Jay Granieri discovered his love for pickleball as the sport realized a massive resurgence in American popularity recently. He also has found that pickleball is the perfect match for his real estate business.
The social aspects of the fastest-growing sport in the U.S.—pickleball is a combo of tennis and ping-pong—make it a great pastime in which you can connect with more people in the community, says Granieri, SRS, a broker with One Sotheby’s International Realty in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. “What other sport brings together all different ages? Pickleball is bridging age gaps. You have millennials and empty nesters on the court who, then, all go to a happy hour together. There’s a big social connection outside of just the sport, too.”
Since the pandemic, indoor and outdoor pickleball courts have been popping up in vacant malls and retail stores, breathing new life into defunct commercial spaces. An estimated 36.5 million Americans played pickleball last year, according to the Sports & Fitness Industry Association. Once considered a game for retirees, pickleball is now attracting young adults: The largest age bracket for pickleball players is 18 to 34, which comprises nearly 30% of the market, according to SFIA data.
Granieri once hosted 40 people whom he met on the pickleball courts for a happy hour at his house. He’s noticed trends as he’s developed his circle: Daytime players are wealthy retirees who talk about investing in vacation properties while evening players are young professionals who talk about owning their first home.
The sport is a magnet for real estate prospects, says Granieri, who has won business through his pickleball connections. For example, he recently met an investor on the courts and is now working with him on a land acquisition deal for a residential development. Another fellow pickleball player referred Granieri to a friend who was relocating from out of state. The friend was a semi-pro pickleball player who liked the idea of working with an agent involved in the sport.
Granieri also plays with other real estate pros and created a Facebook group with about 500 agents affiliated with Sotheby’s who share pickleball tips and news about upcoming events. Earlier this year, the Sotheby’s International Realty conference in Las Vegas featured a “Pickleball Connect Event,” where agents could learn the game while networking with their peers.
Pickleball also can lead to community outreach opportunities. Granieri is participating in Pickleball Palooza, a philanthropic event this fall aimed at raising funds for Florida Girls Giving Back, an organization to help underprivileged families and youth in the area.
“It’s the camaraderie around the sport,” Granieri says about pickleball. “You get to know so many people. It leads organically to them wanting to work with you. I like to call it ‘sweat-working,’ not networking. You’re dinking the ball and, sometimes, you’re making deals, too.”