This article by Stefanos Chen was originally published by The Wall Street Journal. WSJ Real Estate Screen Shot 2014-09-26 at 4.39.45 PM Thomas Sanford, a 44-year-old former cop, made a career change in 2008 and relocated a couple of years later. Now he lives on a 5-acre estate in Beverly Hills with a 10,000-square-foot French Colonial mansion and private staff. Mr. Sanford isn’t a CEO or celebrity—he’s an estate manager, which means he oversees the property for the homeowners. “I kind of stumbled into it,” he said from the operations-command center/gatehouse on the property. The homeowners—he declined to name them because of a confidentiality agreement—are a film director and fashion designer who first hired Mr. Sanford as their head of security. By 2010, Mr. Sanford gave up his two-bedroom apartment in Los Feliz, Calif., and moved onto the property to manage the couple’s home full time. Top estate managers range from ex-military to former fashion models, all catering to homeowners with a lot of home to handle. Despite the perks and glamour, the odd hours and sometimes odder tasks mean the peevish need not apply. There are about 2,000 estate managers in the U.S., according to Bryan Peele, president of the Estate Managers Coalition in Los Angeles, a trade group with about 500 members. Estate managers, whose duties can include everything from patrolling the tennis court to stretching the owner’s Manolo Blahnik heels, can make upward of $200,000 a year, not including other benefits, Mr. Peele said. “You’re running a company, and the company just happens to be a family of five,” said Mr. Peele, who manages several Los Angeles properties for his client. Every arrangement is different. Mr. Sanford, who lives in the staff quarters on his clients’ Beverly Hills estate, draws the line at certain tasks. “I don’t fold people’s laundry or underwear, but I am an accommodator,” he said. A 12-hour shift involves regular security sweeps, meetings with the housekeepers and landscaper, and a maintenance inspection of all nine refrigerators, eight air conditioners and 12 bathrooms. Mr. Sanford will enter the owners’ main house about 10 to 20 times a day, he said—occasionally to watch over the couple’s 14-year-old son. “I’m just like the big brother,” he said. Not all estate managers live on the premises. In the Las Vegas area, Terri and Dominic Rioux, both 44, manage four estates, including the onetime home of high-end fashion retailer Fred Segal currently owned by a family limited-liability company (LLC).

Career Change: Consider Estate Management

Estate managers, who can make upward of $200,000 a year, handle the minutiae of running a sprawling home

The 16,000-square-foot modernist home of Fraydun Manocherian in Ridgefield, Conn., currently listed for $22 million.
At the roughly 14,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style home on Lake Las Vegas, their chores run the gamut: Check the salinity level of the indoor saltwater pool; polish about 15 bronze statues, including a giraffe and a mermaid; tidy up the meditation room with the large Buddha statue; regularly flush all seven toilets and run the steam showers; take the boat out on the lake to warm up the engine. For about five years, Ms. Rioux nurtured two prized bonsai trees “that needed to be treated like children,” she recalled.

The couple specializes in clients’ secondary homes, which require regular upkeep while the owner is away. The only thing she won’t do for clients: take care of tropical fish. “When they die and the owner cries for a week, I’m not going to be responsible,” she said.

Bey Dilemani, pictured, a former hotel general manager and restaurateur, works full-time as an estate manager. He is shown in Mr. Manocherian's Ridgefield, Conn., home, where he currently resides.
The living and dining area of the home.
The home was designed by Rafael Viñoly, the architect behind the super-tall New York skyscraper 432 Park Avenue. The living-room area is shown.
The former Segal home is up for lease, but the couple will stay on as caretakers. While estate managers come from different backgrounds, one thing is fairly constant. “There’s not a lot of young talent coming up through the ranks,” said Matthew Haack, president of the Domestic Estate Management Association (DEMA), with about 1,400 estate managers. The largest share of that group, 56%, is between 45 and 55 years old, he said, partially because owners are looking for more seasoned professionals. “A lot of high-net-worth individuals are looking for people who are mature, settled,” said former Marine Roger Cushwa, 52, an estate manager and tri-state chapter co-president of DEMA in Connecticut. The job also requires absolute discretion. “My children don’t know who I work for—my parents don’t know who I work for,” he said.
The entry foyer is shown.
This is the 60-foot-long indoor pool, which leads to an outdoor pool area.
The second bedroom of the home.
Reliability is crucial. “I never missed a single day on the job,” said Rene Calderón, a 65-year-old post office retiree who now oversees seven homes in Nevada. He made the transition after a stint in the home-security business. It’s also about moxie. James Durazio, 60, had worked as a fashion model and caterer, but his only qualification as an estate manager, he said, was that he comes from a big Italian family. After getting his start as a chef for show-business entertainer Joan Kayne Nicholas, he was referred to new clients, who expanded his duties.
At the roughly 14,000-square-foot Mediterranean-style home on Lake Las Vegas, chores include polishing sculptures and tidying up the meditation room.
Here is the front entryway.

You’re running a company, and the company just happens to be a family of five.

—Bryan Peele, president of the Estate Managers Coalition

Currently he runs the estate for members of a Saudi royal family with a staff of 75 in Los Angeles. Not every job goes smoothly. “Some people burn out,” said Mr. Peele of the Estate Managers Coalition. One EMC member told him he had to break in the owner’s Manolo Blahnik heels by wearing them around the house; another had to find a voodoo priest to bless the owner’s new house; others have been asked to carry “non-FDA approved drugs” for clients, he said. This is why trust is so important, says Bey Dilemani, a former hotel general manager and restaurateur who has worked with his current employer, real-estate developer Fraydun Manocherian, on and off since the 1980s. Mr. Dilemani lives in Mr. Manocherian’s roughly 16,000-square-foot modernist home in Ridgefield, Conn., which, along with an 11-acre horse property, is on the market for $22 million. Built in 1994 and designed by Rafael Viñoly, the architect behind the New York skyscraper 432 Park Avenue, the home includes a 60-foot-long indoor pool that leads to a second outdoor pool, a built-in security and sound system, and custom-built finishes from around the globe. To accommodate Mr. Dilemani, who has lived there for a year and a half, part of the lower level of the home was converted into an estate manager’s suite. Mr. Manocherian, doesn’t live at the residence, so Mr. Dilemani is involved in every aspect of maintaining and marketing the home as if it were his own. In one case, he scoured the country for a manufacturer of a specialty tile imported from Italy. After an arduous search, he found a supplier. “I kissed her hand and I said thank you,” he recalls. “I was so happy and excited I was jumping up and down.” Ultimately, when the property sells, Mr. Dilemani will be out of a home, but not out of a job. “I’m not worried about that,” he said about an impending sale. “I trust him tremendously.”