Money Smart Athlete Blog

Athletes turned real estate professionals

Nov 24, 2021 | Special Themes

By Demetris Constantinou, Contributor

In earlier articles, we discussed professional athletes’ unique traits and characteristics, and how those can be used to develop athletes into successful businesspeople and entrepreneurs. While such characteristics align with what you would expect from a financially successful individual, it’s clear that not all athletes succeed in their business dealings; while others take off by exploiting their traits and how they align with the competitive and fast-paced nature of certain industries. In this article, we will explore how professional athletes’ characteristics align with the world of real estate and furthermore discuss those individuals who succeeded in that world after their professional careers.

When thinking about professional sports, the first thing that comes to mind is competition. No other individual can cope and thrive in competition as much as athletes, which is partly why athletes can evolve into outstanding real estate professionals. Real estate is a fast-paced and stressful field where competition can become unbearable at times, especially when dealing with bidding wars and endless transactions. Most individuals will reasonably begin to become overwhelmed by such stress, but athletes will not. On the contrary, professional athletes view competition as an opportunity for them to shine and unleash their full potential by being assertive with their business dealings. Professional athletes are used to constant competition and therefore, such an environment feels like their natural habitat.

Along with competition, comes an athlete’s determination to win and achieve results. After all, in an athlete’s mind, every dealing is either a win or a loss, allowing them to gamify their real estate deals and view them as individual matchups. Having this mentality allows you to keep “score” of things and modify your strategy until you reach an outcome where your wins vastly outnumber your losses.

This is essentially what you expect from professional athletes at all times. They won’t always win, but you know that when they lose, they will work on their strategy and return to get the job done. Such discipline and persistence, to get back and learn from your failures, is the final piece of the puzzle that can potentially make professional athletes great real estate professionals. In the world of real estate, it’s easy to lose motivation after being unable to realize the desired outcome and it’s even easier to give up or settle for something less. Professional athletes have been through that, and are used to situations where they need regroup from a failure and come back stronger. Such mentality makes the emotional aspect a lot more manageable.

In practice, there are multiple examples of individuals who leveraged the above traits to succeed in the world of real estate. Some were even able to gain their financial freedom through real estate, given that professional sports weren’t always as rewarding as they are nowadays. The prime example of an athlete who turned into a successful real estate professional is Roger Staubach, the NFL legend who played as a quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys for almost four decades ago. Staubach understood the need to achieve financial freedom and toward the end of his career, started his own real estate agency. The journey wasn’t easy but Staubach evolved as a champion in the field of commercial real estate and his company, The Staubach Company, evolved into a gigantic enterprise with over 50 offices and 1,100 employees by the early 2000s[1]. In 2008, he reportedly sold his company to JLL, a real estate conglomerate, for over $600 million, making his real estate earnings about 600 times greater than his earnings as a quarterback in the NFL.[2]

Another prominent example is Emmitt Smith, the NFL running back who in some sense, was Staubach’s protégé. Smith got into the world of commercial real estate during offseason, while he was still in the NFL, and was able to explore the world of real estate and understand the market and its processes early on. After retiring from the NFL, Smith evolved into a full-time real estate professional, earning his CCIM real estate certification and setting up his company, E Smith Legacy Holdings which he currently serves as Chairman. Mr. Smith remains active in the field of real estate and even after 14 years, he continues to succeed and grow in commercial real estate, following the path of Roger Staubach and paving the way for the younger generation of athletes to enter the field of real estate.

 Finally, a relatively more recent example of a professional athlete who turned into a successful real estate professional is the NBA All-star Hakeem Olajuwon. He began his real estate career around 1996 while he was still playing for the Houston Rockets, which allowed him to evolve into one of Houston’s real estate moguls. Simply put, Olajuwon viewed real estate as a long-term investment and begun investing early in fully developed property, with the goal of it appreciating further. In 2006, it was estimated that Olajuwon’s real estate earnings matched his earnings as a professional basketball player. More recently, it was estimated that his net worth derives from his real estate dealings.

While the above list is by no means exhaustive, it paints a good picture of how athletes can succeed in the field of real estate. There are numerous more athletes who were able to excel as real estate professionals, and a lot more who, as part of their overall portfolio, engaged in real estate dealings. It’s important to note that there have also been examples of athletes who did not succeed in real estate, but that doesn’t debunk the fact that certain traits held by athletes are highly desirable in the field of real estate. In essence, while not all athletes make successful real estate professionals, they have the characteristics needed to become successful, given the similarities of competing in professional sports and dealing in the real estate industry.

For more information on how athletes can leverage their characteristics to become successful real estate professionals, you can contact us at [email protected].

*An earlier version referred to Smith as a quarterback. This has now been changed.

[1] Ex-Athletes Make For Superstar Realtors – Realty Times

[2] NFL & Commercial Real Estate Legend Roger Staubach to Keynote ADISA’s 2019 Annual Conference & Trade Show (