Growing up in Spartanburg, SC, he used to beg his mom to drive him through neighborhoods so he could imagine the kinds of people living inside. “I’ve always found it interesting to be in the business of selling shelter,” he explains. So, when he graduated from college at 21, real estate was a natural fit.
When Stephen began his first real estate position fresh out of college, he quickly learned that standards were low among some of his fellow agents. “I got to work one day at 8AM and I was wondering where everyone was,” he recalls. “Until I realized that at 11AM or 12PM was when everyone came to work.” He says that experience encouraged him to set higher standards for himself and his team. “My second year in the business I was number one at my company. When I was 26 — my fifth year in the business — they offered to sell me half of that company. I hit it hard young and I still do the same today.”
Stephen now has 18 people on his team and they are ranked first in the entire North and South Carolinas Region by Keller Williams. They are also one of the most recognized names in real estate in his tri-county area — York, Lancaster, Chester — and also Charlotte. His hard work is a reflection of his passion for selling homes to families. “Every morning when I wake up I can’t wait to get to work to do it all day, it’s been that way for 26 years.”
“I’ve always found it interesting to be in the business of selling shelter.” STEPHEN COOLEY
When Stephen first heard about Atlantic Bay, it was through one of his clients. The experience was so positive for the client and Stephen’s team that they immediately sought out Atlantic Bay. “My goal is to align myself with service providers that offer my same level of service for the client. Atlantic Bay is hands-on. Our clients can meet face-to-face, they can meet over the phone, or via email. They really fit the consumer’s needs better than anyone we’ve ever worked with.”
Stephen’s number one priority is spoiling his clients. If he receives feedback that is less than perfect tens, he calls them personally to apologize. He appreciates that Atlantic Bay extends the same level of service. “I’ve been very pleased with how they reach out to my clients and keep them totally involved in the process,” he explains. “Most people can get a loan, but people really need advice on what type of loan suits their financial goals and their lifestyle.”
Another area that Atlantic Bay excels in, Stephen says, is giving clients an accurate picture of the home they can afford. “They completely underwrite the loan upfront. This causes a sense of calmness with not only the buyer but also with us.” He says that Atlantic Bay has won out over competing offers from other lenders because of this service. In addition, when it comes time to close on a home, Atlantic Bay has helped his team out on more than one occasion. “Sometimes there are five to eight home closings — with people moving out and in — and if one hits a snag, all of them hit a snag too. So the beauty of Atlantic is that they actually close on time.”
Stephen says that his team will sell over 700 homes this year, largely in part to Atlantic Bay. The market in his tri-country area is experiencing economic growth, as well. “We are seeing about 7,800 jobs coming here in the next 24 months,” he explains. They also have an investor who plans to purchase 1,000 homes from them in the coming months in order to rent them out. Stephen is proud to have Atlantic Bay’s reputation attached to his business as his name spreads throughout South Carolina and North Carolina.
When clients come to his office after receiving a pre-qualification letter from other lenders or even online lenders, he steers them towards Atlantic Bay. “The biggest opportunity for anyone moving forward in this business is to stay in traditional sales where you’re working with traditional sellers and traditional buyers.” The level of customer service that his team and Atlantic Bay provides attracts customers. “We listen to people’s needs and we find buyers for homes, we find homes for buyers and that process can’t be done over the Internet.”
Due to Atlantic Bay’s effectiveness in processing loans for his clients, he can spend more time doing what is important. “I still meet every client. I’m still involved in every home that gets put on the market.” He will continue to put his time and energy into resources, like Atlantic Bay, that bring the greatest return for his team.
“I still meet every client. I’m still involved in every home that gets put on the market.” STEPHEN COOLEY