Above, Stephen Kotler, Douglas Elliman Western Region CEO
Years in business: 112
Size: 120 offices, approx. 6,900 agents
Regions Served: New York, Florida, California, Texas, Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
2022 Sales Volume: $42.9 billion
2022 Transactions: 49,748 total sales and rental transactions.
Douglas Elliman Western Region CEO Stephen Kotler joined the company in 1991. Since forming the Kotler Group, he’s been instrumental in growing the firm from 275 people into a powerhouse over his 30-plus year career.
Kotler helped engineer Douglas Elliman’s expansion into Aspen and Los Angeles, and was a driving force behind the firm’s acquisition of Teles Properties, which expanded the company’s footprint from Carmel to Coronado, with a team of over 700 agents.
What have you seen in your local markets this year?
Stephen Kotler: The first quarter was mixed. At the beginning, it was a bit sluggish. With the URA tax coming up at the end of March, we saw a lot of frenzied activity—there was more volume in that month than expected. May was strong, and June was really good as well. We’re about 30% greater than we were last year at this time.
What are the driving factors in California?
SK: Right now, it’s dismal inventory. There are plenty of buyers, but it’s a catch-22—sellers may not know where they are going to go if they sell their home or if they’ll even be able to find something. I think we’ll get through it, but it’s a major challenge.
What are your firm’s current strategies?
SK: There’s always a push for more inventory, and we’re always working on how to get more people to talk to us about buying or selling. It also comes from recruiting and retention, as the more people you have selling for you, the more volume you’re going to have—we’ve picked up significant volume through some of our most recent recruits.
How do you bring in new tools to help your agents succeed?
SK: We’re very nimble when it comes to technology and always looking at new and better tools. It could be an iteration of what we now have to make it better, and also looking for whatever else is out there to help our agents. The way we look at it, as much as we can make it easier to do their job from the operational side, the more they will be able to go out and sell. We’ve developed some tools in-house, we work with vendors around the country to develop tools for us, and we also have a proptech arm of the company that looks to invest in small and nimble companies that develop technologies. We’ve been working with AI for over a year now.
What separates your firm from others in the marketplace?
SK: No. 1, we’re not a franchise. Everything that happens at Douglas Elliman happens for our clients and agents. To control your brand identity is so important. Having ownership of the business and always remaining true to our values, which is serving our agents, makes us stand out. We also do a tremendous amount of work with coaching and learning.
What are some of your educational practices?
SK: We do a daily coaching call every morning at 8:30. We role-play and have subject-matter calls every day to talk about what’s going on in the markets. We also do a lot of education around contracts, what’s changing in them to help our agents advise buyers and sellers.
What is the secret for a successful firm today?
SK: Creating culture and building culture for the company is extremely important. Bringing people together with real sales meetings and not just virtual—having that human touch and identifying when people need more help. Always wanting to help is really important.