L.A. real estate agents scramble for athletes as Rams touch down

Manhattan Beach real estate agent Ed Kaminsky has been feverishly calling anyone he might know who has an in with a Rams player or two.

"I've been on the phone with the Rams' offices, sports agents, business managers, players, players that aren't on the team but that have relationships with players on the team," he said.

Like other agents trying to land new clients ever since the Rams return to Los Angeles became official, he hopes all the dialing will lead to return calls from the dozens of players, coaches and executives who will be looking for a place to live before the 2016 season kicks off.

Kaminsky is one of a handful of such agents in town who specialize in working with professional athletes, helping them find new digs as they move from team to team. All are competing to lock down part of the bonanza that comes with the relocation of an entire NFL organization.

"You've got your 53-man roster, plus coaches, assistant coaches. We'll have 100-plus people looking for homes," said Kofi Nartey, an agent at the Agency, a high-end Beverly Hill real estate firm. "That's a lot of people looking for places."

The firm will even be staffing up just to work on Rams relocation projects, helping players hire moving companies, have cars shipped across the country and research local schools, he said.

Some agents started reaching out to their contacts long before NFL owners approved the move from St. Louis this week.

"Within the last six to eight months we've really revved up our conversations," said Ikem Chukumerije, chief executive of Marina del Rey firm Westside Premier Estates. "It's all about relationships. If we don't have connections to a player but someone else does, they get the business."

That business, at least on the front end, probably won't be that lucrative. Real estate agents make the big money when clients buy or sell, but most agree that Rams players are more likely to rent than buy.

Many players are on short-term contracts and NFL careers are notoriously brief, averaging a little over three years, according to the players union. So if they have permanent homes in the St. Louis area or elsewhere, they may think twice about buying into the Los Angeles real estate market — especially given how expensive it is.

The median home price in the Los Angeles area is $506,800 — more than three times the median price of $160,000 in the St. Louis area, according to the most recent figures from the National Assn. of Realtors.

Chukumerije recalled working with an NBA player who was renting a 4,200-square-foot home in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and, upon moving to L.A., wanted to find something similar in Brentwood.

"They were leasing in Fort Lauderdale for $5,600 a month, but in Brentwood, you're talking over $12,000," he said. "We had to shift our search a little bit."

But even the lowest-paid NFL players make a league-minimum salary of $435,000, so they aren't exactly priced out of the market. Still, the agents probably will line up a lot of rental units but arrange relatively few sales.

An agent might get a commission of 2% to 3% of a lease they help arrange. Even on a $10,000 a month lease, that's an annual commission of just $2,400 — tiny compared with the hundreds of thousands in commission an agent might make on the sale of a multimillion-dollar home.

But agents say it's worth the effort. They hope to build up relationships with players now, which could lead to more — and more lucrative — business later on.

"You can do 10 leases that don't net much, but those lead to one sale that makes up for all of them," Nartey said.

Aside from the question of whether to rent or own, the other big decision players will have to make is where in Southern California they'd like to live.

Agents are speculating that Rams players will be interested in a few areas popular with pro athletes: Manhattan Beach has scenic beachfront property and is close to both Los Angeles International Airport and Inglewood, while Calabasas has huge homes in secure, gated communities.

Other areas could see interest from players, too.

"For younger guys, the 21- to 25-year-olds who are single, I see them gravitating toward downtown L.A. and maybe Hollywood," Chukumerije said.

Some agents suggested players might prefer to have their primary residence in a state with no income tax, such as Florida, though tax accountant Rob Babek said there would be little benefit in doing so.

Babek, a partner in the Century City office of accounting firm Marcum who does the books for a handful of athletes, said pro players pay state income taxes based on where they play their games — some to their team's home state and smaller shares to every state where they play over the course of a season.

"Even if you're living in another state, you still have to pay California taxes because half of your games are here," he said.

But more than almost any other factor, agents said players will decide where to live based on the location of the team's training facility. That's where they will go for daily practice, as opposed to the Inglewood location of the stadium, where they'll only go eight times a season and which won't be ready until 2019.

NFL coaches are strict about players showing up on time at practices, and being even a few minutes late can cost a player hundreds of dollars, depending on a team's schedule of fines. L.A.'s heavy traffic makes that a real possibility.

The location of the training facility has yet to be announced, though there's speculation the team is looking in Westlake Village and Long Beach. That could push players beyond the South Bay to look in the western San Fernando Valley or perhaps Orange County.

"The ballplayers are going to want to be somewhere convenient to the training facility. If the training facility is in whatever city, you might find players congregating there," said David Carter, executive director of the Sports Business Institute at USC's Marshall School of Business.

He noted that many L.A. Kings players live in the beach cities, close to the team's El Segundo training site.

"Hermosa and Manhattan [Beach] are company towns for the Kings," Carter said.


Twitter: @jrkoren

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 15, 2016, in the Business section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Agents dial up as Rams touch down - Real estate professionals specializing in athletes draft plans to help players find new digs in town" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe