REALTOR® Profile Wayne Stephens
Like many real estate professionals, Wayne Stephens accumulated experience across several different sectors before getting into the industry. After serving four years in the Air Force, he spent 20 years in the insurance industry before starting his own business, Armadillo Consignment. It took one greedy landlord to get him thinking about new career opportunities.
The Washington real estate community was fortunate enough to the be the target of that soul-searching exercise. “My landlord at the consignment shop wanted to increase my rent to $7,200 a month (from a previous $3,000) and that first check was going to be due at Christmas,” says Stephens, principal managing broker at Coldwell Banker Bain’s Redmond office. “I just said, ‘No can do’ and left the consignment business.”
His Next Move
Through his successful consignment venture, Stephens had met numerous real estate brokers and stagers in the area. “It always looked like they were having fun with what they were doing and also making good livings,” he says. Initially, he wanted to get his real estate license and then use his consignment store to open doors to potential listings.
“I had a couple of contracts with builders who, after they sold their properties, would give me the contents to consign,” says Stephens, who switched his focus fully to real estate after shutting down his consignment store in 2017. After approaching several brokerages about a position, he selected Coldwell Banker Bain, which offered a Home From Service Program for military veterans.
Launched in 2016, the program offers education and training, one-on-one mentoring and financial support to qualified, non-active military veterans, as well as surviving military spouses and spouses of disabled veterans. The program helps veterans leverage their highly sought after, marketable skills acquired in the military. Through it, Stephens had his first year of REALTOR® dues and multiple listing service (MLS) fees covered, and also got free business cards and mentoring support.
“In addition to just really feeling good about the interview and about the brokerage, John Deely, who was principal managing broker at the time, was very welcoming,” says Stephens. “Those are the main reasons I decided to join Coldwell Banker Bain.”
Be Honest and Work Hard
Stephens received his managing broker’s license in February 2021 and was recently inducted into Seattle King County REALTORS®, where he was appointed to the Governmental Affairs Committee. When asked how he sets himself apart in the industry, Stephens credits his own personal philosophy with helping stand out among all of the “smart, intelligent, creative and hardworking” real estate brokers in his area.
“Along with my military experience, and coming from a military family, I also worked with some great people during my 20+ years in insurance,” says Stephens. “From those experiences, I learned that being honest, working hard, being precise and providing good customer service are all vital to success.” Those values transferred well in the real estate industry, where both sellers and buyers entrust their brokers to support them through one of the largest financial transactions they’ll ever handle in their lifetimes.
In this current role, Stephens is exploring new ways to expand Coldwell Banker Bain’s footprint by adding additional, experienced brokers to its team. “I think we can do better in terms of production and I’d like to improve upon that by adding more experienced team members to our current pool of brokers,” says Stephens. “With this in mind, we’re laser-focused and heavily involved with recruiting right now.”
The company is also looking for “fresh eyes” that may not have extensive industry experience, but can bring a different perspective to the table. “We often forget that these newer brokers bring the opportunity of newness; that’s really important to us,” says Stephens, who sees his connections with groups like the Seattle King County REALTORS® as vital to his career.
“Being appointed to the board was a big deal for me,” says Stephens, who recommends that other real estate professionals get involved at that level. He also serves on the advisory board for Run to Win (RTW), which holds non-contact sports camps for kids. Grounded in faith in Jesus Christ, RTW gives kids a chance to learn a new skill in their favorite sport and/or learn a new sport, have fun and meet new friends. Stephens says his involvement with the group is rooted in his belief that it’s “a really big deal to reach kids early” and get them involved with the activities that they love doing.
Breaking Through Barriers
As organizations and industries nationwide seek out new ways to develop more diverse and inclusive environments, Stephens says it’s important to remember that this country’s relationship with racial disparity is still fairly fresh. Just because the Civil Rights Act was signed into law in 1964, for example, doesn’t mean those attitudes changed right away. “I was born in 1957 which means that part of my life was spent in segregation,” Stephens explains. “Not only were we in the minority, but there were also policies designed to prevent African Americans and people from owning their own homes.”
Fast-forward to 2022 and Stephens says that while some progress has been made on those fronts, there is still much work to do. “Everything is really not okay and it’s also not going to be easy to overcome; but it’s not impossible,” says Stephens. In reflecting on his own accomplishments in real estate and in his previous work, he credits hard work, perseverance and integrity with helping him achieve success both in the military and in the private sector.
To increase participation in the housing market across all races, ethnicities, lifestyles and genders, Stephens says the more diverse group of brokers Washington has, the better. He sees continuing education—which he has been stocking up on during the pandemic—as yet another key to helping brokers help everyone achieve their dreams of homeownership.
“My motto is that if you’re not working, you should be learning and educating yourself,” says Stephens, who adds that he’s happy with the support that he’s received from Seattle King County Realtors, Washington Realtors, and the NW MLS which are all terrific resources for our profession. Going forward, he’d like to see a greater emphasis placed home ownership for working class families. “The more people who can be involved in the buying and selling of real estate, the better.”