May 6th, 2022
“It’s one of the three biggest parts of your life,” Marsha Kotlyar says of her trade. “Your home, your love and your work.” For this luxury real estate agent, the concept of home is a poignant one, and it has a specific address: Santa Barbara. This is where she’s lived since she was a child, where she’s grown a flourishing business for nearly 20 years and, more recently, is raising a family.
It was early life experiences, however, that first imprinted in Kotlyar a strong regard for real estate, which is to say, the satisfied pursuit of finding one’s home. That, and a super-charged work ethic. “I immigrated here from Russia when I was 6 years old,” she describes. “We had an incredible journey to get here.” Recounting her family’s tough life in St. Petersburg, one made even more difficult due to their Jewish faith, they settled in Santa Barbara after arriving in the States. “I don’t take anything for granted,” she exclaims, “and I’m incredibly grateful to be here.” Discovering their new home was key to that across-the-globe journey, and it continues to infuse her real estate work with meaning. “Because it was such an important part of my family’s story,” she explains, “I place great importance on the experience my clients have, and we’re so happy to help them on their quest.”
Given the ultimately personal nature of real estate, and the tight-knit enclaves Kotlyar and her team focus on, such as Montecito, there’s extra emphasis on service features like trust and uber-discretion. Skillful negotiation is another strong suit. (“Knowing how to keenly listen and hear the clients out are the most important aspects of negotiation,” Kotlyar points out.) Years of racking up leading-agent accolades offer proof of her and her team’s skill in these areas. “This isn’t one of those businesses that you immediately become successful,” the agent remarks. “It takes a lot of time to establish yourself, to get experience and gain the trust of the community.”
During the last couple of years, however, in the face of unprecedented events and Kotlyar’s leadership, (“I handle stressful, under-pressure situations well,” she admits), the team has seen their rankings climb even higher. They’re currently the no. 1 Berkshire Hathaway team in Santa Barbara County, and among the top 5 small teams nationally. Her team, she points out, is a true pull of strengths. Real estate, to Kotlyar, is a calling, one that beckoned just out of college and has captivated her ever since. “I started from the bottom, working as an assistant and stuffing envelopes,” the agent recalls. Within two months she knew she was in the right place. “I was showing a property,” she says. “I opened the door and saw the excitement of a young couple, just starting their family life, at the prospect of making [it] their home. Seeing that moment and feeling the exhilaration of being able to help them get to the finish line—it got me hooked.”