How pickleball is invading the real estate world

The paddle sport is shaping developments, industry events, and even how brokers meet clients

Illustration of One Sotheby’s Jay Granieri (Getty; Sotheby’s)
Illustration of One Sotheby’s Jay Granieri (Getty; Sotheby’s)

Pickleball is everywhere.

A cross between tennis and ping pong, the racket sport is played in quick games of 11 points. It is played on a smaller court with a shorter net, and people love it.

Between August 2021 and August 2022, 14 percent of Americans played pickleball at least once, amounting to 36.5 million picklers playing last year, according to the 2023 APP Pickleball Participation Report. The report found that 8.5 million of those players got pickling more than eight times in that time span. That’s up from an estimated 3.5 million players in 2019, before the sport shot to popularity during the pandemic.

Now it is ubiquitous, even in the professional real estate world.

Some brokers have gone so far as to brand themselves as pickleball realtors. Steve Hise, a broker with eXp Realty in Simi Valley, California, calls himself “The Pickleball Realtor.” It landed him an appearance on A&E’s Pickleball Storage Wars, where he used his experience as a former professional pickleball player to appraise a set of paddles.

“People either don’t know about it, or love it,” said Jay Granieri, a broker with One Sotheby’s International Realty in Fort Lauderdale.

He’s one of the people bitten by the pickleball bug –– on that particular Friday, he played for two hours before hopping on the phone with The Real Deal.

Granieri played tennis before discovering pickleball, which he prefers for a litany of reasons. The games, played on smaller courts in less time, are more social and less stressful on the body.

“To me, I look at it no different than a networking club,” he said. The social element of the sport is a big plus for brokers, who are always looking to expand their social network –– and client base.

“I’ve hosted 40 people at my house that are all from the pickleball courts for happy hour,” Granieri said, “They all know I work in real estate, they all know I work with Sotheby’s.”

So far, the pickleball network is already paying off for Granieri. One of his mixed doubles partners has friends moving into town, and she recommended his brokering services, he said.

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“That’s another $1 million deal coming my way,” he said.

Angel Nicolas, a broker with Compass, is also a big pickleball player. His cousin and fellow Compass broker, Jose Nicolas, is who got him into the game in the first place.

“[He] said, ‘Hey man, have you ever played pickleball?’” Angel Nicolas said. “It was love at first sight.”

Nicolas has been playing for a year now, playing regularly at a friend and client’s personal court.

He said pickleball comes up at work regularly now, with so many developers adding pickleball courts to the slate of amenities in new condo towers.

There’s now a Pickleball Realtor Network, dedicated to sharing rental and investment properties near major pickleball tournament venues. The network’s vision is to “advance the landscape of “pickleball communities” throughout the world,” its website reads.

A Pickleball Realtor Network group on Facebook, describes itself as dedicated to advising people on where to buy and rent depending on how good the pickleball scene is.

Back in December, the commercial real estate group Commercial Industrial Association of South Florida (CIASF) hosted its first of what is expected to be an annual pickleball tournament for members. George Pino of State Street Realty and CIASF board member called the event a “big success.”

“Basically anyone can play,” Pino said, “We had close to like 50 attendees, which was the max we could do at that facility.”

Pino said CIASF is trying to incorporate more wellness events into its slate of industry conferences, and the pickleball tournament received a lot of positive feedback.

“It went really well,” he said, “I think this is gonna be the big one for us every year.”

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