When David Malcolm, President of Cal West Apartments in San Diego, speaks on the prerequisite of upgrading older apartment buildings, he advocates for both landlords and tenants. The real estate expert understands the increase in costs and risk of structural issues that come with adding newer amenities. However, such factors should not take away from the necessity of taking action as apartment upgrades are a win-win for all involved.
In 2020, San Diego ranked number six on the list of the most popular relocation destinations for renters nationwide. The coronavirus pandemic played a significant role in the rise of individuals relocating and new realities in real estate market competition.
“COVID has changed the ever-evolving real estate landscape more than any other issue,” said Malcolm. “This means ‘Tenant Safety’ must be addressed by every property owner. Owners that want to continue as ‘slumlords’ will find their properties under-performing their neighbors. We at Cal West Apartments make sure our tenants see our employees keeping the property clean and sanitized wherever possible.”
Many landlords argue that apartment upgrades are not feasible due to high expenses or the property’s age. Laminate is cheaper than quartz or granite, and luxury vinyl tile is pricey in comparison to the choice of carpet. However, in such a competitive market, upgrades provide the opportunity to increase future revenue and property value when charging rent or selling property. When working with older properties on a budget, many landlords start by updating apartment fixtures that make each home more aesthetically pleasing to renters. Something as simple as adding a docking station for electronic devices or new thermostats can be the right modernizing touch.
Other simple upgrades include free Wi-Fi in common areas like business centers and pool areas or bringing to life use for spaces not currently serving a purpose. Wi-Fi in areas where tenants can gather helps establish a culture of community. Renovating large areas that are currently unused to serve as amenities can help contribute to tenants having a deeper appreciation for the property they rent. These types of spaces, indoor or outdoor, can be turned into fitness centers, work areas, communal grills, dog parks, a rental room for visitors, tanning bed space, or everyday social areas that offer free coffee.
Through the eyes of Cal West Apartments’ President, apartment upgrades are considered vital and, importantly, keep the comfort of tenants as a central focus. Targeting tenant comfort helps landlords and management companies avoid the temptation to cut corners or improperly execute upgrades.
“We are constantly upgrading our units to meet the demands of our tenants. In most cases, our tenants’ largest investment is their car. To protect their investment, we have installed carports on every parking space. We also installed Amazon lockboxes at every property, so our tenants’ orders are protected until they get home and pick up their delivery,” said Malcolm.
The modern mindset of prioritizing the well-being of tenants also involves more “eco-friendly” approaches. On January 1, 2020, the California solar mandate went into effect. It now requires the construction of new homes to source electricity from a solar photovoltaic (PV) system. According to the California solar mandate, the size of the solar panel system must be able to suffice for the building’s annual electricity usage. Incorporating battery storage into the building’s solar panel system allows landlords to level down a solar panel system by as much as 25%. Solar batteries like Tesla Powerwall and LG Chem RESU10H pair well for those looking to manage solar panel sizing.
In addition to the “eco-friendly” way many markets are turning to for environmental solutions, the past decade has brought roughly 300% more LEED-Certified Eco-Friendly Apartments in large-scale buildings. In 2008, the United States hosted 11,200 LEED-certified sustainable apartments. Fast forward to 2018, that number nearly quadrupled to 42,900.
Cal West Apartments started a journey towards eco-friendly and energy-saving housing twenty-four months ago by replacing over 4,000 single-pane windows with the highest-rated and best-quality double-paned windows. Such an upgrade supports environmental care and decreases the tenants’ energy bills.
“We have also changed thousands of sprinkler heads, installed water sensors, and replaced grass with drought-tolerant plantings,” stated Malcolm.
These specific upgrades are how Cal West Apartments shows its tenants that they are cared for in a multitude of ways. When asked how Cal West Apartments balances the costs of updating apartment buildings while still maintaining a competitive rent, David Malcolm gracefully replied:
“This question goes to the heart of your core values and company mission statement. We believe if we provide a clean and safe environment and address our tenants’ wants and desires, a good ‘bottom line will follow.’ Yes, controlling expenses is important, but we will never sacrifice our values of providing the best apartment community to our tenants to reduce expenses. If Cal West Apartments does its job properly, we believe our bottom line will be rewarded.”
About David Malcolm
David Malcolm of San Diego is an influential real estate professional, entrepreneur, and community leader with over four decades of work experience. Mr. Malcolm is an esteemed graduate of Harvard Business School’s Presidents Program, a licensed real estate agent and broker, and a Certified Commercial Investment Member (CCIM). He has run and advised multiple public and private companies and held several municipal and statewide public offices.