Sports' Unsung Hero: The Athlete Relocation Agent

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, 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."

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Sports' Unsung Hero: The Athlete Relocation Agent

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