JLS Design Construction
Understanding its market has helped JLS Design Construction to become a highly reputable design/build firm
in Maryland’s custom homebuilding sector.
By Eric Slack
JLS Design Construction started business in Pennsylvania in 2001 with the intention of offering design/build services at prices that everyone could afford. Founded by President Jason Smucker, the company’s goal was to create beautiful homes in all price brackets, not just offering design/build to the upper portion of home prices.
“I had previously worked for design/build firms in Philadelphia and North Carolina, working both as a project manager and an architect,” Smucker says. “After grasping the idea of design/build, I determined it was time to go out on my own.”
Today, JLS Design is based in Maryland after Smucker moved the corporation to The Old Line State in 2007. It is most known for its quality of craftsmanship and flexibility with customers, allowing them to design their dream homes at little or no extra cost to them.
“We have the ability to offer this because we are a mid-size company and I am involved in all aspects of the process,” Smucker says. “I personally design the homes, and I manage budgets and construction. We currently build $7 million to $8 million in homes per year throughout the eastern shore of Maryland, building community homes, waterfront homes and homes on customers’ lots.”
JLS Design’s customers vary greatly from first time homebuyers and move-ups to vacation homes and retirees. The eastern shore of Maryland has a diverse population as buyers may be moving out of the higher priced region of the Baltimore-D.C. metro area, or local buyers who are either buying their first home or moving up in size. The company’s waterfront homes are primarily vacation homes, as the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay area is a summer vacation destination for buyers who live and/or work in the Philadelphia region.
“These buyers are looking for uniquely designed waterfront homes to vacation,” Smucker says. “We have become the go-to builder for waterfront homes in our region, building more waterfront homes than any other builder in the past five years.”
Staying on top of the ever-changing homebuilding industry and consumer tastes help JLS Design to operate at the leading edge of the market. In its region, the design trends typically follow a year or so behind the Baltimore-D.C. metro market. As such, JLS Design tries to stay ahead of the competition with trends by closely following the metro trends.
“We constantly adapt our construction to utilize the latest technologies in the industry as many of our competition continues to use older construction techniques and designs,” Smucker says. “This offering allows us to capture more marketshare of buyers from other regions.”
Making the right investments into the company in recent years has also been essential to the company’s strategic plans. JLS Design recently opened a showroom close to the Baltimore-D.C. metro area, which has allowed the company to further expand its customer base due to the fact that it is close to where many of the clients come from. This showroom displays all of latest construction technologies and creates a great first impression to buyers.
“We have the conference room set up with big screens to allow for ‘live’ design of their homes and display of 3-D modeling on the screens as we work with the buyer to create their dream home design,” Smucker says.
As the company works to keep track of market dynamic and economic conditions that are its industry, operations and customers, it has put plans in motion to help it achieve its growth goals for 2016. The Baltimore-D.C. metro market continues to rise in prices, for example, which sends customers to the eastern shore of Maryland looking for better value. JLS Design has seen an influx in new buyers during the first quarter and expects the trend to continue throughout the rest of this year.
Additionally, the company is picking up two new communities outside of its region to allow for the company’s continued growth, as its current marketplace has remained stagnant over the past year. Smucker says he expects the future of the company’s current market to be primarily waterfront homes and custom homes on buyers’ lots as the region runs out of community lots over the next two years.
“The major challenge for our company is our region,” Smucker says. “The future growth is limited due to a shortage of buildable lots and the continued restrictions on growth for our region put in place by the state. The waterfront properties will start to be teardown home sites rather than vacant lots, as there are very few buildable lots left. The communities we are currently in will be sold out with no new communities becoming available. We plan to expand outside our current region this year to keep our company viable.”