Tatiana Souza planned a career in marketing and public relations, until she got the intoxicating smell of new homes in her blood stream.
“I just love every aspect of home building," said Souza. “I love the smell of a new home.”
Souza, who moved to Orlando from Brazil with her family as a teenager, was finishing up a marketing internship at SeaWorld and graduating from UCF with a degree in advertising and public relations when her mother, Rosana Almeida of Florida Connexion Properties, who had just become a real estate broker, suggested that she take the real estate exam and go into business with her selling homes.
While studying for her real estate license, a mentor suggested Souza sell new homes rather than used ones, and a career focus was found.
She loved the idea of selling homes that still smelled like sawdust, drywall and new carpet. It gave her an edge to tell buyers that they were purchasing a home with bathrooms that had never been used by anybody else, she said.
Souza started as a sales counselor for Ryland Homes, working there for close to three years before becoming a sales associate for Meritage Homes in 2008. She started rising quickly through the ranks, becoming an area sales manager for a little more than a year before she was promoted to director of sales. In 2015, she was named vice president of sales.
She has two area sales managers who work under her direction, coaching 33 sales agents in the Orlando area.
Meritage was an upstart in the area when Souza started there. During the recession, the company took advantage of the down market by purchasing land at barrel-bottom prices.
This year Meritage expects to sell more than 800 homes in Orlando. It also plans to open five new communities by the end of this year, with 500 new home sites. The new developments will be in Tuscawilla near UCF, Windermere, Oakland, and Winter Garden.
Souza's career growth has mirrored Meritage's own, allowing her to put her own stamp on the company's success in the Greater Orlando market.
“I knew the culture and how to help leadership at Meritage,” Souza said.
“At first it is a difficult transition for [Brazilians] to understand how business works here, how the timing [of building a home] works here,” Souza said. “I knew the culture and how to help our leadership at Meritage learn to cater to the desires of Brazilian buyers.”