First, can you let readers know about your business – what does SportStar Relocation do, and how did you get involved in this business?
Sportstar relocation is a company dedicated to the needs of athletes when they are traded, become free agents or are drafted. We help them find a new home, sell their existing home and all of the details related to a move including helping them coordinate with a mover, utilities turned on and off, coordinating with sound companies , furniture companies and as little as helping them get their refrigerator stocked with food.
I have worked in Real estate for twenty-five years in Manhattan Beach ,CA which has become a haven for athletes. Both current and retired players from all four major sports, plus soccer, tennis and golf. Even Tiger Woods held residence here at one point.
I had constantly helped them throughout the years as they transitioned in and out of Los Angeles. After a while I often heard concerns that the process elsewhere was very difficult either running into incompetent handlers or real estate agents. Often times they are referred to a friend or a friend’s wife or girlfriend who may have never sold a home before or not very often. When they try to do someone a favor sometimes it backfires into a very costly transaction. I knew I could set up a company that could provide premium and concierge type service no matter where they move to.
You deal with players across a wide variety of salary levels and needs – how do you deal with that diversity in income when it comes to meeting everyones’ needs? Do you have those that specialize in certain income levels/levels of want?
Our agents across the company have one common trait, they are committed to meeting their clients’ needs regardless of their price point. There is not one player that is treated differently than another as it relates to the quality of service provided.
The fact is there may be one player barely making the roster one year but could be a superstar next year, and you can have a superstar this year be out of the league the next year. We never look at their income level, all we try to do is analyze exactly what they need and help minimize the stress to get it. Even if it means finding a small one or two bedroom apartment, we are here to make their life easier.
The agents in our network are known as the best in the business and they understand confidentiality issues and they know they need to look out for the players best interest not their own. So if that means recommending they rent instead of buy because they are on a short contract then that is what they are advised to do.
How do you work with athletes to meet their needs – especially those that need quick turnarounds due to trades/free agency signings, etc.?
The most important thing we do is assess their needs and confirm what their team will be doing for them or not doing for them. With most teams they leave the relocation to the player. Some team personnel try to help or guide the players but because of the high salary level of players, most teams feel they have the resources to get settled.
The reality is they often have family and the move can be quite dramatic, taking kids out of school, losing solid friendships and relationships with sitters, doctors etc. We work to find out what their immediate needs are from securing their old home to getting them quickly settled into their new city even if it is just a temporary residence.
What have been some of the more interesting and humorous request you have received from players and teams over the years?
Well what I find interesting is sometimes players are choosing homes to live in that they don’t have time to come out and see. We have to survey the property send some pictures draft contracts and hope and pray that they like it when they show up.
On the humorous side , we once moved a Phantom Rolls Royce for a well-known music star. Somehow during the trip someone stepped on the “Mink floor Carpets” with muddy shoes. We had to find a fur cleaner to clean the client’s car. It certainly wasn’t humorous at the time but we can laugh a little bit about it now.
How involved do agents and teams get in the process, and how so?
The higher the profile the player the more agents and teams get involved in the process. I have been personally called by the GM of a team to make sure that a new high-profile player was well taken care of for his move into Los Angeles. He wanted the move to go perfect so his first impression of LA was all that the GM presented.
Many agents can hold a pretty heavy part of the decision for a player when they are deciding to spend money. There are many people trying to get to players and part of the agents job is to protect the player and respectfully so. We have to respect the team and the agents demands. The player holds the ultimate card in making decisions but many players do listen to the advice of those in their sphere.
What do you find are the biggest misperceptions and/or frustrations athletes have during the whole relocation process, and how do you work with them on these?
The biggest misperception is that players are excited to get a big contract and go to a new city. I would say nine out of ten times it is stressful , frustrating , expensive and time-consuming. It is stressful on their friends their families, their children. They have to learn a new play system learn to work with new players and at the same time find a home that keeps their significant others happy and their financial status safe. This is a lot to juggle no matter who you are.
Who tend to be the easiest athletes to work with, and what makes them so?
The easiest athletes to work with are those that you gain their trust. If they know you have taken great care of other players they put more trust into what you do. It certainly is easier if you also gain the trust of their advisors including their financial advisors, their agent, their business manager and /or their parents.
If I had to pick a sport I would say hockey players typically seem the most down to earth, easy-going athletes that I have worked with although I found players in all major sports who exemplify the same characteristics show tremendous respect to what we do for them and appreciate it as well.
Do you think athletes take livability and living costs into account when they make their choices on where to live? How important is that usually to an athlete, from your experience?
We all read about the big contract players and it is certainly easier for them to make decisions with little regard to financial cost, however most players take a very serious look at how their real estate purchase will affect them financially.
Unfortunately you read all too often that most players end up broke after retirement and had they been more studious about their finances they would not have ended up in that position. Knowing that , we as a company try to explain what we know about protecting their financial status and suggest they speak to their related advisors.
Many of the players moving around are the middle-of-the-road players and what may look like a lot of money on paper doesn’t always add up to what may appear as an endless budget. There are plenty of players that earn $1,000,000 a year and after you deduct taxes, agent fees, a car payment or two plus usually two house payments there is not as much left as you think.
Most have one home where they play and one home for the off-season many times where they grew up. Careers are more often shorter than you think averaging three to five years depending on the sport. It’s not hard to burn through that money and for the low-level players, they often feel compelled to keep up with “The Joneses” and unfortunately “The Joneses” make about 10 million a year.
Do you deal much with the Pittsburgh market – and if so, what stands out most to you about working to place athletes in the Pittsburgh area?
A few notable names we have helped from Pittsburgh are Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark, and James Harrison although not necessarily with their Pittsburgh needs.
There are a few other hockey players including Taylor Pyatt, Colby Armstrong and Erik Christensen we have helped transition to or from Pittsburgh. And from Pittsburgh’s downline we have helped the Son in law, Kevin Westgarth, of the great coach Bill Cowher who is a hockey player in Los Angeles get settled into his first home in LA who then married Coach Cowhers Daughter. He is commonly seen at the hockey games and is always a gentleman.
One thing we always hear from the players about Pittsburgh is that they love the layout of the City and they love the fan base, they are hardcore passionate fans and there is no better way to show up for work than to have people cheering for you.
Any last thoughts for readers?
Players love coming to winning teams and never like leaving them.
Pittsburgh has always been known as a city that strives for championships and achieves them. However as much as players want to win they want their home life to be as rewarding, finding that balance is tough, their jobs are demanding, their time is limited and being in the spot light is not easy. They may make a lot of money but most of them are just normal people like you or me just with better athletic abilities.