Long before NFL owners announced the Rams would return to Los Angeles for the 2016 season, Ikem Chukumerije, a luxury real estate broker in Marina del Rey, had been making calls to agents of Rams’ players.
“We knew this was something that could be a reality and we started working on it six months ago,” said Chukumerije, whose clientele is made up of names such as Clippers point guard Chris Paul, former Lakers point guard Chris Duhon, Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner and rapper Lil Wayne.
Referrals are the name of the game. On one team, a single player sent 15 players Chukumerije’s way.
His real estate company, Westside Premier Estates, is among several across the country that specialize in relocating professional athletes, making arrangements for temporary and long-term housing, packing and moving their possessions, shipping vehicles, finding top schools, nannies and everything else athletes and their families need when lives are uprooted.
But while the elite real estate agents are accustomed to working with individual athletes being drafted or traded, sometimes on 24 or 48 hours’ notice — Chukumerije’s fastest complete move was done in a week from Oakland to Los Angeles — an entire 53-member team with dozens of coaches, management and staff on the move is highly unusual.
Chris Dingman, president of the Dingman Group, a Newport Beach company that relocates 1,000 athletes and coaches each year, said that between the Rams’ move from St. Louis and team expansions, the real estate niche is experiencing an “unprecedented time.”
“It is very, very rare that a professional sports team leaves their market,” Dingman said.
Ed Kaminsky, a Manhattan Beach Realtor who has been moving athletes since the late 1990s, said this will be his first time dealing with a team move.
Though the Rams reportedly will pay for relocation costs, he said teams aren’t always very involved in the moving process. A lot of times, players leave the arrangements to their agents or wives.
“When they’re thrown into a new city, they’re looking for an endless list of resources,” said Kaminsky, whose company is called SportStar Relocation.
The requests include everything from setting up utilities and getting new drivers’ licenses to finding charter jets and private chefs. Realtors negotiate athletes out of their leases back home and try to build in clauses letting them leave their new ones abruptly.
The logistics of each move depend on each player’s circumstances, both personally and professionally.
“There’s going to be a certain amount of renters and a certain amount are going to be buyers,” Dingman said. “They’re going to need moving companies, short-term housing companies — so many different things.”
And all of it has to be taken care of on a deadline.
Kaminsky said some Rams players have been asked to be in Los Angeles by April and others may arrive until August.
“A lot of them do off-season training and some of them do it in L.A.,” he noted. “One of the issues also is they don’t know where they’re going to actually practice yet.”
Additionally, some players won’t be ready to move until they know with certainty that they will be on the team.
Chukumerije estimates it will take less than a month to completely relocate a Rams player and his family and provide them up with what is referred to in the industry as settling-in services.
The sooner they plan ahead, the better.
“We can have people organized and a relocation move plan in place within less than a week, but that’s the easy part,” Dingman said. “The hard part is they essentially have to wait for their things to arrive.”
It takes about five to seven days to move vehicles from the Midwest to California, he said.
Chukumerije said, sometimes, just packing household items can take more than a week.
SETTLING IN THE SOUTH BAY
When it comes to where in L.A. the Rams players will make their home, real estate agents see them following the lead of professional athletes who have flocked to coastal South Bay cities such as Manhattan Beach, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach and Marina del Rey because of their proximity to training facilities in El Segundo and Playa Vista.
Younger, single players could gravitate toward downtown Los Angeles or Hollywood and players wanting to live in gated communities might be drawn to Calabasas or the Palos Verdes Peninsula.
Kaminsky believes half of the Rams players moving to L.A. will settle in the South Bay, bringing a new wave of professional athletes to the region. The swell would become even greater if the San Diego Chargers follow the Rams move to L.A.
“I see the Westside and coastal areas,” Chukumerije said. “I could see some players wanting to move into possibly even the Valley. Even though it may be farther, it’s a little bit cheaper and maybe more comparable to what they may be paying in St. Louis.”
Players who have not lived in Los Angeles might feel “sticker shock” at the cost of renting or buying a home.
Darren Weiner, the head of a relatively new sports and entertainment division at Douglas Elliman — the fourth largest real estate brokerage firm in the United States — believes some players might choose not to live in L.A. full-time.
Before starting a real estate company in Miami specializing in moving athletes 10 years ago, Weiner was a sports and entertainment agent, giving him a rare perspective from both sides of the transaction.
“If I have to pick up and move, am I going to buy and claim full-time residency in California, where taxes are much higher?” he said “Or is my primary residence going to remain in St. Louis?”
He believes school districts will be even more important than proximity to the to-be-determined training facility location.
“From what I’ve seen, schools seem to be most determining factor, more so than being close to the practice facility or the stadium,” Weiner said.
But L.A. traffic could make the training facility more important, Dingman said, because football players are more likely to be on the road when the rest of commuters are.
“In baseball, you’re kind of driving in off-traffic times,” he said. “Football is very practice and study oriented. They have to be somewhere more or less every day and follow a strict itinerary.”
Weiner said of the 125 to 200 people who will relocate with the Rams, management and office workers face the biggest time crunch to get settled.
“Players might feel a little more comfortable making moves because it’s the nature of what they’re doing,” said Christine Haney, Douglas Elliman’s executive vice president of global relocation and referral services. “A lot of the people who work for these organizations actually grew up or lived in those cities for extended periods of time.”
For those staffers, the decision to move can be as emotional as it is financial.
The greatest task for the professionals who will be getting the team settled in L.A., Chukumerije said, is streamlining the complicated process.
“They just want it done right, on time and under budget,” he said. “They like the fact that they make literally one call and we’re in constant communication throughout the whole process.”
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