Celebrity broker discusses “sport”-y role on new HGTV show: VIDEO

Broker discusses new HGTV show

In the already crammed arena of real estate-themed reality television shows – “Selling New York,” “Million Dollar Listing” and “House Hunters” have all proved hits for their respective networks – a new show is in town. “Scoring the Deal,” set to premiere January 8 at 11 p.m. on HGTV, follows Michigan-based real estate broker Jason Abrams, owner of Keller Williams subsidiary the Abrams Team, whose job it is to find homes for some of the nation’s best-known professional athletes.

During the season, Abrams is seen making deals for pros such as former NFL running back Clinton Portis, Indianapolis Colts star Vontae Davis and San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis.

The show’s first season will be only six episodes, Abrams told The Real Deal, but the broker and his business partner, Kristen Cook, are hopeful that the program will be picked up for additional seasons. The Abrams Group, based in Commerce, Michigan, has additional offices in Arizona and Maryland.

The Real Deal recently spoke with Abrams, a former Keller Williams office manager, about how the show got started, his time on the road and the quirks of dealing with professional athletes and entertainers.

How does the show work?
We are in a different city each week and we list, sell and lease homes to professional athletes nationwide. That’s really been our business for the last decade. We’re the biggest in the space.

How did the idea for the show first come up?
A couple of years ago, I was selling a home in Los Angeles and I met a producer who said [my job would make for great television]. It sunk in and we finally decided to do it. We made a “sizzle reel” [a short promotional video] and had offers from a ton of networks right off the bat. We selected HGTV because they really understood our vision.

What percentage of your business is made up of athletes?
100 percent of my business is athletes and entertainers. If I had to put a percentage on it, I’d say 70/30 athletes. In 2013 we’re expanding overseas to start working with soccer players.

How did you first begin working with athletes?
I [started with] one professional athlete who was relocating to Detroit, and I got the biggest commission check I had ever gotten. It blew me away. I decided I was going to fly unannounced to say thank you to the athlete’s agent and financial advisor. I flew to North Carolina to meet the financial advisor and to Los Angeles to meet the agent. It must have really worked because two weeks later one of them called with a referral and two weeks after that they called and asked if I could handle athletes in other states. I said, “We can handle them anywhere, no problem.” When I hung up, I realized what I had just committed to. It really launched our business.

How come we haven’t heard of you until now?
We spent the first part of our career being really under the radar. Our guys crave privacy. They live such public lives that they want to know that their houses are really private.

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How did you get these athletes to agree to be filmed?
I was amazed [at how receptive they were to the idea]. Everybody that I asked said, “if it would help you, I’d love to.” The truth is that I’ve been helping these guys for their entire careers. They see me when they come right out of college, they see me when they get traded, they see me at the end of their career. We’re the last people you see when you leave town and the first people you see when you get into a new town. It’s scary to show up in a new place.

What are the biggest quirks of dealing with athletes?
We tell everybody that they should rent their first year in the league, regardless of how much they’re getting paid. They’re young and they need to learn a little bit about themselves. Speed is a big thing; everybody needs to be dealt with very quickly. We pick them up in limousines, chauffeur them around and make sure they don’t have any problems.

What are the features that athletes look for when shopping for homes?
A lot of it has to do with their stature in terms of size. Imagine if you didn’t fit into half of the showers that were made or any of the bathtubs out there or if all your clothes needed to have long hang because they’re so much bigger than everyone else’s. Imagine if all the vanities in all homes were a foot too short for you so anytime you wanted to pick something up from the counter you had to bend over. If I’m not looking for properties that specifically have [special features], I’m looking for properties we can retrofit to make work for them. When we’re working with basketball players, specifically centers, we have to find apartments with extended door heights. The builders know if I call I’m looking for really tall doors.

Any other criteria?
We need to know where the stadium is, where the practice facility is and where the closest airport is, because they’re going to be spending a lot of time flying in and out of town. If we’re throwing in a fourth, it’s where the best mall with the Louis Vuitton and the Gucci stores.

What deals on the show stick out in your mind?
In the opening episode, you’re going to see Jordan Farmar, the point guard for the Brooklyn Nets. The NBA lockout had just ended and we got a phone call from Tel Aviv, Israel where Jordan had been playing overseas, saying, “Hey, I’m coming back and I need to move tomorrow.” When he landed, he had two quick practices the next day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. We spent that day trying to find places to show him and at 7:30 at night took him to find a place. All of that came together in 24 hours. It was quite the evening.

Did you eventually find a place for him?
You’ll have to tune in and see.

How did you navigate the players’ schedules in terms of shooting?
We did it in real time. On preview days, we viewed 10 to 15 properties and on showing days we toured three to five. If the camera crew couldn’t keep up, we wished them the best and said we’d catch up with them later.

Have you done any interesting deals in New York recently?
There’s a great episode with Cato June who won a Superbowl with the Indianapolis Colts. He had invested in a Broadway play – “The Stick Fly”, produced by Alicia Keyes – and decided to have a spot in Manhattan so he could entertain the cast. We did a whirlwind tour of Manhattan with some absolutely amazing properties.

How do you think the show will compare to other hit real estate shows like “Selling New York” and “Million Dollar Listing”?
I think that if people like watching regular people buy and sell real estate, they’re going to love watching celebrities and some of their athletic heroes buy and sell real estate.