Big-Name Referrals

Capitalizing on the transience of professional athletes, former sports agent Darren Weiner has built a national referral network based in South Florida.

February 1, 2011

Darren Weiner, CIPS, GRI

Broker-owner, Antigen Realty and Antigen Realty Network
Miami Beach, Fla.;
A brief history: Weiner obtained his real estate license in 2006 and spent one year as a sales agent. In 2007 he opened Antigen Realty, which specializes in making referrals for professional athletes and entertainers.
Referrals in 2010: 152
Referrals in 2009: 114
Number of offices: 1
Staff: 1 salesperson, 1 administrative person

Always an Agent

My first career was as a sports agent. For 18 years I represented all-stars, Olympic athletes, and hall of famers in just about every sport. Over that time, I built up relationships with real estate agents and brokers all around the country whenever my clients needed to buy, sell, or rent. I made lots of referrals for free before I realized I could become part of the deal myself.

Creating a Network

After I entered real estate, I would get calls from someone who needed to sell a house in Memphis and then I’d help them buy a home in Florida. ­People would hear about me, and I started getting calls from places like Phoenix or Portland. I do a few conventional sales each year, but referrals are the vast majority of my business. I now have 350 experienced brokers and agents in my network.

Immune from Downturns

People thought I was crazy getting into the real estate business when I did. But what happens with the general market doesn’t really affect my business. These athletes have to move, and I’ve had a lot of repeat business—I’ve had four deals with one ­client alone in the past three years and 18 transactions with one sports team.

Leveraging the Web

I posted on Twitter in 2008 to get the word out that Orlando Magic star Rashard Lewis was putting his house on the market for $3 million. My Web site got 8 million hits over the next three or four days. That’s when I realized how the social networking aspect of this business was blowing up. In another case, I heard from home owners last summer who were selling their home and thought it would be ideal for someone with the Dallas Stars hockey team because it is close to their training facility. I put her in touch with an experienced associate there.

Discretion Is King

This is a relationship-based business. We never advertise. It works because of trust, confidentiality, and discretion that is particularly essential with these clients. We sometimes stop recommending agents in the network when their own egos get in the way.

A Friendlier Business

Compared with the sports agency business, I’ve found a refreshing amount of cooperation in real estate. There are only 1,800 NFL players and 450 NBA players. There is no sharing in that business. People in real estate are used to sharing the com­mission pie.

Name With Meaning

My company name, Antigen Realty, generates a lot of conversation. It refers to the bone marrow transplant I had in 2000 to fight leukemia. Antigens are substances in the body that help determine whether a donor and a recipient are the right match. The closer the match, the better. In a sense, it’s what I do now—match people with properties. If people ask me about the name, I tell them my story. I don’t want to hide what I went through. I do a lot of charity work and I’ve spoken on Capitol Hill about the need to increase funding in the fight against ­cancer.

Everything’s Negotiable

There is no fixed referral percentage. Every situation is different. But I can say that it’s more lucrative for me to introduce the buyer, rather than the seller, to the right sales agent if the buyer ends up pur­chasing from the agent who has the listing. My model was to build a business that could provide long-term residual income. Almost every one of my customers and clients has more than one home—whether owned or rented. More brokers could be capitalizing on making re­ferrals rather than waiting for referrals to come in to them. 

Wendy Cole

Wendy Cole is the former managing editor of REALTOR® Magazine.