Lauren Robert can remember the moment she knew she wanted to work for DSLD Homes. It was seven years ago, right before Christmas, when CEO Saun Sullivan asked her to go for a ride to his favorite place.
They drove to Keystone of Galvez, a DSLD subdivision in Ascension Parish. Sullivan parked in the back of the neighborhood where smaller and more affordable homes in the $130,000-range were built. There, families gathered outside of their homes, neighbors helping neighbors build swing sets and other Christmas gifts for their children, Robert recalls.
“Saun said this was his favorite place because the pride of ownership these families had,” says Robert, a builder sales representative for DSLD. “He was happy to work for a company where they could figure out how to build affordable houses for everyone. Before that drive, I didn’t know if I would take the job, but when he said that to me, how could I not? I thought to myself, ‘If the owner wants to be here and make a difference, then so do I.’ It was a big deal to him and to me. I still get chills thinking about it.”
DSLD Homes is a Baton Rouge- and Denham Springs-based home-building company that earned $659 million in revenue last year. With more than 20 new subdivisions built in the greater Baton Rouge area, the company is one of the state’s largest production builders, constructing homes across five states: Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Texas.
The DSLD moniker stands for “Develop our people to Serve our customers by Leading the industry in Delivering great homes.” That gets done, says the 46-year-old Sullivan, by building homes quickly and affordably.
“We try not to do anything incredibly stupid,” he says. “Half of life is showing up and answering calls and delivering a decent product to the customer.”
DSLD Homes mainly builds single-story, French Colonial style houses ranging in price from $130,000 to $350,000, with the average home costing about $210,000. In a large neighborhood, customers can pick from 10 different housing styles, a small subdivision offers six choices. Yet DSLD is not a custom homebuilder; the company builds in bulk.
“We do not do custom houses,” says Sullivan. “They are like Saks Fifth Avenue and we are more like Dillard’s.”
But they have their building process down to a science. “Think of it like going to McDonald’s,” says Jennifer Richardson, human resources manager. “You can choose anything off the menu and combine different items together, but you can’t ask for a custom hamburger. We’re kind of like that.”
Though DSLD may not do custom, its houses have many of the features found in higher-priced homes.
“It’s a spec home that does not resemble a spec home, and I will tell you they are awesome,” says Dana Bullentini, a residential agent with Exit Reality Group. “They are wonderful for first-time homebuyers and they are easy to sell. They have nice flooring and really nice finishes, and my customers are always happy with what they get. I will sell a DSLD home all day long.”
In 2014, Jeanne-Marie Heintz bought a 2,600-square foot home from DSLD in The Shadows at Manchac subdivision in Prairieville. With her third child on the way, her family needed a larger home at an affordable price, and she said DSLD provided her with both without the stress of building a custom home.
“They are cookie-cutter, but we got a lot of upgrades—granite, a big shower and hardwood floors—at a better price,” she says. “We really got a lot of bang for our buck going through them. And if I had to start from square one making decisions to build the house, there would have been way too many decisions. I like that they narrow it down. They give you choices and then you get to pick. They have a pretty good system, it’s a quick build and then you’re in.”
DSLD built nearly 3,000 homes last year and is working in more than 100 communities throughout Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, Texas and Alabama. About 40% of the company’s business comes from customer referrals, Sullivan says, and while social media is not “my cup of tea,” his marketing team has built a loyal customer base and even more loyal employees.
“We don’t employ people who believe they can sell ice to Eskimos,” says Sullivan. “If they can’t stand behind our product, they can’t sell it. And the people we hire really want to be here and believe in our products.”
The green and blue DSLD Homes flags can be seen throughout East Baton Rouge, Ascension and Livingston parishes at the entrance to subdivisions both large and small. “This job is about providing a service and making our buyers feel like they are our only customers,” says Robert, who typically works at an on-site model home. “We get to build this relationship with the buyer, and then they go and tell their families and friends about us.”
Robert is in the color selection room of the model home at the front of Hunter’s Trace, a 261-home subdivision tucked around a large pond off Burbank Drive, between Essen Lane and Lee Drive. As the builder sales representative, she is cheery, petite and very excited about the granite selection, hardware choices and current paint colors offered to buyers.
“It all goes together,” she says, widening her arms in a Vanna White-like fashion to showcase the different options. “It’s so comforting to be able to tell people that this company has done their research, and they know that all of these products and colors will look good together. Buying a home from us is such a simple and seamless process, and we really care about making someone’s house their home.”