One of the city’s older real estate agencies has new owners but will maintain its familiar name.
Lawrence real estate executives Chris Earl and Pat McCandless said Thursday that they had finalized a purchase of Lawrence-based Stephens Real Estate from the Stephens family, who has owned it for the past 34 years.
McCandless said the company will retain the Stephens Real Estate name, and there are no plans for the independent agency to affiliate with a larger national real estate brand.
“We believe in the model here, and we believe in the people here,” McCandless said. “We have a business that runs well. We’re not looking to make wide, sweeping changes.”
The sale marks the end of Stephens family involvement in the company. Bob Stephens founded the company in 1978 after having stints in both the baking and dairy industries in Lawrence. Stephens’ son, Doug Stephens, took over as president of the company in 1997.
“It was hard when I sold it, but I’m OK now,” Bob Stephens said via telephone from his winter home in Arizona. “I’m 75 and my wife said she wants to travel, and that is what we’re going to do.”
Doug Stephens said he had left the company effective at the end of 2012 and that he was planning to go to work for another Lawrence company outside of the real estate industry.
“We want to thank everybody we have dealt with over the years,” Doug Stephens said. “We love Lawrence. I can’t imagine living anywhere else.”
Bob Stephens will provide consulting services for a short period of time to the new owners, who had both been serving in management positions with Stephens.
Earl had served as Stephens’ sales manager before the sale, and McCandless had served as the company’s director of training.
Doug Stephens said he had been training McCandless and Earl to take over the business for the last two and a half years. Bob Stephens said he had been looking for several years to sell to a local group.
“I probably could have sold to an out-of-town firm for more money, but I didn’t want a big out-of-town firm coming in taking over the market,” Bob Stephens said.
Earl has been with Stephens, first as an agent and then as a manager, since 2000. Born and raised in Lawrence, Earl said he has seen the city go through various phases, but he believes the local real estate market is starting to pick back up again.
“I’m not saying the market has rebounded completely, but it has balance again,” Earl said. “Buyers and sellers are living in the same world again. They have reasonably the same expectations, and that means people can do business again.”
McCandless has been with Stephens since 2007, following a career where he was a regional vice president for Tractor Supply Co., overseeing about 95 stores for the company in 17 states.
McCandless said Stephens has about 50 agents and employees, and the new company plans to maintain or increase that number.
“We feel like Lawrence is poised for a good, steady climb,” McCandless said.
Terms of the deal, which was finalized at the beginning of the year, were not disclosed.