The S.B. Questionnaire: David Kim

Talking Islands, Real Estate, and Parenting with the President of SBAOR

David Kim, board president of the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors
Paul Wellman

Next Sunday, September 24, Santa Barbara Beautiful will honor the Santa Barbara Association of Realtors (SBAOR) with its Distinguished Service Award. While meeting with David Kim, the dynamic president of SBAOR’s board, he tells me the organization was taken aback by this unexpected acknowledgement.

“SBAOR does a lot for this city, but we’re not boastful about it,” he explains. “It validates that we’re doing the right thing for the community.”

David knows the stereotypes that people have about Realtors, reminding me of that whatever-it-takes salesmen portrayal in David Mamet’s Glengarry Glen Ross and its notorious quotation: “Always be closing.”

“But that’s not what we do,” David assures me. “The better the community, the better we all do. Us Realtors live here.”

Besides providing support to its members, access to multiple listing services, legal advice, educational seminars, and networking events, SBAOR works hard to maintain a voice statewide and nationally. “So we have to meet with our elected officials and attend conferences,” David explains. “This year has been crazy with hot topics.”

The SBAOR has been in an eight-year-long discussion with the city about the Zoning Information Reports (ZIRs). Also this year, the state passed legislation requiring local agencies to amend Accessory Dwelling Unit ordinances to comply with the state mandate. The mandate eliminates many obstacles for homeowners to obtain a permit for an ADU, or “granny unit,” on their property. The idea is that these ADUs will add to the housing stock and help alleviate the housing shortage in California.

David grew up in Saratoga, directly west of San Jose. His dad, an electrical engineer who builds computer processors and has always had his business in San Jose, remembers Silicon Valley as being fruit orchards. While visiting his older brother at UCSB, David fell in love with our city and decided to come to school here.

Unfortunately, he got into all the UC schools but S.B. “I was so determined to go to school in S.B., I ended up telling my dad I wanted to go to SBCC and then transfer,” David tells me. Growing up in a very strict Korean family, his dad wasn’t thrilled with that decision, for he perceived a stigma about going to City College.

David ended up getting his way, attending SBCC and eventually transferring to UCSB. After graduation, he thought about going to law school, but while working at Arigato, he was dissuaded against it by clients of his who were lawyers. Instead, a friend from school who’d been doing real estate told him he’d be good at it.

“A lot of real estate is about meeting people and being social,” David says. He got his license right before the financial crisis of 2008. “A lot of people thought I was being dumb,” he remembers. “I felt that if I gained the knowledge of how real estate worked, I could always use it and share that information.”

He got a job at Village Properties working for Renee Grubb and loved not being confined to a desk and the entrepreneurial aspect of the job. “You end up working 24/7,” David says. “In real estate, people are making the biggest investment in their lives. They want their trusted advisor to be available late at nights or during the weekend. I end up working seven days a week.”

David considers himself a perfectionist, and tells me he stresses about even the ad copy for the homes he sells, as they’re a reflection of the product that his clients are trying to sell.

David is happily married to his wife, Aniko, who is the director of operations at Sansum Clinic. They have a young daughter. “I love Santa Barbara, and I love what I do,” he tells me. “Some of the most beautiful real estate in the world is here in this city. It’s a treat to me to be invited into these homes.”

David answers the Proust Questionnaire.

What do you like most about your job?

I’ve always gravitated toward service-oriented jobs. I enjoy working and interacting with people. I studied business economics and law and society at UCSB, and romanced the thought of becoming a CPA or going to law school.

A close friend encouraged me to get into real estate, and the timing was just right — well, except that it was 2007, right before the housing crisis and Great Recession, but the right time in my life.

