will grow their following in their reach globally. Over the years he has built strong partnerships with high profile educators and influencers in Youtube and traditional finance space. Greg is a University of Florida graduate with years of experience in marketing and journalism.

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