Sports' Unsung Hero: The Athlete Relocation Agent

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With the Super Bowl signaling the end of pro football season, get ready for the spotlight to shift from the football field to the fate of the players themselves. Athletes' lives get the added scrutiny of a merciless public who demand to know: Who will be traded? To what team? Where will they be moving next?

Enter the athlete relocation agent.

After contracts have been signed and the euphoria wears off, a professional athlete might have to confront the unsettling reality of having to sell a home, pack up belongings and relocate the entire family to an unfamiliar city in another state. Thankfully, to help alleviate the burden of such a transient and high-pressure lifestyle, the athlete relocation agent is on hand to ensure that the transition is as seamless and stress-free as possible for the athlete and his or her family.

The athlete relocation agent must be a flawless coordinator and multitasker, handling such large responsibilities as selling homes; finding new ones; and locating new schools for the athletes' children. But there are also smaller tasks to arrange, such as shipping household items; the new home's electronics setup; and the gathering of information on local grocery stores, doctors and restaurants,

"We need to have the systems in place to manage a lot of moving parts," explains Chris Dingman, CEO of the Dingman Group, an athlete relocation agency based in Newport Beach, Calif.

"We have to manage Realtors, household goods shippers, vehicle transportation providers, home furnishers. Then we are continually tracking what the Realtors are doing with our client -- we have a pro-sports Realtor in every city and state that has at least one major professional sport -- and for multiple athletes at a time. We're talking hundreds."

The Dingman Group has been representing athletes across the entire pro-sports spectrum since 2006, including National Football League players Steve Smith (Carolina Panthers), Jason Campbell (Oakland Raiders) and Marcedes Lewis (Jacksonville Jaguars); Major League Baseball's Bobby Abreu (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim); and National Hockey League star Chris Pronger (Philadelphia Flyers). According to Dingman, one of the main reasons for his company's success is its emphasis on the building of long-term relationships and trust with clients, and not viewing them as one-time customers.

This is particularly important as professional players are often forced to relocate numerous times (the average pro athlete changes teams four to five times during a career), meaning that client loyalty is essential to the success and longevity of an athlete relocation agency. Thanks to the highly personal nature of the business, however -- requiring continual interaction with the client's family members and managers -- successful agents can be rewarded with genuine, long-lasting friendships with their clients, when the process is well handled.

This has proven to be the case for Ed Kaminsky, CEO of Manhattan Beach, Calif.-based agency SportStar Relocation, whose clients include basketball's Jim Cleamons and the Atlanta Falcons' Tony Gonzalez. Kaminsky, who has been in the business for 25 years, says that simply looking to "satisfy customers" just won't cut it these days. It's about exceeding client's expectations, making them "turn to you and say 'Wow, that was an amazing job and we really appreciate that,' " which eventually translates into long-term clients and recommendations.

Getting to that point, however, is not so easy. Selling homes quickly in this economy is a huge challenge, although Kaminsky points out that it is less difficult if the client is realistic about the home's value. Buying homes, however, is a separate hurdle. The process by which professional athletes purchase real estate is infinitely more complicated than that of the regular homebuyer due to their unconventional needs, demands and circumstances.

"Athletes prefer to live somewhere between the practice facility, the airport, and where they play," Kaminsky tells AOL Real Estate. "Many players also like to live near each other, as it's more convenient for wives and girlfriends to be close together when they're on the road. Large garages can be a common request, entertainment areas are a must, and spacious backyards come at a premium for those moments when they get a chance to relax or entertain at home."

Kaminsky also adds that because of the likelihood that the athlete will be traded, buying a marketable home is important. The decision whether to buy or rent is usually influenced by the length of a contract, and the city where the property is located. Kaminsky explains that athletes are usually "very comfortable" with buying homes outright in cities where real estate is more affordable. Dingman, however, takes a different approach, saying that they never encourage the athlete ("whether they're making $400,000 or $4 million") to buy straightaway in a new city or state.

"I've had to sell dozens of homes that athletes bought right when they moved to the city because it ended up being too far away from the stadium, or it was too loud or too 'trafficky,' " Dingman says. "They really have to get immersed in their new city before they make that long-term commitment."

His sentiments are echoed by Ikem 'Ike' Chukumerije, president of Beverly Hills-based SportsRelocation.com, who says that more athletes are leaning toward renting and short-term housing.