I love that I don’t sit behind a desk all day (most of the time). My job requires gaining intimate knowledge of some of the most beautiful properties in the world, and I get to share this with my clients. I still believe it’s a dream for many to own a home. What many people don’t understand is how intense and layered the process is, and it can be very daunting for someone who’s not experienced. I like that I can help navigate people through what is perhaps the biggest purchase of their lives.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

I have a few, but they mainly stem from the great achievement of being able to create a life here in Santa Barbara. I moved to S.B. in 1998 for school, and I remember riding a beach cruiser to Sands Beach with a surfboard under my arm and with my new best friends, and I said to myself, “I’m gonna live here forever.” I had no idea how I was going to do it, but I did. And now I have a beautiful family and own a great home here.

My other greatest achievement was moving my mom out here, which we just did earlier this year. It’s been on my list of goals for the last seven years, and it’s just amazing that we actually did it!

Where would you most like to live?

I’ve traveled and lived in some pretty exotic destinations. I lived in Barbados and Australia for several months, visited Indonesia, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Bahamas, Maldives, etc. And as beautiful as those places are, I always come back to S.B. and appreciate it even more. We have the best of everything: beaches, mountains, mild Mediterranean climate year ’round, close to L.A. if you want the metropolitan escape. This is paradise. I live exactly where I want to live.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Tavarua (heart-shaped island in Fiji) with my wife and daughter, no cell phone, no WiFi, and perfect waves.

What is your greatest fear?

I think letting people down is my greatest fear … both professionally and personally.

Who do you most admire?

Definitely my mom. My parents divorced when I was 10. I have four siblings (two of which were in college or going to college). But my mom raised three of us on her own. And we were not easy on her. Now, having a daughter of my own, I have a much more profound appreciation for what my mom endured, and yet I still can’t imagine raising three kids on my own. Her whole life she has stuck to her convictions and followed her gut, with steadfast faith that things would work out. And sure enough, they always do. I strive to have the same level of faith in myself and my decisions.

What is your greatest extravagance?

Roscoe’s chicken and waffles. Any time I can surf or train jiujitsu. Head rubs. Eight hours of continuous sleep.

What is your current state of mind?

Optimistic and driven. As busy as my year is, with the presidency, my business, family, etc., there is a lot more I want to accomplish before I turn 40.

What is the quality you most like in people?

Honesty. Kindness. People who help those in need.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

People who are always negative and complain (i.e., energy suckers). People who are rude to waitstaff. People who think they’re better than others.

What do you most value in friends?

A friend who will be there for you no matter what. I have lots of “friends,” but I really only have a couple really close friends who I know I could call and depend on anytime I need something.

What is your most marked characteristic?

Gregariousness (it’s the Sagittarius in me).

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

Jiminy Christmas (I try not to swear). Dude. Dealbreaker. Legit. No pasa nada (to my daughte r… all the time).

Which talent would you most like to have?

I wish I could speak several languages fluently. I love to travel and to meet people from different regions and learn about them and their cultures. I know the language barrier may be part of the experience, but it would be awesome to be able to communicate fluently and understand the subtle nuances that probably get missed. I also wish I could break-dance and speed-read.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I wish I had more patience, especially with loved ones. Also with other drivers. I contemplated getting the word “Patience” tattooed on my hand so that I’m always reminded of it every time my hands are on the steering wheel.

What is your most treasured possession?

Time with my family. My health. And my Steve McQueen Persols.

Who makes you laugh the most?

My daughter, Arden, hands down. I seriously think she’s practicing to be a comedian at two years old. Her favorite thing is to make us laugh.

What is your motto?

Work: Treat every day like it’s your first day

Life: The Golden Rule — treat others how you want to be treated

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Jon Snow. Because he knows nothing yet always manages to do the right thing. But if you’re asking about a real-life historical figure, it’s not someone I necessarily have a lot in common with, but I greatly admire Gandhi. His principles were based on service to others, selflessness, and striving for unity and equality through nonviolent means. I think the world needs another great leader like him.

On what occasion do you lie?

When I tell Arden there are no more chocolate chip cookies in the house. And when she asks me to buy them at the store, I tell her the store is either closed or sold out of cookies.


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