On a mid-summer night in Queens, the world watched Wilmer Flores — a fixture in the Mets infield — attempt to dry the tears that streamed down his face in the middle of a live-game broadcast.
Flores, who would go on to contribute significantly to the team’s deep post-season run, had received word from a fan in the crowd that he was being traded away to another team in another city.
Thanks to social media, rumors of the potentially life-changing transaction had spread like wildfire.
Ultimately, the trade would not go through and Flores would not be forced to uproot himself and leave the place he called home for a new, unfamiliar locale.
But what if he had?
It happens in every major sport. Players are shuffled from franchise to franchise, often at a moment’s notice.
The result is typically an individual armed with substantial buying-power but hardly any idea of what type of residence he or she is looking for, or where to look. Perhaps more importantly — they have precious little time to make a decision.
“We understand athletes and entertainers and the lives that they lead because we led them ourselves,” Michael Santos told Brokers Weekly.
Santos entered the real estate world with an extensive background managing the events, operations and legal affairs of professional hockey organizations, including the NHL and the AHL.
He’s found a new use for that experience as a member of the recently formed Douglas Elliman Sports & Entertainment branch, a group that aims to help athletes simplify the process of searching for real estate.
“It was just a natural progression of something I was already involved in,” Santos continued.
He is joined on the team by Brooke Rosenstein and Bobby Bradley.
Rosenstein was raised in a real estate family and said joining Douglas Elliman’s sales team “seemed like a natural fit.”
Touting a long-term relationship with the NFL, Rosenstein brings a unique background in professional football and real estate law to Douglas Elliman’s new venture. Her NFL tenure began in 1997 with the New York Jets in salary cap and football operations.
She worked in various capacities in the NFL’s Management Council, NFL Europe League and Player Personnel Departments. During that time, she worked closely with all 32 NFL teams on matters pertaining to player contracts, salary cap management, the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, football operations and player movement.
Rosenstein then moved to Florida in 2008 to work with the Miami Dolphins football and salary cap departments for the 2008-2009 seasons.
She is a graduate of the Florida International University College of Law and continues to practice real estate law by representing buyers and sellers in real estate transactions.
Rosenstein praised Douglas Elliman as the ideal spot for her to combine her passion for real estate with her “professional football management experience, vast sports network and legal expertise.”
Bradley also comes to real estate with a long and storied history in professional sports.
He was drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the first round (eighth overall) of the 1999 MLB June Amateur Draft.
When a series of injuries ended his career in baseball, he reinvented himself in the world of golf. Since 2007, Bradley has competed in nine consecutive World Long Drive Championships; and in 2012 created Charity Golf International, an organization that raises money for charities across the United States and Canada.
Charity Golf International has since grown to generate over $9,000,000 in contributions while appearing at more than 1,900 events, which have included countless A-list celebrities and ultra-high net worth participants.
This new team of brokers is now faced with both the typical daunting tasks that residential sales professionals face on a daily basis mixed with a whole host of new obstacles and challenges that need to be met in a much more finite stretch of time.
“The broker plays the role of the guide and advocate,” said Nadia Bartolucci of the Altschuler-Bartolucci Team.
Also a part of the Douglas Elliman network, this team typically handles buyers that have an adequate amount of time to research potential neighborhoods and residences.
“It’s important to show each client what they need versus what they want as well as cherry-picked inventory slightly outside of their targeted parameters,” Bartolucci told Brokers Weekly.
“You must be prepared to educate and provide general information and also be prepared share points of interest that are off the beaten path, or that are not obvious at first glance.”
What the Douglas Elliman Sports & Entertainment team offers athletes and other celebrities is the ability to more closely relate to what their client needs when it’s time to make a home purchase. And they can execute the process that Bartolucci lays out, in a manner and time-frame that befits the extraordinary circumstances.
“For an athlete, they want to be around somebody that they can trust. The first thing out of my mouth is that I was a first round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and they feel better,” said Bradley.
“They want to get back to where they can put food on their plate and not worry about what’s in their bank account.”
“As far as helping people out, a lot of it is what we understand,” Darren Weiner, managing director of Douglas Elliman Sports & Entertainment said.
“We’re providing a lot of different services for a lot of different people. People on the outside look at a sports and entertainment division as what they’ve seen before: one or two local agents that might work with a couple local celebrities or athletes. We work with 18 year-olds that are coming into a lot of money and a lot of fame very quickly, multi-billionaires that own the corporations and the entities that employ those 18 year-olds and all those in-between.”
“Hey, you’re the expert, guide me with this,” Santos added, while summing up what he often hears from clients.
The team backed up that statement by recalling stories of when their job in real estate stretched far beyond closing a sale.
Weiner said that his clients are “clients for life” and he’s been known to help movers load trucks or return cable boxes when one of the athletes under his care had to move at a moment’s notice due to a transaction.
But dealing with clients with celebrity status is not all pressure under chaos. It’s also about helping individuals with considerable funds make responsible and lucrative investments.
“I’m finding already that the athlete I’m dealing with is looking at real estate more as an investment as opposed to young players who are looking for a place to live,” said Santos, who also places a premium on helping athletes to prepare for a career after sports.
Weiner agreed that he’s seen a fair mix of both levels of need thus far. Weiner also praised his newly-formed team, which is based in Florida but operates wherever their clients’ needs require them to reach.
“Mike, Brooke and Bobby are perfect examples of what truly sets Douglas Elliman Sports & Entertainment apart from anyone else in the marketplace, and that is in-depth industry experience,” Weiner said.
“In joining our highly successful and well-curated team of real estate professionals nationwide, they bring more than 54 years of behind-the-scenes experience and long-standing trusted relationships at the highest levels in the NHL, NFL, Major League Baseball, and professional golf. They also understand the unique needs and challenges of athletes, executives, owners, agents, and their families, having personally faced those themselves.”
“This is a new business for us, so of course there’s an adjustment,” said Santos.
“There’s a lot to learn. It’s completely foreign compared to what I’ve done before. But that’s why Douglas Elliman Sports & Entertainment is so attractive. It allows me to bridge what I’ve done in the sports world with the real estate world. Otherwise this would be a difficult adjustment and it would be a leap of faith.”