"Renting condos has been huge in recent years, especially high-end condos right downtown near the nightlife and the sports complexes," says Chukumerije, whose clients include Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers, Stevie Brown of the Indianapolis Colts and Josh McRoberts of the Los Angeles Lakers.

"Eventually, talk may turn to buying a home, but almost always there is a short-term fix prior to buying that permanent residence. Again, remember that a pro athlete's stay in any one city is tentative at best, no matter the contract they may have signed. Trades happen all the time and these athletes are aware of that and a bit cautious before buying in a new city -- as they should be."

However, despite these unconventional circumstances and the high pressure of the job, the role of the athlete relocation agent is one that is highly rewarding due to the service-oriented core of the business.

"When our customers contact us they are in a certain amount of turmoil, especially those who have just been traded to another team," he explains. "They usually have three days to move and that means stress and serious concerns. I love listening to their needs and then telling them their concerns just ended -- you can almost visibly see the stress leave their bodies."

Similarly, Kaminsky adds that it's not just about representing A-list athletes or being involved in the sale and purchasing of multimillion-dollar properties.

"For me, it's about seeing that satisfied look on our client's faces when we handled everything better than expected."

Also see:
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Joe Montana Drops Home Price by $14 Million


11 PHOTOS
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Sports' Unsung Hero: The Athlete Relocation Agent

Number of teams: 4
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 0

When the Nationals -- formerly the Montreal Expos -- came to the city in 2005, the capital finally had a team for all four major sports. The Nationals have yet to have a winning record. Two of the city's other three teams, the NFL's Redskins and the NBA's Wizards, have only had moderate success, making their leagues' playoffs a combined six times over the past decade. However, the city's fourth team, the NHL's Washington Capitals, has been a bright spot for the D.C. area. The Caps started the 2000s poorly, but a series of bad years led to high draft picks and star talent. The most notable of these was first-round pick Alex Ovechkin, whose exciting play has led the team to four straight playoff runs and re-energized the city as a hockey town.

Number of teams: 4
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 0

Since the Twin Cities gained the NHL's Minnesota Wild in 2000, they have had a team representing each of the four major sports. The Wild have been average since they entered the league, have made the playoffs three times, and are in the hunt for a spot this year. In basketball, the Minnesota Timberwolves had a good streak between the 1990s and the early 2000s, but have been a weak team the last few years. The Minnesota Vikings have been above-average -- at least second in their NFL division in 10 of the last fourteen years. But this season was tough for the Vikings, who are still trying to find a consistent quarterback to compliment star running back Adrian Peterson. MLB's Minnesota Twins have had above .500 seasons all but twice in the past 10 years, and made the playoffs six times during that period.

Number of teams: 4
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 0

The Mile-High City doesn't have a single major championship to show for the past decade, but not for a lack of exciting or competitive teams. Since the NHL's Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup back in 2001, the team's record has been spotty. The other three clubs, however, have fared better. The NBA's Denver Nuggets, which have made the playoffs eight years straight, seem to be on the verge of winning a championship every year. The Rockies haven't been stellar in the past decade, but did make baseball's playoffs twice in the past five years, including a World Series loss to Boston. Finally, the Broncos made the NFL playoffs three years in a row in the early part of the decade, and then fell out of contention as they searched for a solid quarterback. They seem to have found one in Tim Tebow, one of the most exciting young signal-callers in recent memory. Tebow, with the entire sports media looking over his shoulder, led the team into the playoffs season.

Number of teams: 4
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 3

While Detroit's economic troubles have made the city a hard place to live for many, being a sports fan there has definitely been easier. All of the city's teams had exciting moments in the past decade. The Detroit Lions were the late bloomer to this field. The Lions were a horrible NFL team through most of the last decade, including an 0-16 season in 2008. But with quarterback Matt Stafford, star receiver Calvin Johnson, and a solid defense coming into its own, they have turned things around. This year, the Lions made the playoffs for the first time in 13 years, and finished second in the NFC North to the Green Bay Packers. In baseball, the Tigers generally have been a winning team since 2005. They have made the ALCS twice and the World Series once during that time. The Pistons have been on the outs the last couple of years, but made the playoffs eight years in a row before that, including winning the championship over the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004. First and foremost, however, Detroit is Hockeytown. The Red Wings, which have won more Stanley Cups than any American team, made the finals three times in the last decade and won twice.

Number of teams: 4
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 1

If it weren't for the fact that the Mavericks won the NBA championship last year, Dallas would be without a single major title since the Stars won the Stanley Cup in 1999. Like Denver, perpetual failure to seal the deal does not mean The Big D doesn't have its share of quality and exciting teams. The Stars haven't reached the NHL playoffs in three years, but did so in the previous five seasons. The Cowboys have been below-par the past few years, but have made the NFL playoffs four times since the 2003 season. The Mavericks have been one of the best teams in basketball over the past 10 years, with the second-best overall record in that time. The team also has made the playoffs 11 straight years going back to the 2000-2001 season. And in baseball, the Rangers have made it to the World Series two years in a row.

Number of teams: 4
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 1

Philadelphia is yet another city with no shortage of excellent teams that just haven't been particularly successful in the playoffs. Over the past 10 years, each of the city's four major sports clubs ranked among the top 15 teams in their respective leagues. While the least successful team -- the NBA's 76ers -- has room for improvement, it has made the playoffs six times in the last 10 seasons. The Phillies have been in the playoffs the last five years running, and in that space made back-to-back appearances in the World Series, winning the first one. The Eagles have made the playoffs nine times in the past 12 seasons, including losing the 2004 Super Bowl to the New England Patriots. The NHL's Flyers have missed just two playoffs since 1995, and have been to two cup finals.

Number of teams: 6
Sports available: 3
Championships in last 10 years: 5

Los Angeles loses substantial points in our ranking for being the second most populous city in the U.S. and still failing to host a team in the most popular sport in the country. Los Angeles has tried to bring a NFL team to the city many times since the Raiders went back to Oakland in 1995, but without success. The city makes it up to its die-hard sports fans by hosting six sports teams, most of them among the elite. The lesser of the two basketball teams, the Clippers, has been mostly awful the past few decades, but the Lakers have won five NBA championships in the past 13 seasons. In hockey, the Anaheim Ducks won the Stanley Cup in 2007 and the L.A. Kings have improved in the past few seasons. Finally, in baseball, the Dodgers and Angels have made the playoffs 10 times between them in the past 10 seasons, including a World Series win by the Angels in 2002.

Number of teams: 5
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 2

Chicago may not have the kind of record the Boston teams do, but in terms of sports' popularity in the city, Chicago ranks high. Sporting events have been revitalized in the city in the past decade, with attendance increasing substantially for every team but baseball's White Sox. And stadium attendance in the city is among the best in each sport. The NHL's Blackhawks, for example, sold well above stadium capacity last year, as did the NBA's Bulls. Each of its teams has been to the playoffs in the past decade, with the White Sox winning the World Series in 2005 and the Blackhawks winning the Stanley Cup in 2009.

Number of teams: 4
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 6

No city has won more championships than Boston in the last decade. Each of the four major teams in the region has won the top title for its league in the past seven years. Over the past 10 years, each of the teams has at least the sixth-best record for their sport. The Red Sox have the second-best record in baseball over that time, and the Patriots have the best NFL record over that time. When it comes to championships, the Bruins won the Stanley Cup last year, the NBA's Celtics won in 2008, and the Red Sox won the World Series twice earlier in the decade. The Patriots, meanwhile have been to the Super Bowl a ridiculous four times out of the past 10, winning three. They are set to make their fifth appearance in the past eleven years when they play New York's Giants in Indianapolis this weekend.

Number of teams: 9
Sports available: 4
Championships in last 10 years: 3

For a city hosting nine separate teams within its metropolitan region, it's amazing that only three of them have won championships in the past 10 years. The New Jersey Devils (Newark is part of the New York metropolitan area) won the Stanley Cup in 2003. The Giants won the Super Bowl in 2008, and the Yankees won the World Series in 2009. However, with such selection, there is a team in New York for any kind of sports fan. For those perpetually rooting for the underdog, the Islanders in hockey, the Mets in baseball, and the Nets in basketball have struggled for years. For those who love winning teams, the Yankees have missed the playoffs just once since the 1994 baseball strike. And at least one of the city's two football teams has made the playoffs since 2003. The city's disappointing basketball team, the Knicks, seem to be finally improving again. The Rangers have been solid for most of the decade, and are currently dominating the Eastern Conference in the NHL. Of course, the Giants are currently on their way to a Super Bowl rematch with the New England Patriots.

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