March 17, 2023
A pickleball court is the hottest sports amenity in high-end real estate.
By Julie Talerico
Forget home theaters and gyms, wine cellars and outdoor kitchens. The hottest home amenity in luxury residential developments is a pickleball court.
Pickleball enthusiast Mauricio Umansky, CEO and Founder of The Agency, a $57 billion global real estate empire, says pickleball is shaping the real estate industry as luxury developers race to keep up with the demand. “Pickleball is definitely a sought-after amenity in communities and new developments, and the demand is only growing as the sport becomes more widely known.”
Mauricio, whose business represents some of the world’s top developers and resort brands, has personally achieved nearly $4 billion in real estate sales and holds the distinction of selling the most homes in the country priced above $20 million. He has represented some of the world’s most noteworthy properties, including the Playboy Mansion (the first house in L.A. to sell above the $100 million mark), Walt Disney estate, and residences owned by Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Prince, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lady Gaga.
Pickleball Magazine caught up with Mauricio and his daughter Alexia as they played pickleball on their home court, which sits under a canopy of oak trees at their sprawling, lush estate in Encino, California. The secluded grounds surrounding the 10,000-square-foot home, previously owned by legendary Motown singer Smokey Robinson, are a peaceful outdoor oasis with a pool, putting green, vegetable garden, and multiple outdoor areas for entertaining.
Star of his own reality Netflix series “Buying Beverly Hills,” Mauricio is also a fan favorite on “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” (his wife is actress and RHOBH longtime cast member Kyle Richards). The couple, who have been married for 27 years, have four daughters—Farrah Brittany Aldjufrie, 34; Alexia Simone Umansky, 26; Sophia Kylie Umansky, 23; and Portia Umansky, 15. Farrah and Alexia, who work with their dad as real estate agents, also star on the series about The Agency and the inner workings of high-end real estate in posh California neighborhoods.
The number of people who play pickleball nationwide is more than 8 million and growing, and Mauricio doesn’t see the sport’s influence slowing down: “Pickleball courts are going to continue to be a primary amenity in new developments, which will ultimately lead to more players and general knowledge of the sport in our industry.”
Pickleball, he adds, can also be a sales tool for agents. “It’s another way for realtors to connect with clients, prospective clients, and other brokers—on the court.” In fact, many of his agents and staff at The Agency love pickleball. “If we’re traveling for a launch, we sometimes seek out an area with nearby courts so we can play as a group. It would be my dream to host an Agency pickleball tournament one day—maybe at our next global forum event!”
A skilled pickleball player, Mauricio’s toughest competition on the court are his partners at The Agency. “We host a weekly game that includes James Harris, Ben Belack, Billy Rose, and Peter Mac.”
Mauricio began playing pickleball a few years ago with his family at their home in California’s Coachella Valley. “I am very competitive and love being outdoors, so the game was a natural fit,” he explains. “Eventually, we decided to take it to the next level and build our own court at our home in Los Angeles. It’s the perfect amenity when hosting family and friends, and we can play year-round thanks to the warm climate.”
The sport is also a part of Mauricio’s regular health regimen. “I play pickleball at least once a week,” he says. “I wake up every morning, and the first thing I do is exercise to set the tone for my day both physically and mentally. I love that I can go outside, hit some balls on the court with my wife and kids, and not only spend time together but also produce some endorphins while we’re at it.”
Any fan of “Buying Beverly Hills” soon discovers not only the intrigue and drama of Mauricio’s real estate family and world, but his expertise in navigating multimillion-dollar deals.
More than a decade ago, he tackled the challenge of selling Michael Jackson’s 18,000-square-foot, French chateau-style Carolwood estate in L.A. The asking price: $23.9 million. With the deal came a sweet surprise. “Michael sang a cappella in his home for me, and it was incredible,” Mauricio recalls. “That was very special and something I will never forget.”
Now the business mogul is about to close a new deal in another industry—publishing! In April, his book “The Dealmaker” will be released. Each chapter is based on entrepreneurial wisdom and offers insightful takeaways, including “How to Play Hard and Work Harder,” “How to Find Your Professional and Personal Passions,” “How to Be an Innovator Not an Imitator,” “The Art of the Sell,” “The Benefits of Remaining Positive,” and “How to Achieve Balance.”
“I wanted to give my side of the story while imparting some of my wisdom to those who want to know more about how I got to where I am today,” says Mauricio. “It definitely was not an overnight success story.” •
Julie Talerico is editorial director of Pickleball Magazine.