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How Dallas Newcomer Stephen Kotler Plans to Grow Douglas Elliman’s Local Market Share

After arriving from Los Angeles, the regional CEO aims to turn the firm into his new hometown’s top residential brokerage.
| |Portrait by Jill Broussard
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Stephen Kotler says Dallas is primed for a residential boom. The CEO of brokerage for Douglas Elliman’s Western region uprooted from Los Angeles to Highland Park last fall with his fiancée Callae Brownstein and their two pups, Axel and Lola, to seize an opportunity. The luxury brokerage’s Western region encompasses California, Colorado, Nevada, and Texas, but North Texas shone the brightest. “The move was based solely off the idea that our Dallas business is going to grow—a lot,” he says. “Dallas is the No. 1 city in the country for office construction, which means there are more people moving here, which means there are more houses that people will want to buy.” 

Kotler hails from New Jersey; his father worked on multifamily projects in New York City. In 1982, the younger Kotler dropped out of Ithaca College his junior year to follow his dad to Aspen to open Ruthie’s, a restaurant at the base of the famous trail, Ruthie’s Run. But he quickly learned that hospitality operations in a small, snowcapped town wasn’t his speed. So, he ventured to New York to become a broker.  

He got his career off the ground with New York City’s largest rental brokerage at the time, J.I. Sopher and Co. In 1991, he joined Douglas Elliman, and several months later, Elliman acquired J.I. Sopher Co., setting Kotler up for immediate success. He found his niche working for Fortune 50 corporations to help them relocate new employees, and his team of 12 brokers worked on between 300 to 400 transactions a year.

In 2005, Kotler got a big break in the form of the New York City apartment building 40 East 66th; he brokered its sale to Vornado for $158 million. Based on the per-unit price—the property had just 45 apartments—it was the largest sale for a multifamily asset in New York ever. After that, Kotler went to Elliman’s Chairman Howard Lorber and said, “I want to manage an office.” Lorber signed on, and Kotler began to run the office in which he worked. “I get antsy to do more,” Kotler says. “I’m always wanting to do something more difficult.”  

Kotler built Elliman’s California brokerage from a new player no-name into a powerhouse in just a decade. A year after entering LA, he helped orchestrate Elliman’s purchase of Beverly Hills competitor Teles Properties through an unsolicited offer. At the time of the acquisition, Elliman and Teles had a combined sales volume of $4 billion in California. Douglas Elliman’s gross transaction value in 2023, in 10 states, Washington D.C., the Bahamas, and other international locales, was $34.4 billion with an average sale price at $1.58 million. 

His newest challenge is North Texas. “I may use the same playbook from California, but it’s still to be determined,” Kotler says.  

Looking at the state of the local market, he is hopeful that housing inventory starts to open up. “I tried to get a crystal ball from Amazon, but they were all out,” he says with a laugh. “But we’re already seeing interest rates fall into the fives in some cases. We think once that stabilizes into the fives, it’s going to free up inventory. Our prediction is that there will be a 50-basis point change by the summer and maybe one more before the election.”  

As the market stabilizes in the short term, Kotler is diving into understanding his new hometown—and how Douglas Elliman, which boasts nearly 7,000 agents nationwide, can steal market share from the local brokerages. “When I look at how we grew in Beverly Hills, everyone told me it would be hard to grow our business there, but that’s the story we’re told everywhere we go,” he says. “Dallas is not a short-term move for me. I’m trying to have more success than we did in California—and I’m here to turn Elliman into the best brokerage.”  

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Ben Swanger

Ben Swanger

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Ben Swanger is the managing editor for D CEO, the business title for D Magazine. Ben manages the Dallas 500, monthly…
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